Photographer: Duane Michals (born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania; resides in New York City)
Publisher: Thames & Hudson, New York, NY, © 2017
Essays and commentary: Duane Michals
Hard cover with dust jacket, sewn binding, four-color printing; 176 numbered pages; 178 captioned photographs with additional notes and commentary; 12×10 inches; printed and bound in China
Photobook designer: Mark Melnick
It seems Duane Michals has been a creative storyteller forever (more than half a century). He has a great mind that is always bubbling with new ideas, and the application of these ideas has found its way into our consciousness as the decades have gone by. He has not been afraid to forge ahead to tackle the problems that life generates by transforming them into some therapeutic sequences and mixed-media images. He even hand-writes text to go with his images or sequences so that we may share his trains of thought and insights. Best of all, he is one of the most honest and straight-forward people I have ever met, and he is an entertainer full of earthy humor on top of all that! Below there is a sequence of two photographs I took of him at the 2014 Palm Springs Photo Festival, showing the master photographer as performer in a moment of self-awareness during a lecture:
The Magic Theater: Duane Michals as Duane Michals – © 2014 Gerhard Clausing
This is the latest of his many books, and it is a fascinating collection of portraits with an emphasis on well-known personalities, including actors, musicians, artists, and writers, as well as some of his self-portraits and personal portraits, occasionally combining the two categories through an incorporation of his reflection. Included are many well-known people, such as Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton, Richard Gere, Barbara Streisand, Liza Minelli, Johnny Cash, Andy Warhol, Annie Leibovitz, Susan Sontag, Norman Mailer, to name just a few. There are also a number of personal photographs, such as the one of his grandmother (double page four below, right side), elevated to celebrity status through these juxtapositions.
Michals comments: “The photo is a document of when and where, not who and why. Is the emotion that I see in your glance authentic or is it just a simulacrum?” He posits four types of portraits: 1. Stand and stare 2. Prose portrait (tells the story of a person) 3. Annotated portrait 4. Imaginary portrait (his idea of what somebody might be). Naturally, almost all his portraits are in categories 2-4. He frequently uses reflections (mirrors, glass) to emphasize interconnectedness and multiplicity. Long exposures and multiple exposures are other methods by which Michals shows movement and action and interprets reality freely through his imagination. Occasionally painting on the image will add his extra interpretive touch (Marlene Dietrich, double page one, right side).
This volume is a compendium of surprise views of those who may otherwise seem familiar; this coffee-table size volume is highly recommended!
TPBJ previously featured a review of Duane Michals – 50