Duane Michals

Duane Michals is an American photographer who found his interest in photography in 1958 while holidaying in the USSR. Some of his best known work feature sequences, a series of photos cleverly used to illustrate a story. At a first glance his work seems strange and has this almost dark feel about it but when you actually follow the sequences you can see just how clever this photographer is as he uses both words and photos to illustrate the incredible creativeness of his mind. A well known quote of his is “Many photographers continue to encounter photos rather than invent them. They will spend their lives looking for something.” I feel I can relate to him here. I love to create photos and when the ideas in my mind become an actual piece of work it is an incredible feeling. Almost like drawing, you create it from scratch with just the art materials onto a blank canvas just waiting for something new to be born. That said I also like going out with my camera and to see what will surprise me and inspire me to take photos. For the most part of this course though I have gathered all the elements together to work for me. I think when you create a story from scratch in your mind you need to create the whole photo from scratch unless you’re incredibly lucky and everything fell together. I remember when I was imagining the photo for assignment five when Leo is looking through his cot bars at his suit. I could see it so perfectly and it almost failed because the place we were staying at didn’t have a wooden cot, just a plastic modern one. However that night Leo couldn’t sleep at all and they swapped cots to a wooden one. It was pretty incredible and coincidence or fate I don’t know but the photos I Imagined for that course came out exactly as I envisioned which I think is what Duane is trying to say, creating a photo not finding it.

Michals also said, “I know how cars look, I know how trees look. I think photographers should show me what I can’t see.” I really love this quote, it describes everything I feel with photography, showing something a bit different, not always going for the conventional image. It reminds me of something I read a while ago, the essence being, when you’re somewhere very photogenic and everyone is staring one way at a view or an event, turn around and see what’s happening behind you. I did this not long ago as everyone on the prom stood staring out to sea. I turned around and behind the bench I was on found what was a tiny puddle to me but to the birds clustered around it the equivalent of an African watering hole. They bathed in the water vigorously sending huge plumes of water into the air. It’s not the same as his quote but I’m writing it to show how looking for something different works.

Trust that little voice in your head that says ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if…’ And then do it.”
Too often in photography I find myself feeling insecure about taking a photo of people I don’t know as well, I feel embarrassed that they’ll dislike my photo or I’ll make a fool of myself. His quote helps, if you think it’s interesting ignore everything else, just take it.

I believe in the imagination. What I cannot see is infinitely more inspiring than what I can see.” I love how he uses his imagination. One of his more disturbing photo series depict a man standing in a room which is empty then there is a man and woman there. The man lashes out at the woman striking her. Duane says, “My mother and father had a very disruptive marriage and I was used to seeing arguments and I was used to having periods where people didn’t talk to each other and I remember those arguments. I felt that if I went back to the kitchen in the house where I was brought up and if I stood there long enough, all that kind of drama that occurred there would come back to me. It’s still there in those walls, it’s still there.” Using something that is truth adds an even more stronger sense of reality and reading the words with the photo illustrate it and make it even more moving and emotionally disturbing. You can imagine him standing there feeling the pain and fear of watching something like that. There’s this road not far away from our home and I can never forget how one day we were driving along it and I saw this little boy about six leaning into the road frantic to get to the other side and see his Dad. I was watching through the window and as we passed he fled out behind the car. His Mums scream tore through me and I swirled around in horror to see a car behind. Thank god the car behind stopped in time and he was fine but I can not go past the road without thinking how different it could have been and seeing it replayed over and over again in my mind. And that’s what is inspiring and moving about this series showing how he takes the truth from his life and depicts it into something real. Like he says, he can feel it in the walls.

He uses mirrors in his photography a lot to challenge human perception and imagination. I tried something similar in assignment three.

Scrying bowl

After reading these quotes his photos take on an emotional and have buried in them deep psychologic meanings. He photographs photos that depict the strongest themes in life. Life, death, love, hate, fear. It makes me think more about the psychology of photography.

It is no accident that you are reading this. I am making black marks on white paper. These marks are my thoughts, and although I do not know who you are reading this now, in some way the lines of our lives have intersected… For the length of these few sentences, we meet here.

It is no accident that you are reading this. This moment has been waiting for you, I have been waiting for you. Remember me.”

This is quite a striking quote because it shows the truth. When you see a photo you don’t see it as some colour on paper but actually that’s all it is. Which makes it even more magical and phenomenal that this bit of colour on a piece of paper/screen can convey so much. And as for remember me, we always will.

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