Sunday, November 13, 2011

Duane Michals, a fortunate man

The Work of Duane Michals, an appreciation
November 16, 2011
[Originally posted November 16, 2008]


“To photograph reality is to photograph nothing.”

Today I discovered the photography of Duane Michals. I was startled, but I suppose not really surprised--very often the work of artists leads the way, shapes the way that we see the world, and well in advance of the day-to-day understanding of the majority of people.

I had been thinking a lot about the discrimination that gay and lesbian people feel, especially when attacked as we were when California Prop 8 passed. Here was the work of a gay artist who was dealing with being cut off from the mainstream honestly, boldly, creatively in 1965. Though only a decade older than me, he was deep into his work before I had even come to terms with my own queerness.


THE UNFORTUNATE MAN

The unfortunate man could not touch the one he loved
It had been declared illegal by the law
Slowly his fingers became toes and his hands gradually became feet
He began to wear shoes on his hands to disguise his pain
It never occurs to him to break the law.




I'll post a selection of some of his work that is available online with some transcriptions--if possible.


Salvation





A FAILED ATTEMPT TO PHOTOGRAPH REALITY
How foolish of me to believe that it would be that easy.
I had confused the appearances of trees and automobiles,
and people with reality itself, and believed that
a photograph of these appearances to be a photograph
of it. It is a melancholy truth that I will
never able able to photograph it and can only fail.
I am a reflection photographing other reflections
within a reflection. To photograph reality
is to photograph nothing.





THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PART OF A MAN’S BODY
I think it must be there
Where the torso sits on and into the hips. ...



Things are queer






Duane Michals, born February 18, 1932 in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, is a poet, philosopher, and a photographer. I have found some of his work available online. His books are also available for purchase.