Duane Michals, “Narcissus”, 1986, Photo Shoot, Model Unknown
Duane Michals was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, on February 18th, 1932. After taking art classes at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, he attended the University of Denver, receiving his undergraduate degree in 1953. In 1956 after his military service, Michals moved to New York where he studied at Parsons School of Design, later working as a graphic designer for magazines “Dance” and “Time”.
A 1958 Russian tour of portraiture photography started Michals’ artistic career. His photographs in the mid-1960s consisted of mainly deserted sites in New York. In 1966, Michals started to structure his photographs as multiframe compositions, with subjects enacting set narratives. The writing of captions in the margins of his photographs began in 1974 and, later in 1979 the incorporation of paint into his treatment of the printed images.
Duane Michals’s narrative pieces rely on the sequencing of multiple images to convey a sense of alienation and disequilibrium. In his world, the literal appearance of things is less important than the communication of a concept or story. In his portraiture, however, Michals relies wholly on his subjects’ appearance and self-chosen poses to establish their identity. He believes in a direct approach for his portraiture instead of his usual metaphoric approach.