Duane Michals

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Duane Michals
Duane Michals, RIT yearbook 1984 page 61.jpg
Michals circa 1984
Born (1932-02-18) February 18, 1932 (age 91)
Years active1958–present
Known forInnovative use of photo-sequences, often incorporating text to examine emotion and philosophy
Notable workSequences, The journey of the spirit after death, Chance meeting; photographs

Duane Michals (/ˈmkəlz/ "Michaels"; born February 18, 1932) is an American photographer.[1] Michals's work makes innovative use of photo-sequences, often incorporating text to examine emotion and philosophy.[2]

Education and career[edit]

Michals's interest in art began at age 14 while attending watercolor university classes at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh.[3] In 1953, he received a B.A. from the University of Denver.[4] In 1956, after two years in the Army, he went on to study at the Parsons School of Design with a plan to become a graphic designer; however, he did not complete his studies.[3]

He describes his photographic skills as "completely self-taught."[2] In 1958, while on a holiday in the USSR he discovered an interest in photography.[4] The photographs he made during this trip became his first exhibition held in 1963 at the Underground Gallery in New York City.

For a number of years, Michals was a commercial photographer, working for Esquire and Mademoiselle, and he covered the filming of The Great Gatsby for Vogue (1974).[5] He did not have a studio. Instead, he took portraits of people in their environment, which was a contrast to the method of other photographers at the time, such as Avedon and Irving Penn.

Michals was hired by the government of Mexico to photograph the 1968 Summer Olympics.[5] In 1970, his works were shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.[6] The portraits he took between 1958 and 1988 would later become the basis of his book, Album.

In 1976, Michals received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Michals also produced the art for the album Synchronicity (by The Police) in 1983,[3][5] and Clouds Over Eden by Richard Barone in 1993.[7]

Artistic influences and impact[edit]

First Holy Communion by Duane Michals 2012

Though he has not been involved in gay civil rights, his photography has addressed gay themes.[8][9] In discussing his notion of the artist's relationship to politics and power however, Michals feels ultimately that aspirations are useless:

I feel the political aspirations are impotent. They can never be seen. If they are, it will only be by a limited audience. If one is to act politically, one simply puts down the camera and goes out and does something. I think of someone like Heartfield who ridiculed the Nazis. Who very creatively took great stands. He could have been killed at any moment, he was Jewish, and my God what the guy did. It was extraordinary. You don't see that now.[10]

Michals cites Balthus, William Blake, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Eakins, René Magritte, and Walt Whitman as influences on his art.[2] In turn, he has influenced photographers such as David Levinthal and Francesca Woodman.[11][12]

He is noted for two innovations in artistic photography developed in the 1960s and 1970s. First, he "[told] a story through a series of photos"[5] as in his 1970 book Sequences. Second, he handwrote text near his photographs, thereby giving information that the image itself could not convey.[5][13]

Personal life[edit]

Michals grew up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, and currently lives in New York City.[8] He was raised Catholic.[14]

Michals' partner Frederick Gorrée died in 2017.[15] The two were together since 1960.[8]


  • Michals, Duane (1970). Sequences. Garden City, NY: Doubleday.
  • Michals, Duane (1971). The Journey of the Spirit After Death. New York: Winter House. ISBN 0-87806-025-1.
  • Michals, Duane (1973). Chance Meeting: Photographs. Köln: A. & J. Wilde.
  • Michals, Duane (1976). Take One and See Mt. Fujiyama, and Other Stories. Rochester, NY: Light Impressions. ISBN 0-916614-00-X.
  • Michals, Duane (1976). Real Dreams: Photostories. Danbury, NH: Addison House. ISBN 0-89169-005-0.
  • Michals, Duane (1978). Merveilles d'Egypt. Paris: Denoël-Filipacchi.
  • Michals, Duane; Cavafy, Constantine (1978). Homage to Cavafy. Danbury, NH: Addison House. ISBN 0-89169-019-0.
  • Michals, Duane (1981). A Visit with Magritte. Providence, RI: Matrix. ISBN 0-936554-05-3.
  • Michals, Duane (1983). Duane Michals. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-41071-2.
  • Michals, Duane; Livingstone, Marco (1984). Duane Michals: Photographs, Sequences, Texts, 1958–1984. Oxford: Museum of Modern Art. ISBN 0-905836-46-4.
  • Michals, Duane (1984). Sleep and Dream. New York: Lustrum Press. ISBN 0-912810-46-7.
  • Michals, Duane (1986). Duane Michals. New York: Pantheon Books. ISBN 0-394-74446-2.
  • Michals, Duane (1986). The Nature of Desire. Pasadena, CA: Twelvetrees Press. ISBN 0-942-64223-6.
  • Michals, Duane (1988). Album: the Portraits of Duane Michals, 1958–1988. Pasadena, CA: Twelvetrees Press. ISBN 0-942642-36-8.
  • Michals, Duane; Kozloff, Max (1990). Now Becoming Then. Altadena, CA: Twin Palms. ISBN 0-944092-12-8.
  • Michals, Duane (1992). Eros & Thanatos. Santa Fe, NM: Twin Palms. ISBN 0-944092-20-9.
  • Salter, James; Michals, Duane (1992). Still Such. New York: W. Drenttel. ISBN 0-9625224-2-2.
  • Michals, Duane (1993). Upside Down, Inside Out, and Backwards. Sonny Boy Books. ISBN 0-963886-30-4.
  • Michals, Duane (1996). Salute, Walt Whitman. Santa Fe, NM: Twin Palms. ISBN 0-944092-34-9.
  • Michals, Duane; Livingstone, Marco (1997). The Essential Duane Michals. Boston, MA: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-8212-2463-8.
  • Michals, Duane (2001). Questions Without Answers. Santa Fe, NM: Twin Palms. ISBN 0-944092-86-1.
  • Michals, Duane (2003). The House I Once Called Home: a Photographic Memoir with Verse. London: Enitharmon Editions. ISBN 1-900564-73-4.
  • Michals, Duane (2006). Foto Follies: How Photography Lost Its Virginity on the Way to the Bank. Göttingen: Steidl. ISBN 3-86521-275-1.
  • Michals, Duane; Grey, Joel (2007). The Adventures of Constantine Cavafy. Santa Fe, NM: Twin Palms. ISBN 978-1-931885-54-6.
  • Michals, Duane (2008). Duane Michals. London: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 978-0-500-41071-4.


Solo exhibitions[edit]

Group exhibitions[edit]


Further reading[edit]


Film and video[edit]

  • Howard, Edgar B.; Haimes, Theodore R. (1978). Duane Michals (1939–1997). NY: Checkerboard Film Foundation. (DVD, 14 minutes, New York Film Festival, 1979, B&W/color)
  • Diamonstein, Barbaralee (1981). Visions and Images: Duane Michals. American Photographers on Photography. American Broadcasting Companies. Archived from the original on December 13, 2021. (Video, 29 minutes, B&W/color)
  • Guichard, Camille (2014). Duane Michals: The Man Who Invented Himself. (Full-length documentary)


  1. ^ Duane Michals biography. Grove Art Online, 2003.
  2. ^ a b c McKenna, Kristine (March 14, 1993). "Picture imperfect: for maverick Duane Michals, a photo is worth far less than a thousand words when the questions are about the very meaning of truth". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d School of Visual Arts. "Masters Series: Duane Michals". Archived from the original on October 1, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Shaw, Kurt (November 18, 2004). "Pictures of a life". Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Archived from the original on November 29, 2010. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c d e Phillips, Ian (September 10, 1999). "Arts: angels in America". The Independent. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  6. ^ Museum of Modern Art. "Stories By Duane Michals (press release)" (PDF). Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  7. ^ Barone, Richard (2007). Frontman: surviving the rock star myth. New York: Backbeat Books. p. 150. ISBN 978-0-87930-912-1.
  8. ^ a b c Murtha, Tara (April 30, 2008). "Photographer Duane Michals discusses his gay-themed work". Philadelphia Weekly. Archived from the original on January 31, 2013.
  9. ^ Provenzano, Jim (July 5, 2007). "The poet's eye: photographer Duane Michals visualizes Cavafy poems". Bay Area Reporter.
  10. ^ Seidner, David."Duane Michaels Interview" BOMB Magazine Summer, 1987. Retrieved May 17, 2013.
  11. ^ Levinthal, David (2000). "Duane Michals". Photo District News. Archived from the original on September 28, 2011. Retrieved May 12, 2011.
  12. ^ Gabhart, Ann (1986). Francesca Woodman, photographic work. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College Museum. p. 54. OCLC 13474131.
  13. ^ a b Smith, Rosalind (December 2003). "Duane Michals: getting to the heart with a wry eye". Shutterbug. Archived from the original on April 27, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  14. ^ "Duane Michals". Vimeo. December 2013. Retrieved August 16, 2016.
  15. ^ Arn, Jackson (November 25, 2019). "Late in his Career, Photographer Duane Michals Has Found a New Creative Outlet as a Filmmaker". ARTnews.com. Retrieved February 5, 2023.
  16. ^ "Duane Michals". Crocker Art Museum. Retrieved January 7, 2019.
  17. ^ Lyons, Nathan (1966). Toward a Social Landscape: Bruce Davidson, Lee Friedlander, Garry Winogrand, Danny Lyons, Duane Michals. New York, NY: Horizon Press. OCLC 542009.
  18. ^ "Duane Michals". DC Moore Gallery.
  19. ^ "Honorary Fellowships". The Royal Photographic Society. Archived from the original on August 14, 2012.
  20. ^ "Duane Michals". International Photography Hall of Fame. Retrieved July 28, 2022.

External links[edit]