Photographer Duane Michals to speak Thursday
Michals pioneered innovative techniques like photo sequencing, using interpretive text
September 18, 2013, 6:31 pm · Updated September 18, 2013, 9:22 pm·
After nearly 60 years of looking through lenses, it is doubtful that internationally renowned photographer Duane Michals will ever choose just one.
Marking the first event jointly held by the School of Design and The Photo Review — a leading critical photography journal — Michals will deliver a lecture on his distinguished career tonight at 6:30 p.m. in Meyerson Hall, room B3.
TPR’s founder and editor-in-chief, 1970 College graduate Stephen Perloff, has followed Michals’ work from its infancy in the 1960s to its widespread acclaim today. Speaking of Michals’ work, Perloff confirms his photographs’ ability to “get you to think beyond the frame of a photo.”
According to Perloff, Michals is also “one of the most dynamic speakers around,” adding that the experience of listening to him can be “really quite a trip.”
As PennDesign’s Undergraduate Director Ken Lum emphasizes, this artist embodies the notably rare qualities of resiliency and independence, never conforming to the social, economic or artistic constraints impressed upon him.
Straddling the period when photography was sluggishly gaining ground as a true art form, Michals labored in a minor — though up-and-coming — field, Lum explained. While he was aware of his chosen medium’s perceived insignificance, Michals continued to produce his work with zeal.
Always in search of new ways to present captured moments, Michals pioneered techniques such as displaying subjects in their native environment, photo sequencing and enhancing photos with interpretive text. Contrasting the approaches of other photographers of the time, Michals did not have a studio, but took portraits of people “en milieu,” or “in the setting of the moment.” He favored this technique especially while working as a commercial photographer for Esquire and Mademoiselle.
Michals is also famous for founding the photo sequencing system — a precursor to cinematic photography called “mise-en-scène,” in which the shots portray constructed scenes and resemble film stills, Lum said.
The idea, Perloff added, is to reveal a “transcription of reality.” By overlapping multiple images, the resulting sequence tells a story. In accordance, Duane often handwrites text near his photos, an auxiliary feature that provided viewers with information that otherwise would not have been deductible.
As for the impression that Michals could leave on students tonight, Lum noted that the photographer’s lifelong dedication to his craft may serve as an “object lesson.”
“You stick to a problem that you’re interested in,” he added. “And if you stick at it long enough, you actually achieve things.”