Duane Michals (b. 1932, McKeesport, PA) is one of the great photographic innovators of the last century, widely known for his work with series, multiple exposures, and text. Michals received a BA from the University of Denver in 1953 and worked as a graphic designer until his involvement with photography deepened in the late 1950s. He currently lives and works in New York City.
Michals first made significant, creative strides in the field of photography during the 1960s. In an era heavily influenced by photojournalism, Michals manipulated the medium to communicate narratives. The sequences, for which he is widely known, appropriate cinema’s frame-by-frame format. Michals has also incorporated text as a key component in his works. Rather than serving a didactic or explanatory function, his handwritten text adds another dimension to the images’ meaning and gives voice to Michals’s singular musings, which are poetic, tragic, and humorous, often all at once.
Over the past five decades, Michals’s work has been exhibited in the United States and abroad. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, hosted Michals’s first solo exhibition (1970). More recently, he has had one-person shows at the Odakyu Museum, Tokyo (1999), and at the International Center of Photography, New York (2005). In 2008, Michals celebrated his 50th anniversary as a photographer with a retrospective exhibition at the Thessaloniki Museum of Photography, Greece and the Scavi Scaligeri in Verona, Italy.
In recognition of his contributions to photography, Michals has been honored with a CAPS Grant (1975), a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship (1976), the International Center of Photography Infinity Award for Art (1989), the Foto España International Award (2001), and an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, Mass. (2005).
Michals’s work belongs to numerous permanent collections in the U.S. and abroad, including the Israel Museum, Jerusalem; the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Moderna Museet, Stockholm; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto; and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Michals’s archive is housed at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.
“We fear another man’s existence the way we fear apparitions, and only very rarely, when people glimpse each other in the gloaming, do we say of them: They’re in love. No wonder lovers seek out a nighttime hour, the better to envision each other, an hour when ghosts are abroad. It is amusing that the most optimistic of all philosophers, Leibniz, could see only a world of discrete monads, of ontological solitudes, none of which has windows. If one tries to be more optimistic than the optimist and avow that souls have windows and the ability to open them, then those windows and that ability will turn out to be nailed shut and boarded up as in an abandoned house. People-monads, too, have a bad name: They are full of ghosts. The most frightening of these is man.”
— Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, Autobiography of a Corpse