Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan


– [Colin] Hello, I’m Colin B. Bailey, director of The Morgan Library & Museum. Contemplative, confessional, comedic. The art of Duane Michals exerts an appeal that goes beyond the conventional
audience of photography. Since the early 1960s, Michals has worked past what he sees as the limitations of the camera. He writes in the margins of his prints, he creates sequences of images that explore intangible human dilemmas, and he derives poetic
effects from technical errors such as double exposure and motion blur. Illusions of the Photographer combines a full career retrospective, the first on Duane Michals to be organized by a New York City museum
with an Artist’s Choice show as Michals plumbs the
Morgan’s vaults for treasures both revered and long forgotten. – Not having come up
through the photo ranks, I didn’t learn the photo rules, and it’s much harder to unlearn. Unlearning can take your whole, I had to unlearn so many
things from when I was a boy, and so coming into photography
at pretty much of a version, a version of a virgin. I was pretty much frustrated
with the still photograph. I grew up in an era where the only option was to
do a still photograph. The menu was very small. Anything outside of the realm of being an observer to reality was the only definition
that was legitimate. I had no problems breaking the rules, ’cause I never bought the
rules in the first place. There has to be magic, I don’t want facts. Don’t tell me what I know. I think the power of
art comes in telling you something you don’t know, something, a thought
you’ve never had before. I began to become enthralled
with the notion of directing. Also this, I didn’t stand on a corner waiting for two guys
to pass each other up, you know, I had to make it happen. So that, I became more and more a participant in the photograph. If my reality is the stage set, I have the great liberty
of peopling the stage set, and making my own dramas. And it never occurred to
me you shouldn’t do that. I have paid more attention to my mind, rather than to my eyes. Photographers are always
indebted to their eyes, but the eyes, everything you
see is actually in your head. We are the sum total of our histories, and I realize I have taken from, not from so much from other photographers, but everything’s been internalized. What was wonderful about
doing things for Queer was that it starts out with
miniature bathroom, and people assume that that’s real, because it looks real. And, but each photograph, again, contradicts the previous photograph. I wish we realized that
we are queer creatures, it’s a queer life, the universe is queer, it’s bizarre and queer. Contradicting reality is
a great gift, or weapon, that photographers have
with people’s perception, but photographers already
tell me what I already know, I don’t want to know what I know, my gift to you is not to
tell you what you know, it’s to surprise you. Morgan has always been full of surprises. I’m proud of being 87. It’s funny, because people, when you’re young you’re
anxious to grow up. When I was 16 I was very thrilled
to get an electric shaver, to shave off the one hair on my nose. And then you finally mature, and then suddenly in the 30s and 40s, and people become alarmed
that you’re getting old, oh my God, and then suddenly
you find yourself old, but now I’m proud of being old. I think it’s terrific to
be old, I’m a survivor. People should not think of
being old as a disaster, it is, but beyond the disaster, which is inevitable, we’re
liberated in a very funny way. – [Colin] Illusions of the Photographer, Duane Michals at the Morgan, is on view at the Morgan Library Museum from October 25th, 2019, through February 2nd, 2020. (relaxing vibraphone music)

2 Replies to “Illusions of the Photographer: Duane Michals at the Morgan”

  1. “The best part of us is not what we see, it’s what we feel. We are what we feel. We are not what we look at . . .. We’re not our eyeballs, we’re our mind. People believe their eyeballs and they’re totally wrong . . .. That’s why I consider most photographs extremely boring–just like Muzak, inoffensive, charming, another waterfall, another sunset. This time, colors have been added to protect the innocent. It’s just boring. But that whole arena of one’s experience–grief, loneliness–how do you photograph lust? I mean, how do you deal with these things? This is what you are, not what you see. It’s all sitting up here. I could do all my work sitting in my room. I don’t have to go anywhere.” – Duane Michals

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