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Matinee: 'Duane Michals, The Man Who Invented Himself' Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

10 January 2015

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the sixty-seventh in our series of Saturday matinees today: Duane Michals, The Man Who Invented Himself.

We do, in this series, occasionally exercise our God-given right to be silly with some less-than-inspiring if entertaining presentation. But this week's show is both silly and inspiring. As is Duane Michas himself.

In fact, he plays the leading role in this six-and-a-half minute portrait of the man and his work. Michals work was recently exhibited at Pittsburgh's Carnegie Museum of Art last year.

In short, it not only tells, it shows who Duane Michals is.

He tells us he is at the frontier between looking and feeling, seeing an image and wondering what's behind it. That curiousity, which he says separates him from other photographers, often takes more than one image to express. Hence his famous sequences, often captioned.

"When I began to do sequences," Michals has explained previously, "it wasn't because I thought it was cool and the latest thing. I did it out of frustration with the still photograph."

He takes us back to the room in which he was born, in a building now abandoned. He photographs the shambles that remain but from the same point of view of his old family photos which, in the video, fade over the remains. His sequences have never been more eloquently displayed.

"We exist in oblivion," he tells a class. "Pay attention while you're here, OK? Because it's going to go away. Just like yesterday did."

OK, not so silly after all. But inspiring.

In addition to his signature sequences, the video also features a number of his other stills.

And it ends with the silliness of Michals as Don Quixote and his assistant as Sancha Panza taking over an abandoned industrial site to "free the workers," shooing away Carnegie (see above) and Pinkerton with the declaration, "Kindness has triumphed!"

And silliness has inspired.

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