Duane Michals

Duane Michals was born February 18, 1932 in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. In 1953, he completed a Bachelor’s degree at the University of Denver. He went on to study at the Parsons School of Graphic Design with the plan of becoming a graphic designer in 1956. While on vacation in the USSR in 1958, he discovered photography and photos taken during his trip were featured in the 1963 exhibition at the Underground Gallery in New York City.[1]

Michals worked in commercial photography for Esquire and Mademoiselle for several years. In addition, he covered the filming of The Great Gatsby for Vogue in 1974. He did not have his own studio so he took photos of people in their environment, which differed from other photographs at the time. He began to stage and photograph little sequences of action-made up stories, fictions that unfolded in a few frames of film.[2]

 In 1968, he was hired by the government of Mexico to photograph the Olympic Games that year. These works were shown in 1970 at The Museum of Modern Art. Many of the photos he took between 1958 and 1988 would later become the basis of his book, Album.

He has also worked with a few musicians and produced the cover art for The Police album, “Synchronicity” in 1983 and Richard Barone’s “Clouds over Eden” in 1983.

Contribution to Photography: Michals had a significant effect on photography in the 1960’s. His photos manipulate the medium to communicate narratives using a distinctive pictorial technique. [1] The sequences, for which he is widely known, resembles cinema’s frame by frame format. Each sequence depicts the unfolding of an event or reveals various perspectives of the subject. He sometimes added text to his images.


[1] PaceMacGill Gallery. http://www.pacemacgill.com/duanemichalsbio.html (accessed April 12, 2010).

[2] Garner, Gretchen. Disappearing Witness: Change in 20th Century American Photography. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003.

Cover of “Synchonicity,” The Police Album Cover. (1983)

Source: Picsearch.com

Grandpa Goes to Heaven (1989)

Source: digimere.umwblogs.org

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4 responses to “Duane Michals

  1. I have never seen the Grandpa goes to Heaven photos before. I really like the way it tells a whole story in just 5 frames. Being done in b&w gives it a very “heavenly” look. I also like The Police ulbum cover.
    Mike G.

  2. I think you did a great job of summing up the life of Duane Michaels. I looked at the photoset of “Grandpa Goes to Heaven” and it is extremely powerful! What a great piece of art. I love his story-telling technique.

  3. Dario Milana

    Very well done biography of Duane Michaels. Personally I enjoyed the photo strip of “Grandpa Goes to Heaven”, it gave me another opportunity to explain my daughters the recent death of their grandma.

  4. I love the photos i really think they on there own tell a story … and i agree the black and white does do it justice ..

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