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Final Major Project: Considering Others – Duane Michaels

“I have a new concept. I call it the “prose portrait.” A prose portrait doesn’t necessarily show you what someone looks like; it’s not a line-for-line reproduction of a face. A prose portrait tells you what the nature of the person is about.”

– (52: Week Thirty Five – Duane Michals | Lights Going On 2014)

Michals uses layering in his images to add further dimensions to the understanding of the narrative. He uses text as well as elaborate comic distortions. These rely on humour and the sense of the absurd to enhance the narrative.


His work, ‘Dr. Heisenberg’s Magic Mirror of Uncertainty‘, was created in response to Vogue’s request for him to illustrate a feature on quantum physics.  Using a convex mirror he bought in Bath, Michals records the distortions in the mirror.

Everything in the mirror is transformed when seen in it. When the sitter moved, the image in the mirror changed. Lips get bigger; eyes stretch. In one case, by looking at the camera, the sitter’s face has no features; it is just a blank slate.

We use mirrors to see what our physical appearance is. We care about our appearance. The distortions are a way of Michals expressing that we care too much about our appearance.

“We’re always projecting on the world our own experience. The only truth we know is what we experience. So, when we see a woman crying, we think, “Ah grief.” But we can’t share her grief. We only know how we felt when someone we loved died when there was a sense of loss. A photograph of a woman crying tells me nothing about grief. Or a photograph of a woman ecstatic tells me nothing about ecstasy. What is the nature of these emotions? The problem with photography is that it only deals with appearances.”

– (Duane Michals by David Seidner – BOMB Magazine 1987)

I like the idea of distortion being used in a portrait. For me, it would represent how we can manipulate and distort our identities to meet the expectations of others. This is an area I intend to explore further.

Figure 1: Duane Michals. 1998. Dr. Heisenberg’s Magic Mirror of Uncertainty.


Figure 2: Duane Michals. 1998. Dr. Heisenberg’’s Magic Mirror of Uncertainty.


REFERENCES

Duane Michals’ best photograph: French Vogue does quantum physics. 2015. the Guardian[online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/feb/26/duane-michals-best-photograph-french-vogue-quantum-physics-heisenberg [accessed 1 April 2018].


Duane Michals by David Seidner – BOMB Magazine. 1987. Bombmagazine.org[online]. Available at: https://bombmagazine.org/articles/duane-michals/ [accessed 1 April 2018].


52: Week Thirty Five – Duane Michals | Lights Going On. 2014. Lightsgoingon.com [online]. Available at: http://www.lightsgoingon.com/2014/06/52-week-thirty-five-duane-michals/ [accessed 1 April 2018].

IMAGE SOURCES

Figure 1: Duane Michals’ best photograph: French Vogue does quantum physics. 2015. the Guardian[online]. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/feb/26/duane-michals-best-photograph-french-vogue-quantum-physics-heisenberg [accessed 1 April 2018].


Figure 2: Galería Max Estrella – Duane Michals – Dr. Heisenberg’s Magic Mirror of Uncertainty. 2018. Maxestrella.com [online]. Available at: http://www.maxestrella.com/artist/Duane%20Michals/work_1054.html [accessed 1 April 2018].


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