I went to see Duane Michals last night. He was speaking at the Morse Auditorium on Boston U's campus. The lecture was sponsored by the Photographic Resource Center at BU.
The turnout was really good, probably abround 200 people. And it was way, way, way more interesting/fun than any - and I mean any - poetry/fiction reading I've attended.
Even with the increasing awareness of photography as an art form, I think the medium has a tough slog ahead to achieve some respect.
People generally think of photography as a documentarian utility, impossibly real to be imaginative. While that can be true, and some of the greatest pics are documents, I think there are plenty of possibilities for creative expression with a camera. And I don't mean photoshopping a pic to death. Whatever works, works, though.
Mr. Michals sort of echoed these sentiments last night emphasizing the role of imagination in every aspect of art, stressing its integrity in any artful pursuit.
Some of the images he showed last night were really inspiring. One, of a field of fireflies double exposed against a nighttime fireworks display gave me plenty of ideas of my own involving a sack of flour in my garage.
He also produced a series of images on String Theory which were really amazing. The photos in series were really effective. Individually, I found myself wondering how the hell he produced the pics. I was too timid to ask him in the Q&A afterwards. Maybe I'll get the chance someday. He's pretty old though, 74, and he made a remark that he suffered from Alzheimer's.
That rattled around in my head for the rest of the lecture as I compared his behavior to my grandfather's. He seemed fine. But, boy, that word Alzheimer's was a real zinger. Powerful.
Even though he did dis Warhol as a cartoonist (no shit man, he was a professional illustrator - missed the point - patterns, repetition - oh well) I really enjoy his work. He stays really lo-tech which makes him seem like a survivor, the best American virtue. By limiting his resources (no computers/fancy cameras) he relies on wit and luck and grace and charm to survive. In that way his pictures are very interesting and a little bit heartbreaking.
I'm trying to do stuff like that.