Rencontre with Duane Michals in Arles

Fresh back from Arles, for the annual Rencontres de la Photographie.

Last year I just wanted to meet Koudelka and I got that chance when I passed him in the street one night. This year’s highlight was meeting Duane Michals, the self-proclaimed “destroyer of the decisive moment.”

I knew some of his work, (excellent interview here if you don’t), but did not anticipate his personality. He was possibly the most delightful person in Arles this week. He gave of himself freely and joyfully, telling stories, making jokes and hurling Obama-style encouragement, “yes you can, go do it!”

Thursday evening he presented a slideshow of his work. He danced his way over to the microphone, in a courageously-attempted moonwalk. He began with “un-PC” jokes that got everyone laughing and then he howled at the full moon.

He told the crowd of photo pros and aficionados (Koudelka was lying on the ground down in front) to take risks and ask questions, to go find your own visual language. Gary Winogrand walked out of his first show, saying “that’s not photography.” Luckily Duane has confidence in abundance. It’s contagious.

For someone needing an ass-kicking in confidence (um, me…), his words help.

On being a photographer, he offered this:
“You are either defined by the medium or you re-define the medium based on your own needs. Now go do it.”

Duane and I, after he gave a tour of his expo.  Arles 2009.

Duane and me, after he gave a tour of his expo. Arles 2009.

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One Response to “Rencontre with Duane Michals in Arles”

  1. Deirdre Says:

    What a great portrait of you and Duane Michals, how crazy! Proof that it happend! I bet he loves your work, especially the series with the glass sphere. I love his luscious images with his handwriting. Nice to know he is so serendipitous. Thanks for this post!

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