Born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, in 1932, Duane Michals is a self-taught photographer widely celebrated for his photo-sequences, which frequently investigate the intersections between texts and images. He received his BA from the University of Denver in 1953, and—though he would leave early to work in publishing—he studied graphic design at the Parsons School of Design in 1956. He recognized his exceptional aptitude for photography while during a three week holiday to thee U.S.S.R. in 1958, and photographs taken during this trip would comprise his first exhibition, which was held at the Underground Gallery in New York in 1963.
By 1960, he was earning his living through commercial fashion photography—regularly shooting for Esquire and Mademoiselle. Acclaimed for his portraits, Michals was unusual in his adamant refusal to own a studio—preferring, instead, to photograph people in their own environments. Though his process ran counter to the methods favored by the other prominent portrait photographers of his time, such as Richard Avedon and Irving Penn, he felt that their work ignored visual cues that would support his audience’s understanding of his models. “I hate studios,” he wrote in the introduction to his book Album, “The things that people choose to spend their lives with gives us clues as to whom they are more than their hairline.”
By 1970, his works were presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Since then, he has continued to exhibit in solo exhibitions and significant group shows internationally. His photographs are held in many of the world’s most significant arts institutions such as The J. Paul Getty Museum; The Bibliothèque National de Paris; The Smithsonian Institution; The Metropolitan Museum of Art; and The Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Among the many honors recognizing his contributions to photography, he has been awarded the International Center for Photography’s Infinity Award and the National Endowment for the Arts.