Vincent’s Lament

“Vincent Van Gogh carried a ladder into a field of sunflowers, leaned it against a cloud and climbed to heaven”.
Photo by Duane Michals

 
 

“At Arles where rolls the Rhone
In the atrocious midday light
A man of phosphor and blood
Gives a haunting groan
Like a woman giving birth
And the man flees howling
Pursued by the sun
A sun of strident yellow
To a whorehouse near the Rhone
The man comes like a christmas king
With his absurd present
He has the blue and gentle look
The true mad lucid look
Of those who give life everything
Of those who are not jealous
And shows the poor child
His ear couched in the cloth
And she cries without understanding anything
Imagining sad omens
And looks without daring to take
The frightful tender shell
In which the moans of dead love
And the inhuman voices of art
Mix with the murmurs of the sea
And die on the tiling
In the room where the red eiderdown
Of a sudden bursting red
Blends this red so red
With the much more redder blood
Of half-dead Vincent
And wise as the very image
Of misery and love
The nude child all alone and ageless
Looks upon poor Vincent
Stricken by his own storm
Which spreads on the tile
Onto his most beautiful painting
And the storm runs out indifferent
Rolling before it its great barrels of blood
The dazzling storm of Vincent’s genius
And Vincent stays there sleeping waking croaking
And the sun over the whorehouse
Like a mad orange in a nameless desert
The sun on Arles
Howling turns around.”

Jacques Prévert

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Uncertainty Permits Everything

Who Am I, Duane Michals, 1970

 

Dr. Heisenberg’s Magic Mirror of Uncertainty, Duane Michals, 1998

 

“Odette can never be sure with any certainty which reflection of herself she will see in the mirror”. So the photographer Duane Michals tries to catch at least six images of her. A series of six pictures in which the model looks at herself in a huge mirror, the so called Dr. Heisenberg’s magic mirror. Michals, whose technique is to shoot series of photo, is used to handwrote text near his photographs, thereby giving information in order to reinforce the message and the creative idea that the image itself could not convey. And in this way he tells a story. The Odette’s story who tries to recognize herself in the mirror, but seeing new and unknown sides about her face, she discovers new dimensions about her. And even thought the uncertain may frighten, more over it unveils new sides about things. To be open to the unknown may offer wonders. As the author writes in the last image: “Uncertainty permits anything and everything”.

Wrestling with The Angel

The Falling Angel, Duane Michals, 1968

 
 

LE COMBAT AVEC L’ANGE

N’y va pas
tout est combiné d’avance
le match est truqué
et quand il apparaîtra sur le ring
environné d’éclairs de magnésium
ils entonneront à tue-tête le Te Deum
et avant même que tu te sois levé de ta chaise
ils te sonneront les cloches à toute volée
ils te jetteront à la figure l’éponge sacrée
et tu n’auras pas le temps de lui voler dans les plumes
ils se jetteront sur toi
et il te frappera au-dessous de la ceinture
et tu t’écrouleras
les bras stupidement en croix
dans la sciure
et jamais plus tu ne pourras faire l’amour.

Jacques Prévert

 
 

____________________________________________

 
 

“Don’t bother
The fight’s fixed
The match is rigged
and when he or she or it appears aloft above the ring
surrounded by spotlights
they’ll all start singing Te Deum
and even before you have the chance to get up from your little
chair in the corner
their gong will sound
they’ll throw their sacred sponge in your eyes
And you won’t even get in a quick jab to the feathers
before they all grab you
and he or she or it will hit you below the belt
and you’ll fall flat
arms stuck out stiff in an idiotic cross
outstretched in the sawdust
and you may never again be able to make love.”

I Sit and Look Out

Pasolini, Duane Michals,  1969

 
 

83

“I SIT and look out upon all the sorrows of the world, and upon all oppression and shame;
I hear secret convulsive sobs from young men, at anguish with themselves, remorseful after deeds done;
I see, in low life, the mother misused by her children, dying, neglected, gaunt, desperate;
I see the wife misused by her husband—I see the treacherous seducer of young women;
I mark the ranklings of jealousy and unrequited love, attempted to be hid—I see these sights on the earth;
I see the workings of battle, pestilence, tyranny—I see martyrs and prisoners;
I observe a famine at sea—I observe the sailors casting lots who shall be kill’d, to preserve the lives of the rest;
I observe the slights and degradations cast by arrogant persons upon laborers, the poor, and upon negroes, and the like;
All these—All the meanness and agony without end, I sitting, look out upon,
See, hear, and am silent.”

Walt Whitman

What These Ithakas Mean

The Old Man Kills the Minotaur, Duane Michals, 1976

 
 

ITHAKA

As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope the voyage is a long one.
May there be many a summer morning when,
with what pleasure, what joy,
you come into harbors seen for the first time;
may you stop at Phoenician trading stations
to buy fine things,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
sensual perfume of every kind—
as many sensual perfumes as you can;
and may you visit many Egyptian cities
to gather stores of knowledge from their scholars.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

Constantine P. Cavafy

Growing in Spirit

Photographs by Duane Michals

 
 

“He who hopes to grow in spirit
will have to transcend obedience and respect.
He’ll hold to some laws
but he’ll mostly violate
both law and custom, and go beyond
the established, inadequate norm.
Sensual pleasures will have much to teach him.
He won’t be afraid of the destructive act:
half the house will have to come down.
This way he’ll grow virtuously into wisdom.”

Constantine P. Cavafy

Cavafy’s Desires and Regrets

In The Adventures of Constantin Cavafy Duane Michals images loosely illustrate Cavafy’s poetry, while investigating themes of lost time, love discovered and remembered, and the sublime realm of the surreal.

 
 

 “Please meet me in the circle of

this conceit. These little fables of my imaginary

theatrics repeat the

mantras of Cavafy’s desires and

regrets, so old today now gone

away. My great friend Joel Grey

will play disguised in glasses,

black suit and tie, Constantine

Cavafy as the dreamer who banishes

God, and as the lover of the glorious

promise of youth,

Who can tell my truth from my lies?

Not I”

Duane Michals

Reading Cavafy

The Adventures of Constantine Cavafy. Photo by Duane Michals

 
 

To Peter Orlovsky

 

When we parted in Tangier

We said ten years or perhaps a few months.

Whatever fate and railroads bring, whatever cities or deserts –

Now I’m in the holy land, alone

reading Cavafy – it’s half past twelve

My letters haven’t reached you, yet you’re somewhere here, Petra or Syria

Perhaps have entered the Gate to this land and are looking for me in Jerusalem –

I wrote to all your addresses and to your mother –

Tonight I am reading books and remembering our old nights together naked –

I hope fate brings us together, a letter answered, held in the red hand –

or crossing some modern streetcorner, look joyfully in each others’ eyes.

Allen Ginsberg

From The Journals, Early Fifties, Early Sixties (November 1961)

Certain Words Must Be Said

Certain Words Must Be Said. Photo by Duane Michals, 1987

 
 

AFTER ALL, WHAT ELSE IS THERE TO SAY?

When I sit before a paper
writing my mind turns
in a kind of feminine
madness of chatter;
but to think to see, outside,
in a tenement the walls
of the universe itself
I wait: wait till the sky
appears as it is,
wait for a moment when
the poem itself
is my way of speaking out, not
declaiming of celebrating, yet,
but telling the truth

Allen Ginsberg

Two Boys Went Into a Dream Diner

 Photo by Duane Michals

 
 

Two boys went into a dream diner
and ate so much the bill was five dollars,
but they had no idea
what they were getting themselves into,
so they shoveled
garbage into a truck in the alley
to make up for the food.
After about five minutes, wondering
how long they would have
to work off what it cost, they asked
the diner owner when
their penance or pay would be over.
He laughed.
Little did they realize–they were
so virginal–
that a grown worker works half a day
for money like that.

Allen Ginsberg

Please Open the Window and Let Me In

Warren Beatty photographed by Duane Michals, 1961

 
 

Who is the shroudy stranger of the night,
Whose brow is mouldering green, whose reddened eye
Hides near the window trellis in dim light,
And gapes at old men, and makes children cry?

Who is the laughing walker of the street,
The alley mummy, stinking of the bone,
To dance unfixed, thought bound in shadow feet,
Behind the child that creeps on legs of stone?

Who is the hungry mocker of the maze,
And haggard gate-ghost, hanging by the door,
The double mummer in whose hooded gaze
World has beckoned unto world once more?

Allen Ginsberg

Penelope’s Hungry Eyes

Self-portrait, London, 1972

 

Abe Frajndlich was born in 1946 to in Frankfurt. At the age of ten he moved to the United States via Israel, France and Brazil. His role model and mentor was photographer Minor White, from whom he learnt “the art of seeing”.

It is with “hungry eyes”, but also with a tenacity and patience only equaled by Penelope’s firm belief in the return of her husband Odysseus, that over the last 30 years Abe Frajndlich has taken portraits of his famous fellow photographers. A selection of over 100 pictures from the ever growing portrait collection has been published in book form for the first time under the title Penelope’s Hungry Eyes. It features grand old masters of the art and photographic artists, contemporaries of the author and younger masters from the Düsseldorf School.

Abe Frajndlich has succeeded in luring the world’s most famous photographers out from behind their cameras and in front of his. With extraordinary skill, he has trained his lens on people used to hiding their own eyes behind a camera. For each of his portraits (some in color, some black and white) Frajndlich has conceived an individual setup that brings into focus in diverse ways the photographer’s primary organ, namely their eyes, which are as special as the voice of talented singers. Some of the photographers shy away by closing their eyes, wearing a mask or turning away (Cindy Sherman, Annie Leibovitz, Thomas Struth or Hans Namuth). Others use props such as glasses, mirrors or magnifying glasses to set their eyes in scene (Bill Brandt, Duane Michals, Andreas Feininger, Lillian Bassman) and still others draw attention to the vulnerability of their eyes using knives and scissors (Imogen Cunningham, Lucas Samaras). Yet many of the subjects respond to the unfamiliar “change of perspective” by looking directly into Frajndlich’s camera (Candida Höfer, Berenice Abbott, Gordon Parks).

Abe Frajndlich has presented a Who’s Who of recent photographic history, enriched with a highly subtle eye for humorous situations. In images and text (the photographer has added a personal note to each portrait) Frajndlich sets out to discover the ever enigmatic relationship between the real person and their own legend.

 

Lucas Samaras
 

Bill Brandt

 

Josef Koudelka

 

Arnold Newman

 

Robert Lebeck

 

Imogen Cunningham

 

Elliott Erwitt

 

William Wegman

 

Marc Riboud

 

Ruth Bernhard

 

Lillian Bassman

 

Louise Dalh-Wolfe

 

Ilse Bing

 

Dennis Hopper

 

David Hockney

 

Richard Avedon

 

Annie Leibovitz

 

Cindy Sherman

 

Andres Serrano

 

Harold Edgerton

 

Horst P. Horst

 

Norman Parkinson

 

Gordon Parks

 

Masahisa Fukase

 

Daidō Moriyama

 

Eikoh Hosoe

Out of Resentment

“It’s when you feel like this that, out of resentment, you begin to bump people back. And, let me confess, you feel that way most of the time. You ache with the need to convince yourself that you do exist in the real world, that you’re a part of all the sound and anguish, and you strike out with your fists, you curse and you swear to make them recognize you. And, alas, it’s seldom successful”

Ralph Ellison
The Invisible Man

 
 

Photographs by Duane Michals

An Invisible Man

“I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids — and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

Ralph Ellison
The Invisible Man

 
 

Photograph by Duane Michals