Duane Michals, born on February 18, 1932 in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, is one of the best-known exponents of narrative serial photography.
Michals studied art in Denver, and was stationed in Germany as a soldier until 1954. In 1956 he began studying graphic design in New York, but soon quit in order to work as an assistant director at Dance magazine. He later worked as a layout designer at Time Inc. In the same year Duane Michals traveled to the Soviet Union, which had just become open to tourists. During the trip he produced photographic portraits which he exhibited in New York in 1959.
Duane Michals had now found his medium of expression in photography. He was aided by the photographer Daniel Entin, who offered him the use of his studio. There Michals did portraits of friends and acquaintances, using mostly black and white film and no artificial lighting – a preference that he would continue to hold. Commercial success came quickly, and he received commissioned from "Esquire", "The New Yorker" and other magazines. He did portraits of artists and writers in the sixties, including Andy Warhol, Rene Magritte, and Tennessee Williams.
Duane Michals then dedicated himself to free-lance work. In 1966 he did his first series of posed photographs that were narrative in nature. These "sequences" of poetic as well as comic photos, in which Michals himself would also appear, were published in 1969 and extended his fame to Europe.
In the mid-seventies he began to mark his prints with handwritten texts, short poems or stories, which also served as his signature. The series he did at this time told religious and erotic stories about death, chance encounters, desire, family, and childhood. His studies evoke associations with the poetic, a sense of alienation, and in some cases, anxiety.
The narrative point of view runs like a red thread through Duane Michals’ work. The interplay between the images and texts in his projects opens up to a wider meaning. After 1976 there was a re-emphasis on images with captions and Michals also began to paint over his photographs, while the narrative aspect remained. Michals lives and works in New York.