How is this even possible
Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 7, 2014
San Francisco, Paris, New York; three cities I can never get enough of. That’s why I’ve periodically visited them (or lived in them) over the past thirty years, always marveling at the sights and sounds of these world-class, world famous cities. Photographer Duane Michals has an exhibit currently making the rounds (at DC Moore Gallery through May 31, 2014) titled “Empty New York.” It features black and white pictures of subway cars, barber shops, bodegas, laundromats, even Coney Island, without a single person present, something quite unimaginable to New York City residents. Shooting photographs since the late 1950’s, Michals is inspired by Eugene Atget, who did his own series of photos using the streets of Paris as subject. Here’s the museum page, and below, some of the pictures. Haunting, and gorgeous.
Empty New York, c. 1964
FROM THE MUSEUM PRESS RELEASE:
Comprised of thirty rare gelatin silver prints dating from the 1960s, the exhibition focuses exclusively on Michals’ early exploration of transitional early morning moments in New York City shops, parks, subway cars, and train stations. This is the first time these photographs have been exhibited as a group.
The images in this exhibition, taken over a half a century ago, include New York landmarks such as Penn Station, the Metropolitan Opera House, and Washington Square Hotel as well as ordinary locales, such as a laundromat, a shoeshine station, or an empty booth in a neighborhood diner. The series reflects Duane Michals’ admiration for the work of French photographer Eugene Atget who memorably photographed the streets of Paris. As Michals has said,
“It was a fortuitous event for me [to discover the work of Eugene Atget in a book]. I became so enchanted by the intimacy of the rooms and streets and people he photographed that I found myself looking at twentieth –century New York in the early morning through his nineteenth-century eyes. Everywhere seemed a stage set. I would awaken early on Sunday mornings and wander through New York with my camera, peering into shop windows and down cul-de-sacs with a bemused Atget looking over my shoulder.”
Of this intellectual revelation and point of departure, Michals recollects that how for him suddenly, “Everything was theatre; even the most ordinary event was an act in the drama of my little life.” The universality of narrative, space, and their limitless capacities would set the stage for Michals proliferous and imaginative career.
Since 1958 Duane Michals has been making photographs which investigate themes of memory, mortality, love, and loss. Constantly interpreting and re-interpreting the world around him, Michals never stagnates and always finds new ways to understand the human experience through his idiosyncratic combination of philosophy, humor, history, and stark emotion.
Michal’s first solo museum exhibition was at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1970, and he will be honored with a career retrospective opening October, 2014 at The Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. Duane Michals lives and works in New York City.