documenting worlds
photography by annie appel
film-based work *
Duane Michaels*

1986 and early for my first day of class. New school. New town.
The young professor shuffles through the stack of photos sitting on
my desk that I plan to
send my lover back home. Moody black and
self-portraits with double and triple exposures.

"Ah, Duane Michals," he said.

"Duane Michals?" I asked, reaching for my notebook to write the
name down.

"You don't know who Duane Michals is? Look him up."

"Writing his name down now -"

"No. Go to the library right now and look him up. It's just down the
hallway. You have time."

A slim volume of sequential moody, black and white self-portraits.
Double exposures accompany 10 poems by Constantine Cavafy. I slip
the volume into my backpack while no one's looking and walk back to
class, emboldened just by knowing his work exists in the world.

Six months later and ready to leave college because their focus was
commercial photography, I sign up for a weekend workshop with
Duane Michals. He convinces me to ignore my teachers while
completing my studies. I call from time to time to stay connected, and
once to ask for a letter of recommendation for the latest round of
grant rejections.

Thirty years after we'd first met he agrees to a visit at his studio in
New York. At the end of our hour I find the courage to make the
portrait I'd been imagining for years.

The best part of us is not what we see, it’s what we feel. We are what
we feel. We are not what we look at… We’re not our eyeballs, we’re
our mind. People believe their eyeballs and they’re totally wrong…
That’s why I consider most photographs extremely boring – just like
Muzak, inoffensive, charming, another waterfall, another sunset. This
time, colors have been added to protect the innocent. It’s just boring.
But that whole arena of one’s experience – grief, loneliness – how do
you photograph lust? I mean, how do you deal with these things? This
is what you are, not what you see. It’s all sitting up here. I could do
all my work sitting in my room. I don’t have to go anywhere
.” Duane