Duane Michals: The Unfortunate Man

Duane Michals: I am Gay from Leslie-Lohman Museum on Vimeo.

During this talk that Duane Michals gives at the Leslie & Lohman museum of gay and lesbian art, he discusses many of his photographic series, but there is just one he mentions that I am focussing on: ‘The Unfortunate Man’

The Unfortunate Man


“The unfortunate man could not touch the one he loved.
It had been declared illegal by the law.
Slowly his fingers became toes and his hands gradually became feet.
He began to wear shoes on his hands to disguise his pain.
It never occurred to him to break the law”

This is the text that is written beneath the photograph in the artists handwriting. Duane Michals doesn’t just photograph the surface of the subject and accept it as fact, instead his photographs display more of an insight. He talks about wanting to penetrate beneath what is being shown and understand the emotion and feeling of a scene.

When he is discussing this photograph he talks about not letting other people define you, because if you do then you will never be free. Not to let the law, the church or the public define you or else you will be limited to what they say you are and want you to be.

‘The Unfortunate Man’ is used as an example, for a situation which many gay people find themselves in. Because “it never occurred to him to break the law” this character let the law define him, restrict him, stopping him from being free.

This work has helped to clarify the direction my research is headed. Challenging beliefs and ideas of gay people through various representations, is a re-occuring theme throughout the research I have been doing. From analysing the characters Charles Hawtrey and Rock Hudson and how they challenged the notion of masculinity to Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s attempt to dis-associate the the homosexual body from the Aids epidemic. There are still areas that gay people need further representation, and I have already identified the lack of representation within sport, which could further challenge beliefs.



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