55 Duane Michals Quotes from the American Photographer

Duane Michals is a famous photographer who is well-known for his narrative sequences multiple exposures and use of text.

He emerged in the 1960s challenging traditional photojournalism with storytelling techniques and handwritten texts that add depth to his images.

His work has been showcased globally and also at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Michals has received several honors including a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship.

Duane Michals Quotes

His art is part of major collections worldwide and he has published numerous monographs.

Here are some of the top quotes by Duane Michals.

Top 10 Duane Michals Quotes


Art has to address eternal issues. ~ Duane Michals.


I believe in invisible; I do not believe in visible. ~ Duane Michals.


To fulfil a fantasy is the quickest way to destroy it. ~ Duane Michals.


To photograph reality is to photograph nothing. ~ Duane Michals.


Photography deals exquisitely with appearances, but nothing is what it appears to be. ~ Duane Michals.


Taking the photograph is the easiest part for me. ~ Duane Michals.


All good work has magic in it, and addresses the mind in a subtle way. ~ Duane Michals.


I never went to a photography school, which was my saving grace. ~ Duane Michals.


Art is really whispering, not shouting. ~ Duane Michals.


I often try to photograph things about a person that are not visible. ~ Duane Michals.

Inspiring Duane Michals Quotes


Taking photographs and writing is my way of saying I was here, I saw this, I felt this, I heard this. ~ Duane Michals.

We live in a culture where the one who shouts the loudest gets the most attention. It’s not in the vulgar, it’s not in the shock that one finds art. And it’s not the excessively beautiful. It’s in between; it’s in nuance. ~ Duane Michals.

One of the marvelous things about film is that if you expose it long enough you’re going to get a picture. ~ Duane Michals.


In the West, people tend to look at life as spectators, but in the East, people are the thing. ~ Duane Michals.

You can never capture a person in picture, never. You might get an interesting expression or gesture. I almost never research a picture subject ahead of time. I think Karsh is full of baloney. Can you imagine spending a whole week out in La Jolla with Jonas Salk soaking up his ambiance, then wind up making him look as if he’s in the studio in Ottawa with his thumb under his chin? ~ Duane Michals.

And in not learning the rules, I was free. I always say, you’re either defined by the medium or you redefine the medium in terms of your needs. ~ Duane Michals.

Famous Duane Michals Quotes

I believe in the invisible. I do not believe in the definitive reality of things around us. For me, reality is the intuition and the imagination and the quiet voice inside my head that says: isn’t that extraordinary? The things in our lives are the shadows of reality, just as we ourselves are shadows. ~ Duane Michals.


I’m very hard on the art world just being a big business. ~ Duane Michals.

I still find doing portraits a terrific challenge, but even though I’ve done hundreds of them, I’ve never stopped questioning the very nature of portraiture because it deals exclusively with appearances. I’ve never believed people are what they look like and think it’s impossible to really know what people are. ~ Duane Michals.

I think that the photographer must completely control his picture and bring to it all his personality, and in this area most photographs never transcend being just snapshots. When a great photographer does infuse the snapshot with his personality and vision, it can be transformed into something truly moving and beautiful. ~ Duane Michals.

I think photographs should be provocative and not tell you what you already know. It takes no great powers or magic to reproduce somebody’s face in a photograph. The magic is in seeing people in new ways. ~ Duane Michals.


Trust that little voice in your head that says ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting if…’; And then do it. ~ Duane Michals.

Flowers construct the most charming geometries: circles like the sun, ovals, cones, curlicues and a variety of triangular eccentricities, which when viewed with the eye of a magnifying glass seem a Lilliputian frieze of psychedelic silhouettes. ~ Duane Michals.

It is no accident that you are reading this. This moment has been waiting for you, I have been waiting for you. Remember me. ~ Duane Michals.

Usually when painters use photographs, they enlarge and copy them and simply make a large, boring painting of a large, boring photograph. ~ Duane Michals.


I think photographers are too polite. There is not enough anger in photography; it’s pretty much trivialized. ~ Duane Michals.

Even in the deepest love relationship – when lovers say ‘I love you’ to each other – we don’t really know what we’re saying, because language isn’t equal to the complexity of human emotions. ~ Duane Michals.

Photography is essentially an act of recognition by street photographers, not an act of invention. Photographers might respond to an old man’s face, or an Arbus freak, or the way light hits a building – and then they move on. Whereas in all the other art forms, take William Blake, everything that came to that paper never existed before. It’s the idea of alchemy, of making something from nothing. ~ Duane Michals.

If I was concerned about being accepted, I would have been doing Ansel Adams lookalikes, because that was easily accepted. Everything I did was never accepted…but luckily for me, my interest in the subject and my passion for the subject took me to the point that I wasn’t wounded by that, and eventually, people came around to me. ~ Duane Michals.

Best Duane Michals Quotes

How foolish of me to believe that it would be that easy. I had confused the appearance of trees and automobiles, and people with a reality itself, and believed that a photograph of these appearances to be a photograph of it. It is a melancholy truth that I will never be able to photograph it and can only fail. I am a reflection photographing other reflections within a reflection. To photograph reality is to photograph nothing. ~ Duane Michals.


My gift to you is that I am different. ~ Duane Michals.

Photography is very presumptuous. Photographers are always photographing other people’s lives – something they know nothing about – and drawing great inferences into it. ~ Duane Michals.

If I indulge myself and surrender to memory, I can still feel the knot of excitement that gripped me as I turned the corner into Rue Mimosas, looking for the house of Rene Magritte. It was August, 1965. I was 33 years old and about to meet the man whose profound and witty surrealist paintings had contradicted my assumptions about photography. ~ Duane Michals.


The majority of photographers focus on the obvious. They believe and accept what their eyes tell them, and yet eyes know nothing. ~ Duane Michals.

We have a way of making the most extraordinary experience ordinary. We actually work at destroying our miracles. … ~ Duane Michals.

The question of truth is forever in the air, and people look for it with particular fervor in art. ~ Duane Michals.

If you look at a photograph, and you think, ‘My isn’t that a beautiful photograph,’ and you go on to the next one, or ‘Isn’t that nice light?’ so what? I mean what does it do to you or what’s the real value in the long run? What do you walk away from it with? I mean, I’d much rather show you a photograph that makes demands on you, that you might become involved in on your own terms or be perplexed by. ~ Duane Michals.


Don’t try to be an artist. Find the thing within you that needs to be expressed. You might find it is art. ~ Duane Michals.

Then all at once in late August’s heat, tall leafless stalks crowned with iridescent pink and purple blossoms burst from the purgatory in the earth. This arcane act of nature, though perceived by us as ordinary, is a manifestation of Maya’s phantom play, the great immensity expressed in every way. My garden is the universe. I am the universe. I am my garden. All things are the same. ~ Duane Michals.

Most portraits are lies. People are rarely what they appear to be, especially in front of a camera. You might know me your entire lifetime and never reveal yourself to me. To interpret wrinkles as character is insult not insight. ~ Duane Michals.

Popular Duane Michals Quotes

I am interested in the nature of things. The nature of something is quite different from the way it looks. ~ Duane Michals.


I’m a terrible punster. And I love to rhyme. I just can’t help myself. ~ Duane Michals.

I write in order to express what the photo itself cannot say. A photograph of my father doesn’t tell me what I thought of him, which for me is much more important than what the man looked like. ~ Duane Michals.

My work is about my life as an event, and I find myself to be very temporal, transient. ~ Duane Michals.

I got a lot of flak originally for writing with photographs, because the great cliche in photography is that one photograph is worth a thousand words, and photographers are usually dodo birds anyway. ~ Duane Michals.


Most photographs, to me, are description, but they lack insight. ~ Duane Michals.

A photograph of a woman crying tells me nothing about grief. Or a photograph of a woman ecstatic tells me nothing about ecstasy. What is the nature of these emotions? The problem with photography is that it only deals with appearances. ~ Duane Michals.

You can’t teach art, so ART SCHOOL is a contradiction in terms. ~ Duane Michals.

Great Duane Michals Quotes

I already know what things look like – I don’t want description. People believe in appearances, and I don’t believe in appearances at all. ~ Duane Michals.

Photography does deal with ‘truth’ or a kind of superficial reality better than any of the other arts, but it never questions the nature of reality – it simply reproduces reality. And what good is that when the things of real value in life are invisible? ~ Duane Michals.

Photographers tend not to photograph what they can’t see, which is the very reason one should try to attempt it. Otherwise we’re going to go on forever just photographing more faces and more rooms and more places. Photography has to transcend description. It has to go beyond description to bring insight into the subject, or reveal the subject, not as it looks, but how does it feel? ~ Duane Michals.


I believe in the imagination. What I cannot see is infinitely more important than what I can see. ~ Duane Michals.

I never photograph sunsets and I never photograph moonrises. I’m not interested in what things look like. ~ Duane Michals.

Art is not fashionable. That’s why fashion and art are two different things. Fashion can never be art because fashion deals with whim, what is temporary, what changes, what is transient, what is now and not now. Art has to deal with issues that are timeless, that never change. ~ Duane Michals.


I don’t get straight people, but I understand what they look like. ~ Duane Michals.

I am an expressionist and by that I mean that I’m not a photographer or a writer or a painter or a tap dancer, but rather someone who expresses himself according to his needs. Duane Michals.

So these were the 55 top Duane Michals quotes and sayings.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on Jim Barksdale quotes and Eric Berry quotes.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar