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Forehead To Forehead With Duane Michaels

When I was a photo student at RISD, I went up to MIT in Cambridge one night to hear the great photographer Duane Michals speak. Duane talks really fast - and I recorded it all on a cheap cassette recorder. I spent the next week transcribing it all on a legal pad - which then became my bible (to this day!).

He has been a huge inspiration and force in my life. Through the years I have had limited contact with Duane - openings, lectures, a workshop, bumping into each other on the street. He always asked me to call him - but I couldn’t do that - he was just too big a hero to me. Three years ago I was planning a trip to NYC - and after all these years felt ready for my Duane moment. A friend (photographer Marcia Lippman @acupofbeauty ) organized lunch - which was really like a conversation I had been having with my imaginary Duane friend all these years - but in person. Duane invited me to his home the next day to show me his new work. NEW WORK!!! He was 85years old and just lost his partner of over 50 years….and yet...Duane had 20 new short films to show - plus his new book of portraits.

After having one of the most special days of my life I asked Duane to do a picture with me. I had this idea of putting our foreheads together. We are both from the same hometown of Pittsburgh and there was a lot to share. The best part was the full minute his assistant fumbled with my camera and we stood there head to head. Duane asked me what I was thinking. I told him I was just trying to download everything in his head through our foreheads. Something changed for me just then. It was like Duane gave me special powers. . Less fear. More push. All super exciting.

I later learned that the touching of foreheads is an ancient greeting that honors the heart and soul of another human being.

Duane is 89 today! Happy Birthday Duane! He promised me on a call yesterday that he was going until at least 90!


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