Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Doug Neal Photography: A Specific Truth
'If I were a writer, I imagine that I would probably work with words much the same way that I work with images today. But, as I sit at my typewriter, I realize how woefully inarticulate I feel. Instead, my chosen medium is the camera, and my attempts to communicate come through this. Yet sometimes I still think of what it might be like to be a writer, to reach back into my memories, my childhood, my early adult life or my travels and craft some sort of fiction that would involve readers and engage their imaginations.'
Michigan artist Doug Neal is a graduate of Western Michigan University, has been capturing stories since 1976. Neal's work has been exhibited in New York, Chicago, Germany, as well as his hometown of Kalamazoo. He has been the recipient of the 1994 Irving S. Gilmore Emerging Artists grant and has had his work published in magazines as Provocateur, Australia's Blue, XY, Genre, Contents and Metropolitan Home. Tracy Chapman, Lucien Clergue, Greg Gorman, Christopher Makos, Kurt Markus, Sam Shahid and Bruce Weber are just some of the people whose collections include Doug's work.
Doug's images are strongly personal and evocative and resonate with the viewer not only because of his impressionist focus and the specific techniques he uses, but because of the story being told. Doug believes that typically, photographers tell a specific truth and the truth Doug is telling is the raw expression of his own emotional experiences and vulnerabilities.
'Generally, photographers have something they wish to record, and typically it is the truth. But it doesn't have to be the truth. This is the element of photography which resonates for me and which is most closely related to the written word. My photographs necessarily depict a reality, as that is what photography and the camera does. However, it is not the only reality.'
The use of a muse within photography is immensely fascinating to me and a subject I have explored often on FH. There is often a connection between artist and muse, a trust that brings out not only the creative, but also the personal, within the work of many artists. Muses often allow an artist to not only break boundaries, but as well explore parts of themselves they might not otherwise focus on or risk with another model.
'At the time the images of Linc were taken, I was working at the local art museum and planning to attend a photo workshop in Santa Fe with famed photographer Greg Gorman. I wanted to ‘shore-up’ my portfolio so I embarked on a two- to three-month period of intensive work, utilizing the models that had made themselves available to the students of the art museum’s school.'
'Linc had filled out a profile/application that stated that he was a gymnast and ‘that’ caught my eye. The gymnastics training made Linc aware of his every movement and his every muscle! He was able to move with a perfection and physical ‘grace’ that I had never had the pleasure of seeing through my camera’s lens before! He was completely comfortable naked and was completely uninhibited regarding his surroundings. At that time I had been doing some theater pictures and had access to the local Civic’s rehearsal stage and we made most of these wonderful collaborations there, in the space of those three months.'
World Of Men is a concept for an exhibit yet to be seen. In it, Doug describes the images for the show as self portraits. Although they are not actually Doug, but models, the images are an idealized version of the artist, a way of understanding and defining his own maleness. A preference for solitude and the ongoing struggle on what the world expects of a man vs the hopes and dreams the man has for himself. Although the show has yet to take place, the themes are powerfully clear in almost all of Doug's work.
It was interesting for me to see how many of the men in Doug's images are captured with their face, head and eyes faced downwards and their eyes sometimes closed. Although this pose might for some indicate reservation, or even shame., in Doug's images I experience strong and powerful men. Their power however is quiet, respectful, not stemming from any physical competency, domination or endowment, but instead from a strong sense of self. Masculine simply because of who they are, not who they have to prove to be.
'Pete O was a model for a student of my studio-lighting course. This photographer had made a (terrible) picture of him as a “prop’ for a female that he had been shooting and working with. I saw the pictures and said, “I must photograph this guy, he’s fantastic!” The photographer put me in touch with him; we got together and made the first image…the one of Pete in bed. So, we shot maybe three or four times, I loved everything that we got, but nothing really went ‘stellar’ sort of speak.'
'After maybe a year or two went by, I got a phone call from Pete asking me if we could get back together and shoot some more stuff? And there was a bit of a surprise, Pete had decided that he (finally) wanted to be photographed naked and what more; he wanted to apply to PLAYGIRL magazine to be a centerfold. “Sure,” I said, with a big ole smile! For some reason it was just the goal that we needed to really make the best of all of our work together! He was very open and willing to allow me to make pretty intimate shots and open to working in a dark and dirty warehouse basement. Sadly, after all of our hard work, PLAYGIRL only ran one small image of him. I know he was devastated…and me, too…we sent them a ton of images and I thought he had a really great shot at it!'
Doug Neal on ModelMayhem
Doug Neal Official Site