In 2012, Higher Pictures in New York exhibited a selection of George Dureau’s photographs of New Orleans locals shot between 1973 and 1986. Dureau traveled in the high art world but also allowed his work to be displayed in the legendary leather-S/M magazine Drummer. That exhibit, thankfully, sparked renewed interest in Dureau’s work, which led to a new monograph, George Dureau: The Photographs, published by Aperture in June of this year.
While Dureau’s early subjects were largely young black men, he also photographed locals from the street, many of whom had physical abnormalities. Roberta Smith wrote in a 2012 exhibition review at Higher Pictures, “Mr. Dureau’s subjects have an individuality, vulnerability and intensely personal gravity that Mapplethorpe’s more objectified models often lack.”
On the obvious link to Robert Mapplethorpe, Claude J. Summers had this to say: “Dureau’s photographs have often been compared with those of Robert Mapplethorpe. But the influence runs not from Mapplethorpe to Dureau but from Dureau to Mapplethorpe. The photographers were friends in the early 1970s. Mapplethorpe was greatly moved by Dureau’s photographs, even to the point of restaging many of Dureau’s earlier compositions. For all their similarities, however, the photographs of Dureau and Mapplethorpe are quite different. Whereas Mapplethorpe exhibits his subjects as cool and objective, self-contained and remote icons, Dureau presents his as exposed and vulnerable, playful and needy, complex and entirely human individuals. The difference is foremost a matter of empathy.”
For an in-depth interview with Dureau, we recommend Jack Fritscher’s “Mapplethorpe: Assault With a Deadly Camera.” On his site you can download a PDF of the interview with Dureau talking about his relationship with Mapplethorpe.
Photograph © George Dureau, Courtesy Arthur Roger Gallery and Higher Pictures