Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Doug Menuez: Master of The Long Form
Douglas Menuez peers through his lens into the human heart when he creates his photo essays
It’s an arresting image: a shadowy figure, arm outstretched, about to mug a homeless man sleeping on a park bench. With its strong lines and framing, the photo not only captures a chilling moment, but it also evokes suspense, empathy and meditations on the darker regions of the human heart. Topical and poignant, the image was shot on 42nd Street in midtown Manhattan by renowned photographer Douglas Menuez—37 years ago, when he was 14. What’s remarkable isn’t just how precocious and fearless the young Menuez was, but how consistent the fundamentals of his style and thematic obsessions have remained through the intervening years. A gift for dramatic, architectonic compositions and an eye for images that activate our moral compass have led the photographer to acclaim across the spectrum of editorial and advertising work, fashion, documentary and fine art. Now, at the height of his success, his longstanding passions are leading him toward projects that are more personal, yet increasingly global in scope.
Menuez was born in Texas but grew up in Chicago and New York City, where he haunted museums, ogling Matisse and dreaming of becoming a painter. On one of these outings he happened upon the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson and began roaming the streets of New York with his Nikkormat, on the prowl for photojournalistic material. Eventually, after a stint as a photo assistant, he moved to California to study at the San Francisco Art Institute and San Francisco State University, where he took a course in “visual anthropology” from photographer and author John Collier. Collier’s theory-heavy dissections of photographs, mining images for sociocultural clues, gave Menuez an intellectual perspective that counterbalanced the ephemerality of spot-news assignments when he began shooting for Bay Area newspapers.
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