George Dureau, The PhotographsEssay by Philip Gefter
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George Dureau, The Photographs is an album of the great photographic portraits made throughout the forty years of Dureau’s artistic career—a New Orleans romance between the photographer and his subjects.
All of Dureau’s exquisite photographs, many of them nudes, were made in his studio in the French Quarter of New Orleans, or on the city’s streets. He began photography for the pleasure of photographing his lovers, and as research material for his paintings. Only later on did he begin to take his photographs seriously as works of art in their own right. Many of his subjects became part of Dureau’s “extended family,” whom he photographed on different occasions over many years.
Surprisingly, only one book of Dureau’s photographs has been published: New Orleans, 1985, a modest paperback long out of print. This Aperture book is possible now because of the commitment of the community of Dureau’s supporters to see it happen. George Dureau, The Photographs is edited by Chris Boot, with a text by Philip Gefter.
George Dureau (born in New Orleans, 1930; died in New Orleans, 2014) was a painter, sculptor, and photographer known for his focus on the male nude. His paintings command regional and national recognition, and draw on classical and baroque traditions. His photographs of nudes, street people, and people who are maimed and deformed (often figures also incorporated within his paintings and sculptures), have garnered international acclaim. Often compared to Robert Mapplethorpe’s work, Dureau’s black male nudes predate Mapplethorpe’s Black Book pictures by several years. Also classically formal, they distinguish themselves from Mapplethorpe’s work by the nature of the connection between photographer and subject.
Dureau’s career has been the subject of retrospectives at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art (2006 and 2011) and the New Orleans Museum of Art (2009). The first exhibition of his photographs in New York (at Higher Pictures) was in 2012. Immersed in New Orleans’s unique art and culture throughout his life, Dureau became a widely known character of the French Quarter.
Philip Gefter is the author of Wagstaff: Before and After Mapplethorpe (2014), a biography of Sam Wagstaff, and Photography After Frank (Aperture, 2009), a book of essays about photography. He produced the 2011 documentary Bill Cunningham New York. Gefter was on staff at the New York Times for fifteen years, where he wrote regularly about photography. He is currently at work on a biography of Richard Avedon.
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