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George Dureau. David Jones, c. 1970s. Higher Pictures
Earlier this summer, 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 both the high art world and allowed his work to be displayed in the legendary leather/SM magazine Drummer.
With a cult-like following, George Dureau's photographs are a striking mix of carnal and heroic, unsentimental yet completely intimate and personal. Known as a painter who began making photographs as an extension of his paintings, Dureau's photographs are a significant contribution to art history, yet somehow, even today, are largely unknown.
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.
George Dureau was born on December 28, 1930. He attended Louisiana State University, where he received a B.A. in fine arts in 1952. After serving in the United States Army, he briefly attended Tulane University, where he studied architecture.