Even if you've somehow missed everything else, you know the self-taught photographer Duane Michals, 82 today, for his cover art on the Police's Synchronicity. Hallmarks of his black and white work are his use of handwritten text, nude men, dramatic juxtapositions, artificial stagings, and nods to gay history -- the horse image is from his 1970 Salute, Walt Whitman and was sold six years ago at a Christie's auction of Elton John's art. Among his more recent books is The Adventures of Constantine Cavafy. Awesomely, Michals and the architect he met at the gym in 1960 will this year celebrate their 54th anniversary. Old school to the core, Michals is dismayed by "all these kids spewing out of art school photographing their dinner and then making it a 20-foot photograph," and he had this to say about gay marriage in a 2008 interview:
So, you're politically against gay marriage, or just spiritually against it?
"I'm politically against it. I want civil unions. I want all the political advantages, but marriage is a tired vestige of the heterosexual world. I don't know why gay people would want to get married. Of all things! It's a failed institution. It just doesn't make sense. Wedding cake? Oh please!"
Thirty years of his portraits appear in Album. Earlier books are A Visit With Magritte, The House I Once Called Home, and Foto Follies: How Photography Lost Its Virginity on the Way to the Bank.
Born to Caribbean immigrants in Harlem, Audrey Lorde recognized the power of names and naming early in life, changing hers as a child to Audre to highlight the symmetry of both names ending in e. At 49 her landmark Zami: A New Spelling of My Name confirmed her stature as a great and essential writer and the nation's foremost "black lesbian feminist poet warrior." Still in her twenties, through a year at the National University of Mexico, graduating from Hunter, and getting her advanced degree from Columbia, she began publishing her poems and seeing them anthologized abroad as well as in Langston Hughes' New Negro Poets USA. (In 1997 Norton published her definitive Collected Poems at 512 pages.) A mother of two children from an eight year marriage to attorney Edwin Rollins, she was already enjoying her lesbianism at twenty, during a year at the National University of Mexico, and later had a seventeen year relationship with psychology professor Frances Clayton, as well as shorter relationships with the artist Mildred Thomson and finally with Gloria Joseph. That Clayton is white might be noteworthy because it was during those years, co-mothering the two children, that Lorde attacked the underlying racism of the feminist movement, linking the experience to slavery in essays like "The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House." Lorde had equally strong insights into the lgbt movement. From a 1980 interview reprinted in the book I Am Your Sister: Collected and Unpublished Writings of Audre Lorde:
"...most gay white men are marginal only in one respect. Much of the gay white movement seeks to be included in the american dream and is angered when they do not receive the standard white male privileges, misnamed as 'american democracy.'
"Often, white gay men are working not to change the system. This is one of the reasons why the gay male movement is as white as it is. Black gay men recognize, again by the facts of survival, that being Black, they are not going to be included in the same way...
"I see no essential battle between many gay men and the white male establishment. To be sure, there are gay men who do not view their oppression as isolated, and who work for a future. But it is a matter of majority politics: many gay white males are being pulled by the same strings as other white men in this society. You do not get people to work against what they have identified as their basic self-interest."
After fighting cancer for fourteen years, Lorde died in 1992 in St. Croix at 58. Jackie Kay is one of many who call Lorde "my hero."