Chuck Close and Duane Michals.

by Tim Soter


When I first was looking for apartments in NYC having just graduated from a school in Pennsylvania, I spent a day in of 1994 wandering around downtown Manhattan which was the only part of the city I knew.  And by “knew” I mean I only really recognized the enormous exterior sculpture on the side of a building on Houston street, right off of Broadway.  (I now know it’s a piece from the early 70s called “The Wall” by artist Forrest Myers.)  From there I could get my bearings and take a right and just a block away was Keith Haring’s Pop Shop.  And that was where I went on every visit to New York.  Which in total was maybe four trips, some in High School, before settling here.

Well on this day as I crossed Houston I saw a face that I recognized from magazines and books coming towards me.  As he passed by I said in a chipper voice, “Hey Chuck!”  and he responded with an appropriate and polite wave without slowing down.  Now I was so excited because this confirmed that once I moved here I would run into everyone who I had ever admired.  It would be reality Disneyland with the Big Apple fully stocked with all of the characters that I had read about in Interview and ArtNews.

Well I moved here and it was some time before I ran into someone like that again.  I would see Willem Defoe in SoHo all the time, but so did everyone else.  A year after the move I got a ticket to go to an opening at the Guggenheim where I ran into him again. Probably fueled by liquid courage I told him the story of how he “wrecked” my NY fantasy.  Not sure that it went over well but I managed to dig out a bad scan of a photo from that night.

And twenty years later I was helping another creative legend make a portrait of Chuck Close.

Duane Michals was shooting him for an upcoming portrait book, surprising that he hadn’t before. Both had collected each other’s work. Chuck offered, “I have more of your photos than of any other photographers.” Quite a compliment.


Two pictures of Chuck Close that I made, twenty years apart.