A man stands on a street staring into a doorway illuminated by steam and light. There is another man wearing a suit and walking along a craggy path through what seems to be a forest. These are just two of the many ambiguous photos that make up documentary photographer Michael Magers’s fist book, “Independent Mysteries” (Hatje Cantz, 2019). Magers’s work is not meant to be about any particular set of events. Rather, it is a collection of work culled from his archives of fleeting connections and unusual events that he encountered during his travels.
Magers hasn’t always worked as a photographer, but he has always been passionate about the craft. He worked in the corporate world, but in 2013, according to Vogue, he “took a step back from a corporate career ... to focus on making images and honing a more creative life.” Since then, his work has been published by various international magazines and newspapers. His work has taken him around the world, from Japan to Cuba, Haiti and more.
“Independent Mysteries” contains photos that Magers took during his travels. As many people who voyage a lot know, traveling can be unsettling in its ability to take away feelings of consistency or routine. It is this tension between connection and disconnection, or as Magers describes it, “intimate distance,” that drives the images in his book.
The images in the book feel as if they have a close kinship with noir films. The brooding black-and-white photos remind one of classic films. You almost expect to see closed-captioned words skipping across the bottom of them. The photos aren’t depicting any kind of hard reality. That is to say, they’re not so much descriptive of anything happening in front of Magers’s lens as much as they are a window into his personal thoughts. “Independent Mysteries” is an introspective collection of images exploring the artist’s inner world to which we’ve been invited to make connections if and where we can.
In addition to Magers’s photographs, “Independent Mysteries” also contains writing and even artwork by many people with whom he has collaborated through the years. These include the acclaimed Cuban musician Daymé Arocena, master photographer Larry Fink and the celebrated Japanese tattoo artist Horiren 1st.
Born in Dallas, Magers has made his home in New York City. You can see more of his work on his website.
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