Michael Hoffman’s personality aroused admiration and fear in equal measure. He was known for his short temper, his business acumen—with everything that goes with it—and his assertive eye. Knowing only his reputation and the photographic legacy he left behind him at Aperture, I asked former colleagues, occasional collaborators, photographers and friends to share a few words about him. The responses I received were full of praise, fury and humor. Some were brief and formal in tone while others were very personal. Sometimes there was no response at all—an eloquent reaction, to say the least. Everyone could agree on his genius and his temperament: “complicated,” “generous,” “innovative,” “provocative,” “a risk-taker,” “visionary,” “outrageous,” “an incredible editor,” and variations on these. Some offered revealing personal details of this complex man, like his penchant for the esoteric philosophy of Georges Gurdjieff, whose notorious theory rests of the assumption that people cannot perceive reality in their current states because they lack consciousness, living rather in a hypnotic state of “waking sleep.”
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