Dick Blau has a BA in English from Harvard and a PhD in American Studies from Yale. He is self-taught as a photographer, with a lot of thanks to Milton Rogovin who let him hang out in his darkroom when Blau worked at SUNY Buffalo in the late sixties. (He had gone there to help start the Program in American Studies. Blau also helped start CEPA, the Center for the Exploratory Arts, which continues to this day. Blau moved to Milwaukee in the mid 70’s, where he then co-founded the UWM Department of Film.
In his photographic work, Blau follows two parallel lines of inquiry. On the one hand, he is a student of popular culture, with a particular interest in music and performance. Collaborating with anthropologists Charles and Angeliki Keil and Steven Feld, he has authored three photo-ethnographies –Polka Happiness (1992), Bright Balkan Morning (2002), and Skyros Carnival (2011).
Blau also photographs closer to home, in the heart of the heart of the family. Photographs from his long term personal study of the domestic scene – now collected and mocked-up in book form as Thicker Than Water: My Family in Photographs (1968-2012) — have been published widely. In an 80’s art tabloid like Theory/Flesh; in a 2009 Intervalles issue on Interdisciplinary Transcriptions; in Family Frames: Photography, Narrative, and Post Memory (1997), in the The M Word: Real Mothers in Contemporary Art (2011); and principally in a collaboration with writer Jane Gallop in a memoir/theory of domestic photography, titled Living With His Camera (2003).