Art & Photography

Snapshot Portraits

Gerard Malanga

     As Andy Warhol's assistant from 1963 to 1970, Gerard Malanga was a fixture in a New York art scene that freely mixed painting, film, and music. Working closely with Warhol at The factory, Malanga served as silk screen technician, cinematographer, and occasional actor, all the while working on his own poetry, which has been collected in numerous books including Incarnations   and most recently No Respect: New and Selected Poems, 1964-2000.
      Malanga's fascination with photography grew as he and Warhol collaborated on the nearly five hundred individual ''Screen Tests," in which Factory regulars and visitors—among them Edie Sedgwick, Salvador Dali, Lou Reed, and Bob Dylan—were filmed for three uninterrupted minutes. Malanga would then pull double frames from reels of film, arranging them in a series of stills later collected in
Screen Tests: A Diary. His career in photography did not formally begin until 1969, when George Plimpton asked him to photograph the poet Charles Olson for an interview in The Paris Review. Shortly thereafter Malanga began carrying a lightweight Nikon camera everywhere he went, taking photographs of friends and literary acquaintances. In chronicling his impressive social circle during this period, Malanga amassed a stunning array of candid and formal portraits, many of which appear in the following pages. Looking through these photographs in his Brooklyn apartment, Malanga would stop every so often, lift a print off the coffee table and, after inspecting it more closely, would make a comment (which appear with the photographs on the following pages). "I always had the feeling," he said, "even when 1 started, that my photography was meant to be archival in nature.
      "Sort of like wine, I guess," he laughed, "they get better
with age."
                —R.N. and T.M.


ROBERT LOWELL (1970) I studied with Lowell in the summer of 1962 and read with him and Frank O'Hara at Wagner College. I took this in London after we'd gone to lunch at a fish restaurant. It was one of those really damp days, bone-chilling. I could see that he was feeling cold. He didn't even have a hat. I figured I better make this quick and painless. I was lucky to get it. Not everybody has a good shot of Cal.


JAMES JONES (1970) This happened completely by chance. Outside the Café de Flore in Paris, We were having espresso and he was going off somewhere. It's one of my earliest pictures. A few years after I took this picture I ran into James out in the Hamptons. He gave me his Swiss Army knife as kind of a memento to the occasion of having taken this picture. Unfortunately, a couple years later it was stolen when my apartment on Fourteenth Street was burglarized.


JOHN ASHBERY (1971) John used to refer to this as his butch photograph. Now when I look at it, it looks a little gay to me. But I guess he saw himself in a very masculine light. This was on Eighth Street, right near the Eighth Street Bookshop. I photographed him again in 1975 in Chelsea. He took me into the grounds of the Episcopal seminary. It was beautiful. Like walking into Harvard Yard. The vines and the ivy, the red brick. This has always been my signature shot of John.


TED BERRIGAN, AND T.B. WITH JOHN ASHBERY (1971) There's a bit of innocence involved here, and enthusiasm—shared enthusiasm. A kind of camaraderie. I seemed to recall that the Gem Spa entered into Ted's poetry in some way, so this was a natural location to choose for Ted. We went all over the city that day. Up near the St. Regis Hotel we ran into John Ashbery on the street. I got this great shot of Ted goofing off on John. You see part of John's face being blocked out and this big mischievous grin on Ted's face. Those are moments that you just can't orchestrate. It was a funny afternoon.



JIM CARROLL (1971) Here is Jim visiting me at my apartment one afternoon. This was up the street from the Whitney Museum. 1 used my balcony to take pictures. I've got a photograph of Sam Shepard on the same balcony. People would drop by to see me at all hours. I didn't really go out too much around this time because I was poor as a church mouse; so people came to see me. A couple years later I gave Jim his first major book review for Living at the Movies in Poetry magazine.


WILLIAM BURROUGHS & CHRISTOPHER ISHERWOOD (1976) This was taken in The Bunker. We were about to go out for dinner. They hammed it up. And Bill is smiling too. You don't often get a smiling Bill. He was great to photograph. I always thought L'Uomo Vogue should've put him on the cover. He was the perfect model, very accommodating.


GREGORY CORSO (1974) This was in the Chelsea Hotel. Gregory was very difficult to photograph, constantly berating. I sensed whenever I was around him that he was competing with me, especially since we both came from the streets. Now looking at it, it takes on a different context. This smirk on his face. He probably wouldn't have given that smirk to somebody else, but he's giving it to me.


ROBERT BLY (1976) I never got a good shot of Bly. He was incredibly difficult to work with. Bly came to New York for this performance at St. Mark's Poetry Project. It was really exciting to photograph him. It was good, he was energetic and he had these different masks that he wore, that he would change for different poems. He kept me on my roes.



ROBERT LOWELL & ALLEN GINSBERG (1977) This was taken at a reading Allen had arranged at St. Mark's Church. I believe that Cal was actually married there years before. Earlier that evening I was invited to Allen's apartment in the East Village, where Cal was staying. Allen always liked to show off, so he was playing this harmonium. I could see Cal was being very patient, sitting there listening.


LAWRENCE FERUNGHETTl & ALLEN GINSBERG (1976) This was taken at Allen's apartment during one of Ferlinghetti's visits to New York. Allen had broken his leg when he slipped on the ice at his farm in Cherry Valley, New York. He had to crawl from where he fell out in the yard to the house. He's supported by a crutch here, but you can't really see it. He never walked the same after that.


TERRY SOUTHERN (1974) This is a one-off on a roll I shot in Larry Rivers's Studio in Southampton during Thanksgiving weekend of 1974. The painting is from a series of Japanese erotica that Larry was working on and would later be shown at the Marlborough Gallery. Larry was a very close friend. We used to go pick up his girlfriend Diane at high school everyday at three in Larry's Cadillac convertible. Those were wild times.


PETER MATTHIESSEN (1980) This is in front of one of the bas reliefs at the entrance to The Museum of Natural History. He didn't understand why I wanted to photograph him in front of this background. I didn't want to typecast him or anything, but it relates. Settings and backgrounds have always been an important part of my portrait photography. It seems to make sense here. It's a beautiful background.


ANDREW WYLIE (1971) This is truly archival in a sense. You see how the mythology is built up. The before and after. This is the before. This is his taxi cab. Andrew had been driving it for a year, maybe a little less. He just needed something to do, 1 guess to make money. This is shortly after he graduated from Harvard. He wanted to be a poet.


TOM CLARK (1972) This was taken in Bolinas. Tom had married this pretty girl. Angelica, and a couple years before, back in New York, their wedding rings were stolen from their apartment. My mother had given me two wedding rings when she thought I was going co get married to this Italian fashion model. I gave them to Tom to replace his. Here, four years later, he's wearing the ring.


GEORGE PLIMPTON (1974) I took this after taking a shot of George swiveling off his spiral staircase. I was waiting for him to come down—I had the whole shot composed—and finally he came sweeping down. It was great. This was taken afterwards—we were talking and every so often I'd click off a shot. I like the way he's got the cat on bis back and completely relaxed. George in touch with nature.


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