Issue 167, Fall 2003
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 I 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.