REVIEW: Factory Andy Warhol by Stephen Shore
By Erica McGrath
“This book is possible not because the people are interesting, but because the photographs are”- Sterling Morrison
There is no need for a proper introduction to both legendary artists Stephen Shore and Andy Warhol. However it may not be as well known how closely linked these two enigmatic artists were starting back in the mid 1960’s. At the age of 14 Shore had sold 3 of his own photographs to Edward Steichen at the Museum of Modern Art, and by the age of 17 he had dropped out of high school and became a regular photographing at Warhol’s infamous New York City studio, The Factory. The influential 60’s studio housed a uniquely diverse set of artists, musicians, writers, actors, and actresses all brought together by Warhol and documented by Shore. In Factory: Andy Warhol, published by Phaidon, Shore expands on his first book about The Factory, The Velvet Years: Warhol’s Factory 1965–67, releasing dozens of never before seen intimate photographs and- for the first time published- contact sheets of his time spent at The Factory. The photographs are juxtaposed with first hand accounts from Factory members recounting their unique and ostentatious experiences of their time with Warhol and The Factory culture.
In 1971 Stephen Shore became one of the first living photographers to have a solo show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Shore is most well known for his revolutionizing use of color photography, he left his black and white work with The Factory, and thus his black and white photography is often regrettably overlooked. Lynne Tillman writes in the forward for Factory: Andy Warhol, that next to no one pays any attention to the influence that Andy Warhol had on Shore as a photographer, but Shore himself attributes much of his success as an artist to Warhol, “It had an incredible effect on me…I came to Warhol, every day I watched an artist working…I started to become aware of decision-making. That’s the most important thing. The second was, Warhol worked in a serial vein, and I began to think about images, about serial projects”.
The images in Factory: Andy Warhol have me lusting to be part of a history I can never be. They are heavily nostalgic of that 60’s culture Shore was apart of; Sterling Morrison of The Velvet Underground, the band founded by Warhol, states in Factory: Andy Warhol that Shore’s images capture, “The moments of frenzied activity mixed with pensive calm, I like that. It was not a riotous, noisy place. It was usually pretty quiet. The noise happened later”. Shore was accepted and fit in comfortably with the cast of characters that circled in and out The Factory. The people who surrounded him on a daily basis included Edie Sedgwick, Lou Reed, John Cale, Nico, Yoko Ono, and of course Warhol himself. Edmund Hennessy, a regular Factory affiliate, affirms the mutual feelings shared by everyone about Shore documenting The Factory, “We were never nervous around Stephen, nor were we bothered by his camera…his photographs perfectly capture the galvanic life at the Factory; they are intensely evocative…in one of the pictures I have a radiant grin on my face. I look at it once in a while and wonder if I will ever be that happy again”. Shore’s images feel intimate whether they appear to be posed or candid shots; these are photographs of people who expected to be photographed. Shore’s photographs focus on both individual portraits and group interactions in The Factory. And surely these photographs demonstrate Shore’s dexterity and ingenuity as a photographer, Tillman writes, “What a frame does is urgent in Shore’s work; what a decision is. Indeed, if Shore had waited another moment in many of the pictures he shot of Edie Sedgwick, she might have dropped her smile. If he ‘[moved] back a foot’, the picture would have changed…”
Only Andy Warhol himself could have made The Factory culture possible. It is a non-replicable place, stage, studio, and culture; not since the end of The Factory has there been an equally iconic art scene. In Factory: Andy Warhol Tillman notes that, “Andy Warhol was a defiant, uncomfortable public presence. His art discomforted from early in its initial phases-defamiliarizing and reframing cultural objects and social facts…” Warhol surrounded himself with people he felt were substantial and interesting to the art scene; Gerard Malanga, who worked closely with Warhol on many films and projects was keen to Warhol’s interest of other people, “Andy liked to be around people. He was a people person. A people collector. His being quiet added to it…Andy was the eye of the storm; that’s where the calm was”. Warhol’s “collection” of people is what propelled The Factory into its notoriety and successes as an iconic place surely never to be forgotten in art history and American culture. Warhol’s influence on art and culture is unmatched, and for Shore he was directly affected by it, “By the end of my stay at the Factory, I found that just my contact with, and observation of, Andy led me to think differently about my function as an artist. I became more aware of what I was doing”.
As striking and iconic as Stephen Shore’s photographs are in Factory: Andy Warhol a curious statement seems to arise in many of The Factory member’s personal recounts. Shore’s photographs represent an iconic moment in art history, and yet many of the people featured in the photographs seem to have little to no memory of the specific times represented. Billy Name for instance states, “A lot of my memories are gone…I was in a whole reel. I don’t even remember being at the place where it was shot. I don’t recognize it. But there I am in the film, a reel of color film”. The Factory and Warhol were an enigma to the public, to the people on the outside, those who craved to know more about Warhol and desired to be included in his collection of people. Paul Morrissey knew this as he stated, “This is not the whole story; the whole story is more complicated than that. My experience has been that nobody had the vaguest idea of what was going on back then. Nobody was around who wrote about these things, so journalists like to imagine ‘what it must have been like’”. Stephen Shore’s intimate photographs unquestionably help us imagine “what is must have been like” more deeply than speculation from journalists who weren’t there, but the ambiguity, and not knowing the full story, of The Factory will always be why it stands to be iconic and non-replicable.
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