Art & Photography / AnOther List

Andy Warhol’s Polaroids of Pop Culture Icons

As Taschen re-launches a book of the pop artist's photographs, we examine his relationship with five individuals immortalised on Polaroid film

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Dolly Parton, 1985© The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.

Andy Warhol was rarely seen without his trusted SX-70 Polaroid camera. As art and photography critic Richard B. Woodward writes in the introduction to Andy Warhol: Polaroids 1958-1987, a beautifully comprehensive photo-book re-editioned by Taschen this month, “he was likely the first artist in history who took photographs and was photographed equally in massive numbers”. The pop artist’s penchant for instant image-making in the mid-20th century might have paved the way for the exercise in self-branding prevalent on today’s social media platforms; the #selfie, one could deduce, wouldn’t exist as it does without Warhol. Here, we explore Warhol’s relationship with five individuals he photographed, immortalising each on Polaroid film and cementing their status as pop culture icons. 

1. Dolly Parton, 1985

Warhol spoke with Dolly Parton in Interview Magazine in 1984, a year before this image, depicting the country singer in all her platinum-haired glory, was taken. Excerpts from their conversation include the artist quizzing Parton on whether there was anything she regretted not doing in her life, to which he received a typically witty retort: “Yes! His name is Jimmy.” 

2. Yves Saint Laurent, 1972

Yves Saint Laurent was a firm friend of Warhol, and as such he photographed him often. During the 1970s, rumours emerged that the couturier wasn’t keen on the way he was being represented by the artist – but Saint Laurent quickly quelled the rumours with a personal letter, stating: “I love them; I admire you; I am your friend.” Posted from Paris on July 31, 1974, this letter is currently included in a travelling exhibition Letters to Andy Warhol, alongside penned notes from the likes of Mick Jagger and Truman Capote.

3. Candy Darling, 1969

Candy Darling was a transgender actress and one of Warhol’s superstars – a key member of The Factory during the 60s and 70s New York art scene. The pair met in 1967 at an underground burlesque show and soon afterwards became inseparable. Darling featured in two of Warhol’s films, Flesh (1968) and Women in Revolt (1971), yet Warhol soon grew tired of her, eventually freezing her out of his life and exclaiming that “chicks with dicks” were getting old. Darling tragically died of lymphoma a few years later, writing on her deathbed to Warhol and his cohorts: “Unfortunately before my death I had no desire left for life... I am just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death. Did you know I couldn’t last. I always knew it. I wish I could meet you all again.”

4. Jane Forth and Max Delys on the set of L’Amour, Paris, 1970

Forth began her career as a receptionist at Warhol’s factory at the age of 15, quickly going on to play roles in Women in Revolt alongside Candy Darling, Trash (1970) and L’Amour (1973), the above Polaroid documenting the actress on set with co-star Max Delys. Introduced to Warhol through her then boyfriend Jay Johnson – whose twin brother Jed was dating the pop art auteur – Forth has described her fondest memories of Andy being particularly intimate, telling of how he would phone her up in the middle of the night to see if she was watching the same classic movie as he was.

5. Jean-Michel Basquiat, 1983

They say never meet your idols, but when Jean-Michel Basquiat encountered Andy Warhol, the two formed such a close relationship that it was likened to that of a married couple. Prior to their meeting, Basquiat had glued a photo of Warhol above his bed in admiration, so their bond as friends and collaborators was particularly fateful. Working together between 1983 and 1985, Basquiat became so distraught after the death of Warhol in 1987 that he sank further into a deep depression, passing away himself just a year later, after overdosing on heroin.  

Andy Warhol: Polaroids 1958-1987 is out now, published by Taschen. 

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