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Gallery: David McCabe and the Early Years of Warhol's Factory | reviews, news & interviews

Gallery: David McCabe and the Early Years of Warhol's Factory

Gallery: David McCabe and the Early Years of Warhol's Factory

Extraordinary images that defined the Warhol persona

Andy and Edie Sedgwick share the spotlight with the Empire State Building

Who needs to hear or see anything more of the creepily manipulative world of Andy Warhol’s Factory? We’ve seen the films (well, bits of them); we bought the album (the one with the banana on the front); we’ve bought and dispensed with the images (in cheap repro form) several times over. We’ve seen those grainily evocative images of the Velvet Underground, Edie Sedgwick, Gerard Malanga and co looking glassily back at us so many times we almost feel we were there ourselves.

Yet David McCabe’s extraordinary images will give you another angle on that undeniably charismatic, epoch-defining world. They’re the work neither of a wide-eyed voyeur nor a bombed-out insider, but of a coolly appraising and always sharply focused eye that wandered into this extraordinary scene almost by accident. They give us the Factory before the Velvet Underground, before Warhol’s dark glasses became a fixture, when a visiting Mick Jagger looks like a callow ingénu – Warhol when his now-iconic image was still being defined. These photographs were part of that process. Here, exclusively to theartsdesk, their creator explains how it happened.

The Year Warhol Realised Who He Wanted To Be

"In 1964, Andy was looking for a photographer he felt comfortable with to record a year in his life. I was a 24-year-old former art student from Leicester who’d gone to America in the wake of The Beatles and The Stones. I didn’t even know who Andy Warhol was. But he’d seen some of my pictures in one of the Condé Naste magazines, and he asked me to come over to the Factory and bring my camera. At that time he had a certain notoriety in Manhattan, but he wasn’t famous in the way he would later become. All that changed in the year I spent photographing him. And he used my pictures to develop the persona he wanted to present to the world.

A lot of people destroyed themselves around him, but he had no hand in that

"Andy had been a commercial artist, and a lot of people still thought of him as the guy who did the window displays in Bergdorf Goodman. In order to establish himself as a serious artist, he had himself photographed with as many famous artists as possible. When he spent the weekend with the architect Philip Johnson, he asked me to turn up on the Sunday to take some pictures. If he was going to Rauschenberg’s place to play Monopoly, he’d ask me to come. When he went to meet Salvador Dalí at the St Regis Hotel, I was there. Andy was hugely impressed by Dalí. Dalí was wearing a black fright wig, and Andy, who was losing his hair, must have thought, if he can do it so can I. Shortly after that he started wearing wigs himself.

"The Factory was established as a place where celebrities would go when they were in New York: Nureyev, Judy Garland, Mick Jagger. It was a salon for people in the know. I’d ride up and down in the elevator, and photograph whoever was in there.

"Andy was a very mild-mannered, shy, sweet guy. A lot of people destroyed themselves around him, but he had no hand in that. I never saw him take drugs himself. He was too timid. I barely saw him drink. He was a workaholic. I’d arrive at the Factory and it would be mayhem: Stones music and Beatles music playing at full blast, people dancing, people making out on couches – and there was Andy in the middle of it all, on his hands and knees, churning out work. I think it gave him energy to have this chaos going on around him. The people who actually worked for him, Gerard Malanga and Chuck Wein, really did work hard producing his work, but there was another layer of people who just brought energy to the Factory: good-looking boys and girls, transvestites. These people were drawn to him like moths to a flame. Andy was non-judgmental. He didn’t care if you were out of your mind or what. People have said he took advantage of these people, but I don’t think he did. Someone like Edie Sedgwick was already pretty messed up before she arrived at the Factory. It had nothing to do with Andy.

"The fame thing happened very fast. The New York Post – which is a real rag – was filling its gossip columns with whatever he did. And he loved that. He used it to make himself as famous as possible. He was his own best creation, and my photographs were part of that. When he first saw them he found them perhaps too revealing. A friend of mine who worked for him said he would spend hours poring over the contact sheets with a magnifying glass – not to choose an image, but to study the way he was presenting himself to the world. At the beginning of the year he was very smiley and open, very normal. By the end, he had his sunglasses on – he’d adopted this mysterious, non-communicative persona. That was the year when the Warhol image was formed, when he realised who he wanted to be – my photographs were part of the process."

Click on the images to enlarge:


  1. Gerard Malanga, Sarah Dalton, Baby Jane Holzer and Andy Warhol
  2. At Philip Johnson’s Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut, winter 1964-65
  3. Baby Jane Holzer, Mick Jagger, the model Peggy Moffitt, and Andy at Holzer’s apartment, New York City, winter 1964-65
  4. Salvador Dalí and Andy at the St Regis Hotel, New York City, winter 1964-65
  5. At the Factory, New York City, March 1965. Andy at work on a large Flower painting
  6. With the background masked off with acetate, Andy spray-paints the flower image
  7. The four faces of Andy
  8. David McCabe snaps as Edie Sedgwick, Andy, Gerard Malanga and Chuck Wein strike a pose
  9. Andy, Chuck Wein, Gerard Malanga and Edie Sedgwick as a composite Pop creature at David McCabe’s studio, New York City, spring 1965
  10. Andy at a deli, New York City, spring 1965
  11. Edie Sedgwick was a waif, a superstar and a little lost girl who, in lulls, seemed to look into the future and see nothing there
  12. Andy poses in front of the silver walls of the Factory, New York City, 1965
I’d arrive at the Factory and it would be mayhem – and there was Andy in the middle of it all, on his hands and knees, churning out work

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