Window to the world of Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick

PUBLISHED: 15:37 14 January 2014 | UPDATED: 15:37 14 January 2014

Edie Sedgwick and Gerard Malanga on the set of Vinyl at the Factory, East Forty-seventh Street, New York City, early April 1965

Edie Sedgwick and Gerard Malanga on the set of Vinyl at the Factory, East Forty-seventh Street, New York City, early April 1965

Archant

Fifty years ago, David McCabe won the golden ticket. A young British photographer, barely finished as a student, he was invited by one of America's most mysterious icons to enter his factory.

There he found a world of strange, alluring substances and charming, exotic characters; though none were as charismatic as the host himself.

What persuaded Andy Warhol to trust McCabe as his personal photographer? According to the now 74-year-old, it was simply down to a chance combination of time, place and style. The year was 1964, the town was Manhattan and having moved from Leicester to New York at the turn of the decade, McCabe had slowly developed a magazine presence that caught the eye of an artist on the verge of superstardom.

“I had no real idea who Andy was,” McCabe admits. “It was 1964 and he was just starting out really. He took a look at my photos and said that he wanted someone to document his life.

“We got along personally. So, for about a year, the phone would ring in the middle of the afternoon and it’d be someone from the Factory. I’d be told that Andy’s going to meet Salvador Dali, so come with him. I was 24 years old and going to the hottest parties in New York. It was wild.”

Mick Jagger

In just one year, McCabe found himself mingling with Mick Jagger and Judy Garland, taking snaps as Warhol played Monopoly with Robert Rauschenberg. Of all the famous and beautiful figures he captured, though, it is his pictures of Warhol and a fresh-faced heiress from Santa Barbara that are now being celebrated in an exhibition at Camden’s Proud Gallery.

“Edie was a very charming, very well bred, but very damaged person. She didn’t have the happiest of childhoods and I encountered this quite a bit in the 60s, where I’d be photographing young girls becoming very famous because of their beauty. You take a 14 or 15-year-old girl and stick her in Manhattan, where suddenly she’s surrounded by cameras, substances and people looking to take advantage. It’s seductive.”

The relationship between Warhol and Edie Sedgwick has gone down as one of the most fascinating and destructive in the 20th century’s art world. It was, as most believe, largely platonic and certainly symbiotic. Warhol had found his muse, a model he could shape in the Hollywood image of Marilyn Monroe, while Sedgwick had found her doorman to a world of glamour, fame and opportunity.

As the pair were thrust before McCabe’s lens into public consciousness, their star shone bright as Segwick starred in some of Warhol’s most famous films. Sadly, it burnt out far too soon.

“What’s unfortunate is that now with celebrities, you’ll see almost conscious efforts by many to become a crazy bad girl to get more attention and publicity. Unfortunately, Edie was sold into that. I don’t think she took advantage of the attention in the same way that people who are more media savvy have done since. She wasn’t a Madonna and the intensity overwhelmed her.”

Creating persona

Sedgwick grew distant from her artistic mentor, struggling with drugs and a serious of damaging relationships before a sad and early death at the age of 28. Warhol, meanwhile, continued to rise and become the face of Pop art. As McCabe notes, however, this came at the expense of his public image, as the ‘normal, smiling guy’ in his earlier photos was slowly re-imagined by Warhol as the po-faced, sunglass-wearing mystery man he wanted the world to see.

Having forgotten about the photographs for years, McCabe now sees them as a chance to look back at his time at the factory with fond memories; amplified by his belief that such a hive couldn’t exist anymore.

“After Andy was shot, security took over. Back then, you could go up to the door, as long as you knew where it was, and someone would answer. Some of the time that would be Andy. That freedom of movement and expression was what made 1960s Manhattan so incredible. People would be having sex in phonebooths and having LSD for breakfast. It was crazy.”

n Warhol’s Muse by David McCabe is at Camden’s Proud Gallery until February 2. For more information, visit www.proud.co.uk.

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