Andy Modelling Portfolio Makos: Christopher Makos’ Latest Book Documents Never-before-seen Images of Andy Warhol
April 13, 2022
By Molly Maltman
Andy Warhol is undoubtedly one of the most influential artists of our time. A Painter, Photographer, Filmmaker and prolific Publisher, Andy Warhol is an artist whose legacy continues to live on throughout generations. Despite his everlasting influence on art, popular culture and beyond, many are unaware of the true depth to Warhol’s character. Renowned photographer, and one of Warhol’s closest friends, Christopher Makos has gifted us with a very special book that presents the never-before-seen portraits of the pop artist which were taken to build his modelling portfolio. Yes, Andy Warhol was a model too.
Titled Andy Modelling Portfolio Makos, Makos offers readers a look into the fascinating formative years of Warhol’s career. Featured in Ryan Murphy’s newly released Netflix documentary The Andy Warhol Diaries, this photographic archive was shot over a 10 year period during Warhol’s cultural peak and is filled with depth and authenticity, capturing not only Warhol’s physical portrait but the intricacies of his character, encouraging readers to engage deeper with Warhol as a person, rather than his widely known popular culture “character.”
We had the opportunity to speak with Christopher Makos about the release of his new book, Andy Warhol as a model, being in the moment and of course, love.
SLEEK: A huge congratulations on your book Andy Modelling Portfolio Makos. The book sees a number of incredibly fascinating images of Warhol, who was widely known to play into a character. Was Andy modelling as himself or a character of a ‘model’? How was that dynamic between performance and the natural state balanced?
Christopher Makos: The book is broken up into six different chapters, which are really six different shoots and therefore, six different looks. There’s a chapter called ‘The Halston,’ another called ‘The Sprouse Look’ – which refers to Stephen Sprouse – one called ‘The Portrait’ and another called ‘The Poser.’ And so, in these separate chapters, they are different…I don’t want to say “characters,” but in a way I guess they are characters. You know, different shoots, different moods, different styles. The atmosphere completely changed with each shoot. When I’m doing portraits of people, I want them to emerge themselves. I don’t try to change them or remake them or redo them. I want them to be who they are and show themselves to me. What I remind people to do when they’re looking at the pictures in the book is to look at Andy’s hands because he was quite awkward; he was an artist and he used his hands alot and they were really beautiful, very well taken care of. And so, naturally, so much of his expression came through his hands and his body language. As a photographer/director, it’s about getting that person in the right spot and letting them emerge. In this case, it was about how myself and Warhol could get to that spot where we could achieve what we wanted, which was Andy as a model. Hopefully that’s what unfolds across the different chapters that you see.
S: Completely. It’s really interesting to see Warhol’s progression, both in terms of confidence and style, throughout the book. Is there a particular image in the book that captures Andy’s spirit best, or do you think they all collectively illustrate this?
CM: Well, the thing is, Warhol was so many different things. He was a filmmaker, he was a painter, he was an author, he was a portrait artist, a magazine publisher and, in this case, he was a model. So, like all of us, he had many different traits. Andy’s place was called ‘The Factory,’ and in ‘The Factory’ lots of different things happened. I think all the different characters that he presented during these photo shoots are these different people that emerged. In Netflix’s The Andy Warhol Diaries, they explored a certain side to Andy and each of the people interviewed in the series will have 10 different stories or versions of who Andy was to them. And so, in my case, these were my different versions of Andy. Of course, we were quite good friends but in this book is not our friendship but rather us working together to create a modelling portfolio for Andy Warhol.
S: I really like what you said about everyone having 10 different stories of the same person. It’s incredible how truly multifaceted Warhol was. Had you always planned to publish these images?
CM: I had never planned to do this. As you know, I’ve done a few Warhol books and I thought I just can’t really do anymore. But then when I was working with Ryan Murphy, Andrew Rossi and Stacy Reese on the Netflix documentary, I just thought that this would be a perfect time to bring this book out because, like the diaries, it touched on something that nobody’s ever seen or heard or read about. Very few people had heard or knew that Andy was a professional model signed with the professional agency, the Ford Modelling Agency. And so that’s how that came about. Of course, for me, it was a great moment of discovery.
S: As someone who really believes in being in the present, and not dwelling too much on the past, how did it feel for you to revisit this incredible archive of imagery?
CM: Looking at them in the present, somehow they become alive again, especially some of the ones that I hadn’t really paid attention to at the time. Last night at The Strand Bookstore, I was talking about that. What happens is, like a lot of artists and photographers, I never throw anything away, I save everything. So consequently, something that I might’ve done years and years ago that I had dismissed at the time, I can re-look at it after 30 years and see something completely brand new in it. And so when I see that brand new thing, it becomes of the moment, it becomes fresh and new. So, I’m not really reliving the past. I’m sort of time travelling into a moment and bringing it into the present.
S: In the doc, AI Andy Warhol reads from the diary “You can only live in one place at a time, and your own life, while it’s happening to you, never has any atmosphere until it’s a memory.” The idea of “the moment” and being present is something very important to you and the way you work. But, I think a lot of people really struggle to stay in the moment, until it’s a memory – like Andy describes. How would you advise people to stay in the present and enjoy the moment?
CM: I would try to tell people to look at what they can gain by being in the moment. When you’re in the moment, all kinds of exciting things can happen. It’s that unexpected thing that happens sometimes when you’re open to your surroundings. It’s such a gift to understand the moment. And although the past is to be respected and revered, to live there can be quite dangerous. Of course, as people we grow, we change and we develop and the past influences that. But those people that hold on to the past too tightly have the possibility of never being able to experience something new or falling in love or just the joy of the unexpected.
S: That was really beautiful, thank you. After working so closely with your camera, for over three decades, how would you describe your relationship with it?
CM: Well, my camera is really a vehicle for my memories. Any device that captures images really. If you take pictures in any way, it’s a kind of proof that you have lived a life. And in my case, my life has been quite extraordinary. I have been so lucky and privileged to have this life; growing up in Massachusetts and then moving to Los Angeles and then to New York City. I’ve met so many people, from Tennessee Williams to Dotson Rader, to Elizabeth Taylor to collaborating with Calvin Klein – who’s now a really good friend. And of course, Andy Warhol, who was a great friend and collaborator. My big joy in life is collaboration, it helps you to grow. If I had just relegated those stories to a memory, they might not have seemed as real as having them actually to look at, to go into my archives. The Andy Warhol Diaries documentary is a reminder that we are all numbers in the game of life.. And then at a certain point, the numbers start running out. So for me, a camera is a sort of time machine, a magic box that holds my memories in a safe place.
S: Allowing the subject to express themselves freely is a very important part of your process when it comes to a portrait. And for you, another important element is the subject’s spirit and soul. Who, apart from Andy of course, has been one of your favourite auras to capture?
CM: Whenever I’m doing portraits of people, even when they’re paying lots of money for portraits, I want to have an interview with them. Beauty is only skin deep, it really is and it’s about finding the beauty deep inside. When I’m lucky enough to find it, and I usually do find it, that’s when I get that picture. It was really fun to photograph Elizabeth Taylor because she was such a big star. But I also love to photograph my friends and close associates; people that I love and care about. There’s a great sense of trust between each other. Having known that feeling of trust for so long, I am able to bring it to the famous people when I’m photographing them, to sort of fast-forward to that trust and that friendship.
S: Definitely, trust plays a huge role when it comes to a portrait and the element of trust between you and Andy is evident throughout Andy Modelling Portfolio Makos. So, you have a lot of exciting things coming up over the next few months, with exhibitions and lots of book signings. You have an exhibition opening next month on May 5th at the Daniel Cooney Gallery in New York called MONEY. Can you tell us a little bit more about this exhibition?
CM: I called the exhibition ‘MONEY’ because that word is every word. I mean, everybody says, how much money am I going to make? Or how much money does that cost to me? The word ‘money’ is in the lexicon, whatever language you’re speaking. Everybody uses that word. So I always give my exhibitions a title that starts a conversation, that may not be exactly about the photos that I’m showing.
Daniel Cooney is one of those art dealers that is so traditional. This is actually my second show at his gallery now. He came to the studio maybe four or five times and he handpicked the photos for the exhibition. He went through boxes and boxes, he looked at stuff in the traditional way that the dealers used to do it. Sure, he wants to make money selling my photos, but for him, it’s the joy of discovering photography, of looking at my pictures, seeing what I have. It’s the same with David and Nicholas Fahey, who are out in Los Angeles. My exhibition with them, connected to this book, opens on 29 September at the Fahey Klein Gallery. They have so much love for the work and the people that they work with. It’s such a joy as an artist to work with them.
I also have a book talk over at the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh on May 6th.
S: Finally, at SLEEK we have been exploring the complexities and the intricacies of love, which is our first theme of the year. So, of course, I have to ask, what does love mean to you?
CM: Wow. What a wonderful way to end. Love really means inclusiveness. It means opening up oneself to all the possibilities that are out there. I often talk about young artists and young people, and I say that very early on in life, you have to learn to love yourself. In other words, learn to know who you are, learn to appreciate exactly who you are in a world that is so convoluted about identity and who we might be, find out who that person is. And then once you find that person out, you are so free to love others. Until that moment comes, you know, there’s so much confusion in one’s life. In other words, nobody can complete you except yourself. Love is such a powerful endorphin and I really hope everybody gets to experience it several times in their life. I’ve been lucky enough to have experienced it several times in my life and continue to experience it. It’s one of those unbelievable feelings that is just so special.