Andy Warhol (born August 6, 1928 in Pittsburgh, PA/US − died February 22, 1987 in Manhattan, New York City, US) was an American painter, graphic artist, filmmaker and photographer and one of the leading exponents of the visual art movement known as Pop Art.
Andy Warhol was born Andrew Warhola, the third son of a poor Slovak immigrant family. After an apprenticeship as a window dresser, he studied art history as well as pictorial design, sociology and psychology at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh from 1945 to 1949. He then moved to New York, where he called himself Andy Warhol and worked successfully as a freelance commercial artist for fashion magazines, illustrator and window dresser until 1960. In the early 1960s, Andy Warhol decided to become a freelance artist. He continued to focus on the world of consumerism and mass production. He collected motifs familiar to Americans from all kinds of media and familiarized himself with silkscreen printing, which he used to produce serial images of his motifs. Warhol had his first exhibition in 1962 with the controversial Campbell’s Soup Cans series, which attracted widespread attention and brought him instant fame.
In the same year, Warhol also founded his first “Factory” studio in a factory building, which soon became an artistic hotspot and the scene of extravagant parties. During his career, Andy Warhol created over 60 experimental films, founded the magazine “Interview” and was the music producer of the rock band Velvet Underground. He also worked with many other types of media.
Andy Warhol is considered a pioneer in the field of photography. He was one of the first photographers to experiment with the instant camera and use it as an artistic medium.
From the late 1960s until his death in 1987, Warhol almost always carried a Polaroid camera around with him, and he photographed obsessively. He produced a huge collection of instant pictures of friends, lovers, artists, celebrities, socialites, party acquaintances, landscapes, everyday objects, the fashionable and the bizarre, and above all of himself. Andy Warhol once compared his photographs to a “visual diary”: “A picture means I know where I was every minute.” Warhol would certainly have enjoyed Facebook or Instagram, and the range and speed of social media. In the pre-digital age, the Polaroid camera was the medium that provided quick, authentic, and immediate images.
Andy Warhol mainly used a Polaroid Big Shot for his photographs, a large, chunky contraption designed especially for portrait use. The camera had an optimal focal length set at one meter, but the photographer had to move back and forth in a kind of dance dubbed the “Big Shot Shuffle” until the subject was in focus.
Production of the camera was discontinued in 1973, but Warhol continued to repair his for many years. The Polaroid SX-70 camera also was one of his favorite models.
Warhol’s most famous works and icons of Pop Art were his portraits of famous personalities such as Elvis Presley (1964), Jackie Kennedy (1965) and Marilyn Monroe (1967), where he transferred Polaroid photos to silkscreens.
Andy Warhol. Polaroids 1958-1987
by Richard B. Woodward