BILLY NAME, THE PHOTOGRAPHER RESPONSIBLE FOR SILVERIZING ANDY WARHOL'S INFAMOUS STUDIO, IS SHOWCASING NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN IMAGES AT MILK STUDIOS' MILK GALLERY AND IN THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE MONOGRAPH OF THE FACTORY TO DATE
Born William Linich in Poughkeepsie, New York, Billy Name conquered the cultural epicentre of the world first in theatrical lighting design before meeting Andy Warhol in the late 1950s. Soon after, Warhol gave Name a Pentax Honeywell 35mm camera. This would go on to document life at The Factory from 1964 until 1970. Name was the unofficial archivist of the space for nearly a decade, literally living in a closet throughout.
Capturing the constantly frenzied coterie of artists and it-people, Name excelled in candidly photographing subjects in their natural habitat. With an entourage of painfully skilled and beautiful personalities in the likes of Viva, Susan Bottomly and The Velvet Underground, Name was on a quest to immortalize the new era of interdisciplined arts and its instigators.
In a new exhibition titled “Billy Name: The Silver Age,” opening at Milk Studios tomorrow, a selection of photographic prints will show a side of the Factory even the most investigative of Warhol fans have never seen. The curators of the exhibition and the book’s authors, Dagon James and Anastasia Rygle made sure to manifest the broad range of Name's artistry: "We both agree that it is the unique combination of Billy's particular approach towards photography in terms of lighting and composition with his insider status, and therefore privileged position from which to photograph, that sets his photographs apart from others taken at the time. He managed to capture in his photographs the essence of what the Silver Factory felt like: the nuances, the mundane moments, the film shoots, friends lounging on the couch, actors and artists goofing around."
The comprehensive exhibit also includes borrowed films from the Andy Warhol Museum in which Billy appears: Haircut #1 and two Screen Tests and archival material such as vintage monographs and original silver gelatin “Factory Fotos.” Song Chong, director of Milk Gallery, who was approached about a year ago by publisher Tony Nourmand to set up an exhibit, attests that Name was an artist ahead of his time: "Billy didn't have an agenda when making these photographs, and I think that is actually what is fantastic about the work. In many ways, black and white photography is the epistemology of documentary photography and Billy excelled in that domain." James and Rygle added that, "as his photographic style developed during the 1960s, we recognize that his pronounced preference for informal portraiture, coupled with extreme lighting producing overexposed images both echoed and provided reciprocal influence on the artwork and music being produced at the time. Since he was a permanent fixture in the space, seeing as how he was living there, no one took notice of him when he clicked the shutter, no one posed or attempted to present themselves as anything other than what they were."
Warhol himself declared in the 1980 memoir Popism: The Warhol Sixties, "the only things that ever came close to conveying the look and feel of The Factory then, aside from the movies we shot here, were the still photographs Billy took." In an exclusive interview for VMagazine.com, Billy Name tells us why his good friend Andy and their pop posse will always remain an endless source of influence.
What brought you to New York City?
BILLY NAME: It was the lure of freedom. That's what brought anyone there, because there were no real rules. In New York, you can just be who you are and the city will embrace you.
What was your first encounter with Andy Warhol like?
BN: It was very dry. I was working as a waiter at Serendipity 3 in the late 1950s when I first arrived in New York. Andy would come in some days late in the afternoon and one of the owners, Steven Bruce, explained to me who he was and introduced us. At first, Andy seemed like a regular guy but he turned out to be very irregular.
What was your role at the factory? What was your relationship with Warhol like? Did he ask you advice for certain things?
BN: My role was Factory foreman. Andy and I had a special relationship. My lunar sign is in Leo and his sun sign was Leo so we related that way. That's how silver came about with me: the silver is the moon's quality, which was my main influence at the time. My relationship with Andy was quick but we were both intuitive with each other and didn't spend a lot time explaining things when we spoke. Andy never asked me for advice. He was always very clear with his intentions and knew what he wanted to do. He asked me to do to his space like what I had done to my apartment, where I had made everything silver. I had painted the walls, the bathtub, the refrigerator, everything, silver. Andy really liked that and the Factory was an extension of that idea.
How long have you thought about publishing these snapshots from the Factory era, and why now?
BN: I started working on this book with Lid magazine publisher Dagon James about five years ago, and it's out for the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Silver Factory.
Do you have any particular favorite subjects?
BN: Edie Sedgwick. She was so beautiful, animated and photogenic. She was also a good friend and comfortable with me taking photos of her. The Factory was an arena for people to come and perform their art. This is why Andy was so into making films of everyone who was around. They were brilliant, natural performers in their everyday lives.
What do you think it is about Warhol and the Factory that still fascinates to this day?
BN: It's because the scene was so free. It wasn't imposing. There weren't devices you had to adhere to. There were no preconceptions. You could be free in your output and there was no pretending or trying to be anything. The people you see in the photos really were authentic, just the way you would see them.
Is there anyone who you think is revolutionizing art the way Warhol did?
BN: I don't think so. Andy's influence was so powerful the way he made art can't be replicated.
Do you think the portrayals of Warhol in fictional media are true to form?
BN: To a degree, I think that his portrayal is less accurate in books than in films. In films, people are trying to show his idiosyncrasies and capture his essence. Every actor that's played Andy brings some part of who he was to life. In books, it seems that writers are trying to explain him and how he was, rather than really capture who he was.
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