Andy Warhol's infamous Factory through the eyes of a teenage photographer

Updated 11th November 2016
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Andy Warhol's infamous Factory through the eyes of a teenage photographer
Written by By Stephen Shore
American photographer Stephen Shore was only 17 when he was invited to Andy Warhol's Factory to take a few pictures. He ended up staying for two years. This is an abridged excerpt from "Factory: Andy Warhol" (Phaidon), his new book about the experience.
Andy would work all the time. There'd be some people helping him, like Gerard Malanga, who would be actively involved in silk-screening whatever the project was. There'd be other people who would just come and hang out.
I remember being very impressed, or unfavorably impressed, with some of these people who'd sit on a chair or couch, sit there for hours, doing nothing, waiting for the evening when we went to parties. I'd be taking pictures.
But the people just hanging out would bother Andy. Every now and then, there would be a sign by the elevator, so when you entered you would see it, "If you have no business to conduct here, please don't come." Andy would never enforce it.
My guess is that it helped him in his work to have people around, to have these other activities around him. I think he kept people involved by asking, "What do you think of this? Oh, I don't know what color to use. What color should I use?" Just something to keep the swirl of activity around him.

The private side of Andy Warhol

I was the only person of the people who were hanging out with him, or one of the few, who lived uptown. Often we would wind up, say, in Chinatown at 2 a.m. and share a cab home. We'd have conversations. He was very open and unaffected.
He would say things he wouldn't have said in a more public situation. One time Andy asked me if I had seen some film on "The Late, Late Show" the previous night. (I forget the film, but Priscilla Lane was in it. A 1930s tearjerker.) And, in fact, I had.
Andy wanted to know what the ending was, because he said he started crying and fell asleep. Then he said, "And the television was off in the morning, so I guess my mother must have come in and turned it off."
I remember, at the time, finding it stunning and poignant that he's Andy Warhol, who's just come from some all-night party or several of them, and has turned on the television and cried himself to sleep to a Priscilla Lane film, and his mother had come in and turned it off.

An unexpected education

I'd been doing photography for a long time by that point, but I had always done it in an untutored way. For reasons of my youth, and reasons of the lack of intensity of critical discourse around photography at that time, I think I was still very naive.
I saw Andy making aesthetic decisions; it wasn't anything he ever said to me. I saw these decisions happening over and over again. It awakened my sense of aesthetic thought. It had to do more with the framework that the work was seen in.
Like the nature of serial imagery, which his work deals with, obviously. I began to think about it and was involved, to some extent, in a little way. More in sequence than seriality.
I think I learned by observing -- not observing him in order to learn, just by being exposed to the decisions and the actions he was making. More basic was simply a transition to thinking aesthetically.
By the end of my stay at the Factory, I found that just my contact with, and observation of, Andy led me to think differently about my function as an artist. I became more aware of what I was doing.