BOOK REVIEW

Andy Warhol's Polaroids captured the famous and shameless - and now they get the Taschen treatment

For almost 30 years Warhol used instant cameras to chronicle his daily life. The results - many never seen before - have been collected into a fine-art doorstopper

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 September, 2015, 6:11pm
UPDATED : Friday, 18 September, 2015, 8:22pm

Pop artist Andy Warhol was a ubiquitous presence on the social scenes of North America and Europe from the 1960s until his death in 1987, and his trusty Polaroid camera was as much an accessory on these occasions as his iconic hairstyle.

As well as documenting the cult of celebrity in his artwork, Warhol relentlessly documented the celebrities surrounding him in photography, both with point-and-shoot cameras made by Minox and Olympus and, most famously, the Polaroid.

Photography was vital to Warhol's best-known works from the early 1960s onwards, with photographs taken by others providing the source material for his renowned early silk screen images of stars such as Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.

But while out on the town, the Polaroid camera - whose uniform prints must have appealed to the artist - allowed the unstoppable socialite to instantly capture the colourful crowd of artists, actors, singers, writers, friends, cross-dressers and wannabes surrounding him. Many of these Polaroids - first taken with the bulky Big Shot and then the sleeker SX-70 - later formed the basis of screenprints of stars such as Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli and Muhammad Ali.

A selection of these Polaroid shots - 700 in total, many never seen before - have now been collected in the new book, Andy Warhol: Polaroids 1958-1987, edited by Reuel Golden. Flicking through, you'll be confronted with a cast of characters you'll recognise both from Warhol's days in his famed Factory studio, as well as the faces seen staring blankly from his best-known canvases.

You'll find famous faces from the worlds of music (such as Debbie Harry, John Lennon, David Bowie and Patti Smith), art (Jean-Michel Basquiat, David Bailey, Jasper Johns, David Hockney and Man Ray), literature (William Burroughs and Truman Capote), film (Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Warren Beatty and Elizabeth Taylor) and fashion (Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and Diane von Furstenberg).

If the sequence of images reminds you of a celebrity's social media feed, you're not alone. In the book's introduction, The New York Times art critic Richard B. Woodward writes: "It's tempting to guess that Warhol would have embraced Instagram and the selfie because his serial portraiture with the Polaroid anticipates so many uses and satisfactions available with digital technology."

By taking photos constantly, it seems Warhol was ahead of his time - and this enabled him to leave behind a unique record of his era.

"A picture means I know where I was every minute. That's why I take pictures. It's a visual diary," he once said.