Christopher Makos

Christopher Makos Self Portait

When it comes to the history of art, there’s a special place for the man who taught Andy Warhol how to take a photograph. Christo- pher Makos, Warhol’s longtime confidant and collaborator, also studied under the legendary Man Ray—and as such has key in- sight into the word of modern photography and its artistic impact. Born in Lowell, Massachusetts, Makos was transplanted around the U.S. (in addition to studying architecture in Paris) before settling into his beloved West Village apartment in New York City, where he’s remained for over 40 years. Icons like Keith Haring, Cindy Sherman, Roy Lichtenstein, Calvin Klein, Tennessee Wil- liams and innumerable others have trekked up the six flights of stairs that lead to his doorstep, behind which lie walls full of jaw- dropping imagery. Makos was kind enough to let SOMA inquire about the history behind this incredible artist and his work.

Tell us about the old days. What was it like for you when you first started your career, and who were the key figures who helped shape your professional path?
Well, I really don’t refer to the “old days.” I would say I had an education period in my life, and that period was what I would call the Golden Age of New York (during the 70s-80s). It was a time when the arts flourished because New York City was an affordable, experimental lab for the arts. You could come here, be from anywhere, and discover yourself, and during that self-discovery learn about others and experiment with whatever your craft was. A writer, a painter, a poet, a singer, a photographer—we all could grow here. Some of the key figures in my career would be Man Ray, Warhol, Tennessee Willams, my mother and my father. Man Ray made me understand about how to be intuitive with my work, and Andy taught me about the art of business, and the business of art.

There must be a wealth of intriguing stories behind your substantial work—what would you say was the craziest moment you’ve had while photographing?
I would say one of the most interesting photo shoots would have to be photographing Elizabeth Taylor. She was notoriously late, and I was a bit annoyed by that, but when I realized that one had to be the director, the boss, she stepped right in line, and was such a great subject. Malcolm Forbes and Elizabeth were great friends, and Malcolm commissioned me to do a portrait for her. She wore a Zandra Rhodes dress and looked beautiful.

Is there anyone you haven’t worked with who you would consider a dream collaboration?
I think it would be great to photograph Jennifer Lawrence. She is one of those exceptional actresses who is not only stun- ning, but still seems to possess a wonder about her craft. Artists like her are great to collaborate with.

What are you gearing up for in 2015? What are you most excited for?
I have just published my black-and-white monograph, EVERY- THING, and am finishing up a world tour with the fashion house Ports 1961, and after designing the 50th anniversary label for Kiehl’s facial astrigent, will be doing portraits for Kiehl’s Earth Day event. I will also start work on my next book of black-and- white polaroids. I just recently discovered by chance my Makos poloroid book done in 2009 is selling on Amazon for $11,000.

Christopher Makos hands

Text By Kate ZaliznocK
Photography By Christopher Makos