I’m a huge fan of Andy Warhol, and am ready to defend him whenever someone blows him off because they think he’s over rated, or don’t understand what’s so great about reprinting a soup can, or Marilyn Monroe’s face a few times, and although I completely love these two works (probably his most famous) because of the simplicity of them in contrast the what they represent and the meanings behind them, which you can totally read into, my favourite of his works is the collection of Photo Booth prints – Ethel Scull 36 Times.
There’s recently been the revival of Photo Booth/Polaroid style photos, and that probably adds to the fascination with Andy Warhol – who of course also famously took Polaroids of himself, as well as friends like John Lennon. What I love the most about both these styles of print anyway is not only the aesthetics, but they seem to capture ‘life’ more than an iPhone (apologies for sounding ridiculously pretentious…) but generally when comparing a polaroid and a digital photo, you’re more likely to get something more realistic and candid from a polaroid.
This candid style of photo is kind of my favourite thing ever, and when you look at the reprints of Ethel Scull in that Photo Booth, you can totally see how she’s been captured living. For some of them she’s posing, but others the camera has flashed and she’s fixing her glasses, or Warhol has made her laugh, or tickled her, so you really get a sense of who she was and how she moved, and as I’ve said, lived.
The story behind the collection is that Scull’s husband wanted Andy Warhol to create a portrait of his wife, and Warhol agreed. He picked her up one day with a bag full of quarters, and took her to an arcade where they spent the whole day running from Photo Booth to Photo Booth, with Ethel jumping in and posing, or the machine would catch her falling or laughing. Out of the hundreds (!) of strips they got, Warhol chose 36, blew them up and coloured them. This story just makes my heart melt, because imagine running around photo booths with Andy Warhol for the day and coming out with such an iconic piece of art work! Ugh, I’m so jealous…
Anyway, something that I love maybe the most about the reprints is that although she’s clearly fucking s-t-u-n-n-i-n-g, that’s not even the thing you look at. Even though she’s a gorgeous woman, the focus of the photos isn’t on her beauty, and the reprints mean that you’re drawn not to her looks, but just the action of these inactive photos. It’s so amazing that they were able to represent life so incredibly in decades old Photo Booth film – I’m totally in love.
(p.s. if anyone knows about any cheap websites where I could print off photos as Polaroids fairly cheaply that would be rad
p.p.s. me and my friends all tried to fit into a Photo Booth the other day to try and take candid photos and it was a total failure but kind of hilarious so if you’re bored on a weekend or whatever you should totally do it!)