Bring back some good or bad memories


July 4, 2024

Portraits of Andy Warhol Posing With an American Flag, 1983

“Everybody has their own America, and then they have the pieces of a fantasy America that they think is out there but they can’t see. When I was little, I never left Pennsylvania, and I used to have fantasies about things that I thought were happening in the Midwest, or down South, or in Texas, that I felt I was missing out on. But you can only live in one place at a time. And your own life while it’s happening to you never has any atmosphere until it’s a memory. So the fantasy corners of America seem so atmospheric because you’ve pieced them together from scenes in movies and music and lines from books. And you live in your dream America that you’ve custom-made from art and schmaltz and emotions just as much as you live in your real one.” – Andy Warhol
These original photographs were taken by Karen Bystedt, then a tenacious young film student at NYU, who in 1983 boldly cold-called Andy Warhol at Interview Magazine inviting him to pose for her for her book-in-progress featuring the era’s top male models. Having come across an image of the artist modeling for Barney’s, she had hoped to capture the icon in this unique context, positioned amongst faces renowned for their aesthetic ideal – and on hearing whom else she intended to include, Warhol swiftly agreed to join the fold. Bystedt’s resulting images capture a soft and vulnerable Warhol, the man made infamous by making others his model, now the model himself.

“When I called Interview Magazine, the last “Factory,” I didn’t expect Andy Warhol to answer, so I was taken aback when he answered himself,” Bystedt recalled. “It was a moment! I was nervous, but I  just went for it and I straight off I told him who I was and the photography book I was working on about top male models. He wanted to model and I kind of sensed that – I had seen Andy in an ad for Barneys New York and that’s what gave me the idea to photograph him as a model. It turned out that one of the guys who was on my roster was in a Zoli catalog that Andy also was in… on the same page as Andy. So he knew I was shooting the hottest male models of the day and wanted to be in their company.”

Bystedt also interviewed Warhol and published the resulting portraits in a book of male models titled “Not Just A Pretty Face” in 1983. Then, fait accompli, she stored away the negatives and forgot about them. Until 2011, when she saw a Warhol artwork fetch $100 million at auction and decided it was time to dig them up. To her horror, most of the 36 negatives were eaten away by termites or covered in termite poop and it took a painstaking pixel-by-pixel process of Photoshop magic to bring just 10 back to their former glory.

“After I graduated from NYU, I moved around a lot and put my things in storage in different places and lost track of what was where. Finding the 10 negatives in my garage in L.A. almost 30 years later was like finding treasure. It was a “huge” moment!”

(Photos by © Karen Bystedt)


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