Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"Brigid Berlin Polaroids" (Edited by Dagon James, Vincent Fremont, & Anastasia Rygle. Foreword by John Waters. Introduction by Bob Colacello) Reel Art Press

ISBN: 9781909526242 Reel Art Press

"Brigid Berlin Polaroids" by Brigid Berlin (Edited by Dagon James, Vincent Fremont, & Anastasia Rygle.  Foreword by John Waters.  Introduction by Bob Colacello) Reel Art Press

Brigid Berlin, sometimes known as Brigid Polk, is famous for being associated with Andy Warhol and his Factory world.  The great thing about the Warhol world, generally speaking, is how talented the people that he connected himself with - If not all, most are border-line genius types.  Berlin I think is a member of that club, due to her talents with a Polaroid, but also the ability to live in the right place and time. 

As Bob Colacello pointed out in his introduction to this book, Warhol is very much a blue collar type of character who liked to run with the wealthy.  On the other hand, Berlin is part of an upper-class Republican life, with her parents being associated with Richard Nixon and others of that world.   This, of course, made her into a rebel.  Drug Addict (speed), and a woman who had no trouble eliminating her clothing when a camera came by, is something of a great wit.   The beauty of someone like Berlin is that she's a total open book, and allowing herself to absorb the world around her, without much filter, shame or fear.  Warhol surrounded himself with either very brave people or total psychotics - or perhaps both.   In a sense, Berlin and others would dip their toes into the fire, and then report back to Warhol. 

"Brigid Berlin Polaroids" is a beautiful time-capsule from the late 1970s to the early 1980s.  The height of the third act in Warhol's life and career.  The first being his career as a graphic artist in New York City, second is the early years of the Campbell Soup & Elvis paintings, as well as his avant-approach to film making, with an insane cast of characters.  The third segment is what Brigid captured in these photographs.  "Post-Warhol-getting-shot" life as he shifts direction from crazy dangerous landscape to a somewhat much more organized world.  Berlin was part of both worlds, and I think clearly was made to assist Warhol in the Third Act of his life.

Although one has to presume that Berlin had to take these images quickly, and without much thinking, proves to be a fantastic and skilled photographer or again, has the genius ability to be the right person doing the right thing at that moment.  Her portraits of individuals in the art world as well as people around the Factory environment is superbly framed and are exquisite portraits of these people.  She didn't ask permission to shoot, and it seems no one said anything about either being the subject matter of the shoot, or what will be done with the image afterwards.  Brigid was capturing the moment as it happened, and only thinking of the present at the time.  The beauty of the polaroid is that it was something of that instant, and not meant to be fussed over or over-thinking on the photographer's part.  Almost like an artist's notebook of ideas, but the truth is, Berlin knew how to take a great picture of someone.  Although I think these photographs were done in relaxed moments, they are still classic portraits of the subject matter.   There is not one bad portrait of anyone looking bad.  Including her self-portraits in the nude (at times) and the revealing images of Andy Warhol.

The Alice Neel / Warhol polaroid photo session was taken while Warhol agreed to pose without his shirt on, exposing his horrible scars from the shooting.  Neel painted his portrait, and Berlin captured both the model and the painter at work.   It's a revealing series of photos, due to Warhol's obsessively sense of uniform, meaning his wig, and the sensibility of his body's limitations.  I don't think Warhol is the type of guy who is comfortable being in the nude or in front of a camera.    He accepts it for what it is, but I feel he's more comfortable behind a camera than in front of the lens.   Even in specific photo shoots, such as him in drag (by Chrisatopher Makos) or doing TV commercials - he never looks at ease being the subject matter of someone else's observations or the placement of him in front of attention.   He is truly a living tape and camera recorder, and so is Brigid Berlin in this book.

"Polaroids" is a beautiful production job of a book.   The editing is superb, and Berlin's polaroids are totally suitable for an exhibition as well as for this book.   Not only documenting an important time in the arts, but also herself being an artist and photographer.  She's really good.  

- Tosh Berman


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