Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A photo-memoir by Jeannette

Francesco Clemente, NYC, 1981.
By Jeannette Montgomery Barron

I started taking these portraits in 1982, when I was in my early 20s. My brother Monty said to me one day,” You should do a book of artist portraits.” Francesco Clemente was the first portrait I took. He became a friend and I also modeled for him a couple of times.

Thomas Ammann, the Swiss art dealer, and his boyfriend Matthias Brunner started collecting my portraits. That’s how I got to know Bruno Bischofberger. Bruno came into my studio/apartment one day in 1984, bought 40 photographs and asked to publish a book of my work. That was a great day. Bruno gave me an exhibition in his Zurich gallery in 1985. He called me up one day and said “Go over to The Factory, I want you to photograph Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat for a show I’m doing." I got to The Factory and Andy decided they would be photographed in Fred Hughes’s office. During the sitting, Jean-Michel proceeded to smoke three gigantic spleefs.

I was in Basquiat’s studio downtown quite a few times and it is true that he painted in designer suits.
Bianca Jagger
I was assigned to photograph Bianca for German Cosmopolitan. She was three hours late, typical for her in those days. She had been at Calvin Klein’s picking out clothes. Once she walked in the room, we all forgot how angry we were. She started to cry when Neil Young’s “Old Man” started playing on the radio. Whenever I hear that song, I want to cry, too. I got to know Bianca pretty well after that; we used to exercise and have lunch together. She would call me up and say, in her low, sexy voice,”Come to lunch at The Factory right now.” I would sit at Andy’s long table with Boy George, Quentin Crisp, and Keith Haring, whoever was current at the moment. One time Bianca took me to Le Cirque where we ended up having a chat with Richard Nixon. You always got the best service in a restaurant when you were with Bianca. Sometimes, we didn’t have to pay.
William S. Burroughs
I photographed him on his 71st Birthday in the loft of one of his good friends, right above the Strand Bookstore on lower Broadway. I didn’t know much about Burroughs except that he had accidentally killed his wife when trying to shoot an apple off her head. So when the door opened and I saw a long table lined with shotguns, I was a little afraid. I was in and out of the loft within 30 minutes, maximum. I couldn’t help noticing that Mr. Burroughs wore Earth Shoes, which had long been out of fashion. Later, I found out that the shotguns were filled with paint for his “Shotgun Paintings."
William Burroughs, NYC, 1985.
Robert Mapplethorpe
I was nervous about taking a portrait of Robert. He was a photographer I very much admired. I shouldn’t have been worried — Robert was extremely sweet and hospitable; he offered me chocolate milk and a joint. I am sorry I didn’t have a chance to know him better. He died shortly after.
Robert Mapplethorpe, NYC, 1987.
Rainer Fetting
This was an assignment for the German art magazine, WolkenKratzer. The interviewer, Fatima Igramhan, hired a model for the shoot. His name was Desmond. Rainer and Desmond fell in love that day and were together for years, Desmond appearing in many of Rainer’s paintings.
Rainer Fetting & Desmond, NYC, 1984.
Keith Haring
This was taken in Keith’s studio on lower Broadway. Every single inch of his walls was covered with drawings. I really didn’t have to do anything, Keith just went through his poses and I snapped the shutter.
Keith Haring, NYC, 1985
Luigi Ontani
A typical scorching hot summer day in Rome, 1984. My gallerist friend from Paris, Samia Saouma, set up the portrait. Luigi picked out the location, the Fontana delle Tartarughe, in the Ghetto in Rome, for obvious reasons — he looked like the men in the statues. Luigi’s work is all about self-portraiture.

That day, Luigi was wearing a chartreuse silk suit with purple lizard sandals. I think he also wore socks. Rene Ricard was there, too. I have another picture of them together.
Enzo Cucchi
This was taken just outside of Rome in the summer of 1986. At that point, I spoke no Italian and Enzo spoke no English. I thought I had gotten the picture I wanted but then this man reached into the frame to retrieve his glasses. That’s one of the beautiful things about photography; that moment changed everything.

Enzo is the most elegant man. I often see him reading the paper in the morning in Piazza Navona in Rome, where I spend part of the year now.
Ryuichi Sakamoto
This was an assignment for a Japanese Magazine. The theme was ”A Day in New York with Sakamoto” or something to that effect. We rode around in a limo all day stopping to photograph Sakamoto at the gym, shopping at Barney’s and at his favorite record store in the village, that kind of thing. At the end the day, I took this picture. The blurriness of the picture bothered me for years. Now I love it.
Willem Dafoe
I first met Willem when he was starring in a film that my brother, Monty Montgomery, and Kathryn Bigelow were directing, “The Loveless.” This was in 1980 and it was Willem’s first leading role. It was shot in South Georgia. So I have known and photographed Willem over the years. This portrait was taken in 2002 in Willem’s apartment in NYC. Despite looking like a tough guy, he’s a sweet pea.
Matt Dillon and Dennis Hopper
I was assigned by Rei Kawakubo, the designer of Comme Des Garcons, to photograph Matt and Dennis for her publication, SIX. I was flown to Paris where we rented an artist’s studio to do the shoot. Matt was very sweet, asking about my camera and photography. Dennis asked my assistant to take her pants off.

I love Dennis Hopper’s photographs.
Julian Schnabel
I was shopping in Barney’s one day and in came Julian and Jacqueline, his first wife, with a child in a stroller, I guess it was Lola. Lola dropped her bottle; I picked it up and introduced myself, asking if I could photograph Julian.

My then boyfriend, now husband, James, was with me the day I went to his studio to do the portrait; he spotted the helmet and the shadow it made.

Julian liked the photo, in fact he signed a copy to me: ”your fan, Julian." That made me pretty happy.
John Waters
The first thing John does when you enter his apartment is to take a Polaroid; he records every visitor.

John is intellectually high to low- he reads everything from The National Enquirer to The New York Review of Books and is one of the most brilliant people I know (not to mention one of the funniest).

I set this photo up in John’s New York living room next to a George Stoll toilet paper holder. The toilet paper was made of chiffon. John told me his building superintendent did not understand at all why he would want a toilet paper holder in his living room.

John put his hand over the address label of his National Enquirer so no one could see where he lived.
Beatrix Ost Kuttner and Adelheid Ost
Mother and daughter. Beatrix is an artist and actress. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia in a home built in 1820. Inside the home feels like Germany but outdoors it’s America. ”Trixie” was wearing a dress by Azzedine Alaia.
Beatrix Ost-Kuttner and Adelheid Ost, Virginia, 1987.
Cindy Sherman
I wanted to take a simple portrait of Cindy. Just outside the frame lay all of the pig noses and assorted props we have seen in her photographs.

I love Cindy’s work, especially her early black and white film stills.
Cindy Sherman, NYC, 1986.
All photographs by Jeannette Montgomery Barron

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