PHOTOGRAPHER KAREN BYSTEDT REMEMBERS SHOOTING ANDY WARHOL AS AN NYU STUDENT
Karen Bystedt, who has made a career of photographing actors like Brad Pitt, Keanu Reeves and Johnny Depp when they were still just pretty mugs knocking on the doors of Hollywood, had perhaps her most career-making encounter when she was still a student at New York University. Bystedt rung up the Interview offices in 1982, and to her surprise, Andy Warhol answered the phone in his baby voice. She convinced him to sit for a portrait in the magazine’s conference room when it was still located at Union Square. She 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 ten of The Lost Warhols back to their former glory. Now, returning to the city where she originally photographed the Pope of Pop Art, Bystedt is exhibiting the original images as well as a number of reworks of the photos by artists Tommii Lim, Dom Pattinson, and Peter Tunney, among others. Here’s how it all began.
KAREN BYSTEDT: I was probably 17 or 18 when I first saw Andy Warhol. I was a club kid when I was 17. I would go to Area, Limelight, Nell’s … Then I somehow started photographing male models. I was gonna be a film student, and I had this boyfriend who had a camera and he had me photograph him. I fell in love with it. I took a photography class and started photographing all my friends, and then someone heard about me and asked if I would test. He said he’d buy the film. So we did three rolls, and he took them to his agency and I went in there and showed them my portfolio. And [the agency] said, “You’re really good with men.”