Alamedia: Who Shot Andy Warhol?
Farewell to a talented Alameda artist.
Almost 50 years ago, Thom Lafferty found himself sitting across a kitchen table from Andy Warhol, on assignment to photograph the famously eccentric pop artist for Vogue. “My impression of him was that he was kind of a dull person,” Lafferty said in an interview this spring. His cool reaction is understandable given the list of celebrities he photographed, including actors Don Rickles, Robert Guillaume, Rip Torn, and Oscar-nominated Sylvia Miles, talk show host Dick Cavett, baseball great Willie Mays, composer Philip Glass, and playwright Eugène Ionesco.
He shared anecdotes about many of them. When he photographed Christine Jorgensen—an early recipient of male-to-female sex reassignment surgery—she greeted him with, “I hope you will be kind to a middle-aged woman.” And he photographed World Middleweight boxing champion Rocky Graziano with his fist protruding from the bottom of a paper bag to prove that he could, in fact, “punch his way out.” According to Lafferty, the champ didn’t get the joke.
Lafferty graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York despite the interruption of World War II, including his amphibious landing in Normandy. After working as art editor or director at several magazines, and a stint in advertising, he turned to photography, “the niche he had been searching for.”
Lafferty moved to Alameda in 1991. Up to the end he created art “now and then,” mostly painting and sculpting, but it is his portfolio of old black-and-white photos that is his legacy. These were made great not merely by the celebrity of his subjects, but the drama and intensity he captured, and are a lasting testament to his artistic gift.
Thom Lafferty, photographer, painter, and sculptor, died in his home in Alameda on April 15 at age 89. His two-man show at the Alameda Museum in February capped a career spanning six decades with exhibitions in galleries on both coasts.
More of Lafferty’s work can be seen at www.thomlafferty.net.