Fred W. McDarrah preferred to say that he was on the periphery, "just a reporter-photographer" of all that happened in New York during the second half of the 20th century. In fact he was at the heart of it. His images – of Jack Kerouac and the Beat generation, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol,... View More
Fred W. McDarrah preferred to say that he was on the periphery, "just a reporter-photographer" of all that happened in New York during the second half of the 20th century. In fact he was at the heart of it. His images – of Jack Kerouac and the Beat generation, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Andy Warhol, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Mapplethorpe, Susan Sontag, a campaigning Bobby Kennedy and the first gay pride activists – defined the city, its artists, politicians and freaks throughout the 50-odd years he clicked his shutter.Close
Fred was the leading graphic light behind The Village Voice. He started as its only photographer, became head of its photo desk and was still working for the weekly newspaper when he died.
Fred took one of the first photographs of Bob Dylan in New York, the still little-known young man from Minnesota blowing his harmonica to accompany the singer Karen Dalton in the Bitter End club in 1962. Three years later, he captured an image of Dylan, by now famous, saluting the photographer in an unusually respectful greeting in Sheridan Square Park.
Fred's images uniquely chronicled the era. In February 1959, he photographed Jack Kerouac reading extracts from "On the Road" to fellow writers in Greenwich Village. The picture of Kerouac, standing on a small ladder, his arms outstretched in a crucifix-like pose, is considered the iconic image of the Beat artist. Fred also took a celebrated photograph of Ginsberg, with the poet in a Stars-and-Stripes hat during an anti-Vietnam peace march in 1966.
A Fred McDarrah picture of two smiling, topless, tattooed gay men became a lasting image of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, during which police clashed with activists after raiding the largely gay Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village.
As his subjects noted, Fred McDarrah seemed to be everywhere, though never intrusive. He photographed Fidel Castro addressing the United Nations; he was at the Beatles' press conference in the Warwick Hotel on August 22, 1966 after they first landed in the U.S. He gained rare access to many artists' studios, including Warhol's Factory. Yet, as he was always at pains to point out, he never became part of "the scene"; he believed his role was to chronicle it from the outside. He captured his subjects more through charm and persuasion than invitation. And when he got rejected or kicked out, he made doubly sure he came away with a shot.
Fred William McDarrah was born in Brooklyn in 1926. He served as a paratrooper towards the end of the Second World War and stayed on as part of American occupation forces in Japan, taking pictures whenever he had time. Under the GI Bill to aid returning soldiers, he studied journalism at New York University, graduating in 1954. He joined the recently launched Village Voice as a salesman in 1959 but shortly afterwards moved into news and photographs. He died in 2007.
Fred published more than a dozen books based on his photographs.