130,000 Photographs by Andy Warhol Are Now Available Online, Courtesy of Stanford University

(Image cred­it: © The Andy Warhol Foun­da­tion for the Visu­al Arts, Inc.)

It’s tak­en for grant­ed that every brand or ris­ing star must estab­lish and main­tain a con­stant pres­ence on var­i­ous social net­works. Indeed, the social media star—an enti­ty famous sole­ly for col­lect­ing fol­low­ers and post­ing glam­orous pho­tos with themed commentary—may seem like a phe­nom­e­non that could only exist in the inter­net age, though writ­ers like J.G. Bal­lard saw such things com­ing decades ago.

But before obses­sive pho­tog­ra­phy sat­u­rat­ed the dig­i­tal envi­ron­ment, Andy Warhol grasped the medium’s cen­tral impor­tance in the doc­u­men­ta­tion of every­day life. It just so hap­pened that his every­day life was filled with celebri­ty actors, mod­els, artists, and musi­cians.

Warhol, writes James D. Ellis at Light Stalk­ing, “was the pro­to-hip­ster,” a rest­less moth always on the hunt for a flame. “Much like our con­tem­po­rary cul­ture, Warhol found it dif­fi­cult to sit and do noth­ing. He had to leave his house or Fac­to­ry and expe­ri­ence his imme­di­ate sur­round­ings.”

(Image cred­it: © The Andy Warhol Foun­da­tion for the Visu­al Arts, Inc.)

And he had to pho­to­graph every one of those expe­ri­ences. Warhol used his Polaroids and 35mm the way we use iPhones. A court case in the ear­ly nineties once took up the ques­tion of whether Warhol’s pho­tographs could be con­sid­ered fine art, but the artist him­self, writes Pati­na Lee at Wide­walls, “was obvi­ous­ly unde­cid­ed about their val­ue and mean­ing,” say­ing “A pic­ture means I know where I was every minute. That’s why I take pic­tures. It’s a visu­al diary.”

Warhol, Lee writes, “took his cam­era with him wher­ev­er he went, doc­u­ment­ing prac­ti­cal­ly every­thing, the high­est high class and the low­est trash (lit­er­al­ly, he took pho­tos of trash cans and of what they con­tained)…. This inclu­sive­ness is what made his pho­to­graph­ic under­tak­ings bor­der between art and mere obses­sive col­lect­ing, or as peo­ple like to cyn­i­cal­ly notice, con­sum­ing the life around him.” His con­sump­tion, and pho­tographs of trash, comes to us as trea­sure, an exten­sive record of Warhol’s New York in the sev­en­ties and eight­ies.

(Image cred­it: © The Andy Warhol Foun­da­tion for the Visu­al Arts, Inc.)

Stan­ford University’s Can­tor Arts Cen­ter and Stan­ford Libraries have col­lab­o­rat­ed to make their Warhol pho­to archives avail­able to the pub­lic—pho­tos snapped “at dis­cos, din­ner par­ties, flea mar­kets, and wrestling match­es. Friends, boyfriends, busi­ness asso­ciates, socialites, celebri­ties, and passers­by.” This “trove of 3,600 con­tact sheets fea­tur­ing 130,000 pho­to­graph­ic expo­sures” doc­u­ments Warhol’s dai­ly life from 1976 until his death in 1987 and includes can­did pho­tos of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Tru­man Capote, Bian­ca Jag­ger, Jim­my Carter, Martha Gra­ham, Kei­th Har­ing, Deb­bie Har­ry, Grace Jones, Jack­ie Kennedy, Liza Minel­li, Dol­ly Par­ton, Eliz­a­beth Tay­lor, and more.

The archive, writes San­dra Fed­er for Stan­ford News, “is the most com­plete col­lec­tion of the artist’s black-and-white pho­tog­ra­phy ever made avail­able to the pub­lic.” It was acquired by the Can­tor in 2014 from the Andy Warhol Foun­da­tion for the Visu­al Arts. Giv­en that these are all con­tact sheets, nav­i­gat­ing the col­lect­ing can be a lit­tle bewil­der­ing. The Can­tor has pro­vid­ed a num­ber of tools to help. Click on Con­tact Sheets here to explore all 3,600+ con­tact sheets. Click Neg­a­tives to see indi­vid­ual frames, like those of Kei­th Har­ing, Warhol, and Jean-Michel Basquiat at the top, Lou Reed fur­ther up, and Annie Lei­bovitz above. Or start brows­ing through pic­tures orga­nized by theme here.

(Image cred­it: © The Andy Warhol Foun­da­tion for the Visu­al Arts, Inc.)

Dig deep, and you’ll find the odd­est things, like Andy Warhol run­ning in Cen­tral Park for char­i­ty with Grace Jones and pho­tog­ra­ph­er Gor­don Parks. What­ev­er Andy did, who­ev­er he hap­pened to do it with—and a stranger cast of char­ac­ters you will not find—it’s all in this huge pho­to archive some­where.

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Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Case for Andy Warhol in Three Min­utes

Short Film Takes You Inside the Recov­ery of Andy Warhol’s Lost Com­put­er Art

Roy Licht­en­stein and Andy Warhol Demys­ti­fy Their Pop Art in Vin­tage 1966 Film

Watch Andy Warhol’s Screen Tests of Three Female Mus­es: Nico, Edie Sedg­wick & Mary Woronov

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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