INNOCENCE & CORRUPTION
A Look at WHITE TRASH UNCUT with Photographer CHRISTOPHER MAKOS
By Marie Havens
It’s difficult now to imagine New York City as it was in the 1970s, in such a very raw and pivotal state where emerging artists fused with a thriving and rebellious punk music scene. It was a vivid and spectacular underground world where word-of-mouth and “friends crashing into friends” were equivalent to our present day form of viral hashtag communication. Amongst the razor blade piercings and passed out punk groupies at CBGB’s, an iconic photographer emerged with his camera and an intense desire to heavily document that precise moment of both innocence and corruption. His name is Christopher Makos and we are thrilled to interview this prolific photographer during the re-launch of his 1977 cult classic publication: White Trash Uncut (Glitterati Incorporated).
Marie Havens: The last time we sat down to chat was in January 2011, nearly 4 years ago to discuss your incredible book: Lady Warhol. We sat in a little public garden area of the west village to talk…it was such a beautiful day! Flash-forward to now, we are meeting again to chat about the most exciting re-release of your 1977 cult classic White Trash Uncut (Glitterati Incorporated). Congratulations! How have you been and how did this re-release concept come about?
Christopher Makos: Since our last chat, I have been to Moscow, Macao, and Moab, in no particular order, but the point is that I am always moving around. Just finished this book White Trash Uncut, and am on deadline for my next fall book: Everything. This July 1, will be the launch of my KEIHLS collaboration, where I designed a label to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the blue facial astringent.
MH: Can you take a little flashback with us to 1977 and explain how you started photographing the punk and music scene in NYC?
CM: I had friends that were performing at CBGB’S, Lance Lound and the Mumps, and the New York Dolls were on my radar, and at the time, my friend, a publisher from Stonehill Press, thought it was the right moment to publish a book on the subject matter.
MH: Was it a decisive decision that attracted you to this vivid subculture or was it a scene you had already identified yourself to be apart of?
CM: The scene was so real, and was of the moment, that it spoke to me right away, and I had no choice, but to go and document the scene.
MH: White Trash Uncut’s dynamic art direction, use of silver metallic paper, and adding an additional 20+ new photographs is absolutely an amazing achievement! In the book you mention that you went back and decided to leave the images (originally cropped) un-cropped for this deluxe version. Can you talk about why this was important to you as both an artist and photographer?
CM: Intregrity is key in a book like White Trash Uncut. I felt it had to have the same art direction, the same feeling as the original book. The original can sell upwards of a $1000.00, so after the Met did their fashion show on Punk, I thought it would be the right time to show a generation that didn’t know the scene, what was really going on.
MH: How did you decide upon which 20+ new photographs to use? Was that a difficult revised edit?
CM: It”s always a difficult time when it comes to editing. It was pretty easy to choose new images for the book, because it was a question of what spoke to me right away. An example is the kid smoking a cigar opposite Divine, or David Croland hiding behind a Vogue magazine. They both embody the spirit of that moment in time.
MH: Will this lead to a corresponding White Trash Uncut exhibition, perhaps?
CM: We hope so, and are working on that right now, but for sure, we will be having an exhibit in Milan which opens on June 12th 2014 at Corsa Como, curated by Gianni Mercurio.
MH: There are so many music legends you have photographed from the Sex Pistols and Debby Harry to David Bowie and Grace Jones. Can you share with us any interesting or striking moments with these icons that impacted you and your work?
CM: I think the times that I spent at CBGB’S backstage was more of a moment, than an individual. It was always about the spirit of the moment like when I was in the home of David Croland and Grace Jones just showed up or when Debbie [Harry] was at my apartment during the New York City black out.
MH: As always, you included a photograph of your close friend Andy Warhol. He’s such an important figure in your history and work. Can you elaborate on how much he influenced you and what he thought about the punk scene in NYC?
CM: Andy and I both always loved the immediacy of anything that was going on at the moment, so I would say we both had a real impact on each other. I try to remind people that Andy was my friend first, and an important figure of the 20th century art scene second. That said, he, like Man Ray, always reminded me to obey my instincts, and what follows would always be the Truth.
MH: I’ve lived in NYC for 20 years and arrived in the 1990s, so I can’t even imagine how much NYC has changed since the 1970s. I’m sure you have quite a lot to say about that. A book like this with unforgettable photographs of iconic musicians and locations like CBGB’s really impacts our reflection of what NYC and the music scene used to be. What is NYC like to you now? And has that influenced your work (either positively or negatively)?
CM: New York City is one big melting pot, just as long as you have enough gold to melt. The current state of the city is that it has become so gentrified by the entitled elite that there is barely any room for a CBGB’s-like place to emerge. The only real underground these days are the health food stores. It”s where the real people seem to hang out. Besides all the Marc Jacob stores, and cupcake hangouts, and a Duane Reade, and banks on every corner. New York is no longer a place of gestation of the arts; it is a place to sell what already exists. Real estate, both psychically and spiritually, no longer exists in our town. It”s up to the current generation to try and escape the bondage of their Facebook, Instragram, and other social media accounts, and try to find something tangible, something we can all touch.
That said, I don’t know any better place to be than in New York; it”s just that we will have to all work harder at keeping the status quo at bay.
MH: Andrew J. Crispo’s extraordinary original 1977 introduction (also included in this new deluxe edition) explored your process and symbolism in your work. He wrote:
“Christopher Makos lives a secret life in art. Mixing memory and desire, he has created a fertile cosmos in which nothing remains sacred and yet everything becomes alive, containing images of sophistication and naïveté, innocence and corruption. By his imaginative probing and fierce recollections, Makos documents and – in an act of intense identification – becomes the culture he defines; an unruly mise-en-scene of punkish posturing and ambisexual allure.”
How did the punk scene affect you personally? Do you think it’s possible for truly great photographers like yourself to dive too deep into their subject matter, to become “the culture” as Crispo stated? Or is that the only real way to document with real integrity?
CM: The original book is a artifact from the times. It”s not really a book, it”s something that was badly and quickly printed to suit the moment. I had no future, and no past. It was about the importance of the moment, which still has relevance. This moment is about reflection on that moment in cultural history.
MH: Do you personally have a favorite photograph from the book?
CM: I have always loved the portrait of Man Ray, one of my icons.
Christopher Makos is an important and iconic photographer, who once studied under Man Ray, who collaborated with Andy Warhol and once called Makos “the most modern photographer in America.” With the publication of with his seminal 1977 book, White Trash, Makos burst on to the photography scene and made a name for himself as the first photographer to record the convergence of the “uptown” and “downtown” worlds, as Debbie Harry fondly remembers. Glitterati Incorporated is pleased to announce the publication of a deluxe edition: White Trash Uncut. The book features 25 new photographs in a new hardcover format, with essays by Andrew Crispo and Peter Wise. This raw, beautiful volume chronicled the punk scene as it came of age on the street of New York. While the first book was a throwaway (first printing copies—paperback–sell now for $50 and up to $500 on Amazon), this version, produced some 40 years later, is being presented as an art book, as it is now clear that the original is a ant publication with “weight” in the world of pop culture photography.
Written by Marie Havens
Photography by Christopher Makos / Courtesy of Glitterati Incorporated
Design by Marie Havens
Hustler in Professional Pose, Jeans by Fiorucci, Milan, White Trash Uncut – Photography by Christopher Makos – Published by Glitterati Incorporated
Debbie Harry, White Trash Uncut – Photography by Christopher Makos – Published by Glitterati Incorporated
David Bowie Rock Star, Los Angeles, White Trash Uncut – Photography by Christopher Makos – Published by Glitterati Incorporated
David Johansen of the now defunct New York Dolls and Richard Hell of Television backstage at CBGB’s, New York, White Trash Uncut – Photography by Christopher Makos – Published by Glitterati Incorporated
(L) Earring by Gillette, (R) Gigi Williams, White Trash Uncut – Photography by Christopher Makos – Published by Glitterati Incorporated
Divine and John Waters, White Trash Uncut – Photography by Christopher Makos – Published by Glitterati Incorporated
David Croland and Grace Jones wearing a Le Jardin shirt, New York, White Trash Uncut – Photography by Christopher Makos – Published by Glitterati Incorporated
Punk Rock Fans, White Trash Uncut – Photography by Christopher Makos – Published by Glitterati Incorporated
Man Ray passport, White Trash Uncut – Photography by Christopher Makos – Published by Glitterati Incorporated
(L) Christopher Makos, (R)White Trash Uncut Book Cover, White Trash Uncut – Photography by Christopher Makos – Published by Glitterati Incorporated