Bohemia Lost

Taylor Mead, NYC, 10/17/02

A portrait I shot of Warhol superstar Taylor Mead in his Lower East Side tenement apartment in 2002 is sharing the cover of this week’s New York magazine with a photo of a richer apartment dweller, shot by some guy with the unlikely name of Horst P. Horst. (Kidding aside–it’s kind of cool to be on a page with the master fashion photographer.)

Inside the issue, included in the section, The Apartment: A Biography, is a piece, “The Perpetual Garret: Where the starving artists slept.”  The past tense is terribly appropriate.  Manhattan has been gentrified beyond the reach of any non-trust fund young artist and the dulling-down (bankers aren’t as interesting as artists) homogenization of New York is consuming Brooklyn, creeping through Queens and even slouching toward the Bronx.

Horts P. Horst and me: together at last

Nine years ago when I shot Mead (actor, poet, painter, writer) for C. Carr’s Village Voice article that discussed his career, importance and his threatened imminent eviction (which was staved off) Mead was already the likely last of a breed.

Carr wrote,  “Artists change the ‘hood with their “panache,” then have to leave. Old story. But there’s a larger point to be made. Taylor Mead is the kind of artist who may not show up on the scene ever again. This is not just someone with a total disregard for ordinary comfort, but someone with a complete inability to make a life outside of impulse and the aesthetic that springs from impulse…radically incapable of, say, setting up a pension plan. Or much of any plan. And this is no longer a city where one can live without a plan.”

In my neighborhood, Tribeca, bohemians made room for bobos years ago (this is likely to be the only time I ever link to David Brooks who this week called Paul Ryan, the Republican chairman of the House Budget Committee, the author of “the most courageous budget reform proposal any of us have seen in our lifetimes.”).

With the influx of the bobos, some neighbors cashed in (selling lofts they’d bought, often for less than a year’s tuition at Spence, for millions); others, renters, were thrown out.

I understand the bobos, maybe even in some respects have become one (I drive a German auto too, eat organic, etc. and have always appreciated what Charles Ludlum said, “Better to have been nouveau riche than never to have been riche at all.”).

But the newest arrivals don’t have a bohemian bone in their collective body and my eternally progressive election district–and there have always been rich people in the neighborhood,  A-list actors and artists, all Democrats–now has too many registered “I got mine” Republicans.

When I photographed Ultra Violet, another of Warhol’s superstars, in 1989, she was living in an old-style penthouse, a shed on the roof of her Upper West Side Building (which was not reachable by the elevator) that she had converted into her apartment. Now in my neighborhood, a penthouse, with the de rigueur elevator that opens into the glass-walled space, is often considered by real estate seekers as equivalent to a mansion in Greenwich.

Ultra Violet, NYC, 1988

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One Response to Bohemia Lost

  1. Pingback: Oh, East Coast Guys Are Hip…* | Talking Pictures

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