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Kate Simon’sPortraits Of Cultural LGBTQ+ figures from the 70’s To the Present

 
Kate Simon’s portraits capture so much more than simply the individuals in front of her lens. They capture character and attitude in a way that translates directly through the image and out to the viewer. It’s one thing to simply raise a camera and release the shutter, but to inspire such intimacy in a single frame is the mark of a true master at work.

Since the early 1970’s Kate has photographed many of the most influential cultural figures of our time. Her various exhibitions and publications form a wide-reaching archive of subjects from the worlds of art, music and literature, including Andy Warhol, Bob Marley, Freddie Mercury, Greer Lankton, William S. Burroughs, Patti Smith and David Bowie to name only a few.

I first met Kate in the late 70’s through our mutual friend, the musician Richard Sohl. We immediately hit it off, forming a close and long-lasting friendship.

With her sharp wit, innate curiosity and a voracious sense of humor she remains as active as ever.

I am excited to have this occasion to share this series of portraits of cultural figures from New York’s LGBTQ+ community of the 70’s to the present, accompanied by personal comments by Kate herself.

Louie Chaban.
Guest Editor


Words and all images © Kate Simon.

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Self Portrait, NYC, 1977.

“This is a picture of me holding my father’s Nikon FTN. I love this camera, and I shot a lot of really famous pictures with it. I still have it; I’m looking at it right now. The quality of those old Zeiss lenses with the bayonet mount is great.

When I took this photo, I hadn’t actually moved to New York City yet. I was living in London at that time after having gone to school in Paris. I’m originally from Poughkeepsie, NY, and wanted to move to New York City.”


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Andy Warhol, NYC, 1979.

“It was always a pleasure to photograph Andy Warhol. I worked at Interview as a contributing photographer in the late 70s, and there was nothing like it for a photographer. Sometimes, they ran your photographs full page, and it was great to see your portraits run so big.

I worked at Interview with Glenn O’Brien, and he introduced me to Andy. It was easy to go across the hall from the Interview office over to Andy’s studio. He was a great subject and always willing to be photographed, so I got to take a lot of candid pictures of him working in his studio.”


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Angel Jack, London, UK, 1973.

“I took this photograph just as I was getting started as a professional photographer. Angel Jack was a member of the theatre troupe Angels of Light, and I shot him, Hibiscus and the rest of the group for my own archive. Angels of Light was this incredible group that was formed after the Cockettes. They were rehearsing in a theatre in London where I had gone for a commission to photograph Lindsay Kemp, who had taught David Bowie a lot about how to be on stage and about being a mime. I shot that with Tungsten film, and I loved that type B film.”


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Carl Apfelschnitt, NYC, 1989.

“Carl Apfelschnitt was one of my best friends. We were friends from 1978 until he died of AIDS on May 31st, 1990, approximately 30 years ago. In this photograph, he’s standing next to one of his drawings. I had lived in London until 1977 or 1978, and Carl was one of the people who showed me what it was like to live like a New York artist. I was quite a bit younger than him and I saw how he dealt with his patrons and gallerists.

I loved being with him while he painted, and I photographed him a great deal. He used a lot of gold leaf and raw crystals in his work and made his own paper. I remember giving one of his crystals to Andy Warhol.”

Carl Apfelschnitt died of AIDS May 31, 1990.


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Cookie Mueller at home, NYC, 1989.

“Cookie Mueller was a real sweetheart, and I used to love going to her flat on Bleecker Street and hanging out there with her and David Armstrong, who was also a good friend of mine. She would dance and was so much fun. She wrote a column for the magazine Details. It was called “Ask Dr. Mueller,” and it was brilliant. She had some pretty unique health tips. Carl came with me when I photographed her. It was 8 months before she died from AIDS in November of 1989.”

Cookie Mueller died of AIDS November 10, 1989 (aged 40).


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Divine, Beacon Theatre, NYC, 1974.

“I thought this photograph of Divine was great for this spread because of Pride. I took it at the opening of this short-lived stage version of Sgt. Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band at the Beacon Theatre. I think the show only ran for two weeks. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were there that night, and so were a lot of other celebrities.”


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Edwige Belmore, NYC, 2006.

“Edwige Belmore was quite a good friend of mine, and I was entranced by her. She was always warm and chic.

I used to see her in Paris at Les Bains Douches, and then I saw her in New York. We knew the same people. I would call them the TV Party Set because of Glenn O’Brien’s TV show. I photographed her all through the 70s, 80s and 90s. I did that shoot in the 00s and I was very enthralled by her focus, her expression, and her determination. She was very focused. Before the photoshoot, I had heard that she was ill, and I noticed that her expression was determined and filled with courage.”


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Ethyl Eichelberger, NYC, 1985.

“Ethyl Eichelberger was a performance artist who was very significant.

Ethyl in this picture is playing his character Lucrezia Borgia. I remember the first time I saw Ethyl perform downtown in New York, and I could not believe her. I just had to photograph Ethyl, and so he came to my studio. He told me all these things Peter Hujar had told him about how to sit still and how to be a good subject. It’s interesting that through Ethyl I learned all these things from Peter, someone whose work I love.”


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Freddie Mercury on the road with Queen, UK, 1975.

“This is a very unique picture, and it’s never been published before. It’s of Freddie Mercury doing his hair. I was on the road with Queen all over the U.K., and we were just backstage when I took this photo.

When I started my career, I went on the road with The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, The Who, and Queen, pretty much everybody you could think of, as their photographer. All I can remember are these backstage opportunities. The writer John Ingham and I were in the room with Queen when they saw that video of Bohemian Rhapsody for the first time. I remember their response was, “oh well, that seems pretty okay.” It’s just interesting cause here is this video that’s like so popular from Wayne’s World. It’s probably the most popular rock video of all time even 40 years later.”

Freddie Mercury died of AIDS November 24, 1991 (aged 45).


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Gary Indiana, NYC, 2006.

“Gary Indiana is one of my favorite writers of my generation. This specific picture has never been published, but another one from this shoot was used as the author photograph from a book he wrote about Andy Warhol. I can’t articulate how much I respect him. I just think he’s a brilliant writer.”


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Greer Lankton at Civilian Warfare, NYC, 1984.

“This picture is of the brilliant artist Greer Lankton. I was commissioned to take this picture for the Washington Post, who used to have this really beautiful style section. As a photographer, it was really gratifying to shoot for them, and I shot for them quite a bit.

I went to shoot Greer with Carl and Teri Toye, and that’s Greer standing next to her doll of Teri at her gallery, Civilian Warfare. Teri was very good friends with Greer and always talked about how much she loved her. I couldn’t believe how the doll of Teri looked and felt so much like her. I remember being knocked out by her art. She was a real genius.”


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Haoui Montaug, NYC, 1984.

“This picture of Haoui Montaug reminds me of a Man Ray photograph. It looks like it’s from another time, there’s something very 1920s about it. It’s never been published before.

Haoui was a doorman at a lot of well-known New York City nightclubs, and ran a cabaret revue called No Entiendes, which showcased a young Madonna and early performances by the Beastie Boys. He also appeared in the films Krush Groove and Edo Bertoglio’s Downtown 81.

I photographed him for The Face when I was their New York photographer.”


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John Waters, NYC, 1978.

“This is a picture of John Waters eating nails. I did that for Glenn O’Brien when he was working on a piece about punk. When John came to my studio, we asked him what he wanted for lunch, his response was “a nail sandwich.”


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Keith Haring, William S. Burroughs, and John Giorno at shooting range, Lawrence, Kansas, 1987.

“I went out to Lawrence, Kansas in 1987 where William S. Burroughs lived because of the art festival called The River City Reunion. I flew in with Carl Apfelschnitt, John Giorno, Keith Haring and Ira Silverberg. He wanted us all to go shooting with him as he was certainly a gun enthusiast. I had previously photographed him at The Bunker in Manhattan on the Bowery, where I don’t think he used real bullets. One of the things I really love about this picture is Keith wearing a t-shirt that says “AIDS IS POLITICAL-BIOLOGICAL (GERM) WARFARE”. He died of aids too, when he was just 31 years old. I also worked with John Giorno for his AIDS Treatment Project, the same project that helped Carl [Apfelschnitt] financially when he was sick. AIDS was a really devastating time for everyone.”

Keith Haring died of AIDS February 16, 1990 (aged 31).


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Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, NYC, 1978.

“On this day, Patti called me up and said: “Get down here now.” So, I went down to where she lived at 1 Fifth Avenue. Patti wanted me to shoot her with Robert Mapplethorpe.

I met Patti in Paris in 1975. I started shooting her when I lived in London in 1975, and I shot her regularly until she first retired in 1979 before returning some years later. I have a whole bunch of these pictures. She never told me what it was for; I think she just wanted me to have it in my archive. A print of this photograph is now in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian Insititution.”

Robert Mapplethorpe died of AIDS March 9, 1989 (aged 42).


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Peter McGough at home, NYC, 2018.

“I shot this picture of Peter McGough in his apartment, in the West Village. I shot him for my own archive, and then subsequently Peter used it as the author photo for his brilliant new memoir entitled “I’VE SEEN THE FUTURE AND I’M NOT GOING”, which I’ve read and listened to about 10 times. I recommend it in both ways. It’s a masterpiece. It’s about AIDS, the 80s and the art world. He’s always been profoundly eloquent, articulate and witty.

I’m not an audio book person but this one is really brilliant.”


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Richard Sohl at Carl Apfelschnitt’s studio, NYC, 1977.

“Richard Sohl was Patti Smith’s piano player. I met Richard in Paris in 1975, when I was sent there from London to shoot the Patti Smith group. We remained close friends after I met him. When I moved to New York, it was Richard who introduced me to Carl Apfelschnitt. The painting behind Richard in this picture is by Carl of Patti Smith. Richard also introduced me to Stephen Sprouse.”


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Robert Hawkins, London, UK, 2006

“Here is the painter Robert Hawkins in front of his paintings of the “Path to Hell” and of his hand going to the doorknob. The t-shirt of a wolf man is also by him.

Robert is an old friend; I’ve probably known him since 1978. He lived in New York, but moved to London after 9/11. Robert is amazing. He does tattoos on himself. He has one of Lincoln, Edgar Allen Poe and Alfred E. Newman, and he also has tic-tac-toe boards on his legs. He has gold fangs and a ring in his nose, so you can see that he definitely has a unique style. He’s also a great horticulturist and cultivates bonsai trees, which you can see them on his Instagram.”


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Stephen Sprouse, NYC, 1981.

“This is a picture of Stephen Sprouse that has never been published before. I love what he’s wearing in this picture. His bracelet was made out of a mirror.

Stephen and I would walk down 57th Street taking each other’s pictures. He was really keen on simple black drawstring sweatpants. It was unheard of to walk around New York wearing sweatpants at the time. Now, everyone is wearing them. He used to buy his black sweatpants down in LaGuardia Place, the only one place you could buy them.

Sprouse lived in the same building as me. I took over Stephen’s apartment, the apartment I’m still in today, as he was moving downstairs. Spouse and I collaborated on a lot of work together. He had his own Xerox machine, and he would use my pictures as source images, so we kind of had an arts lab. Debbie Harry also lived in the flat above with Chris Stein. We really had a lot of fun during that time.”


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Teri Toye, NYC, 1997.

“I met Teri Toye through Stephen Sprouse downstairs at his studio. I photographed Teri a lot, in all kinds of ways. I photographed Teri here in my studio, out at Area [nightclub], at Carl’s studio (she was a muse for him), at
William Burroughs’ house in Kansas with Way Bandy (a mutual friend), with Greer Lankton, and with the doll that Greer made of her.

Louie knew all of these people well, too. Richard Sohl was one of his best friends, who was really close to Sprouse and Teri. We were all intertwined.”


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William S. Burroughs at the Bunker, NYC, 1995.

“This is the last photograph I took of William S. Burroughs in 1995. I photographed William for 20 years starting in 1975. I shot this at The Bunker (downstairs from John Giorno’s Loft) while he was smoking a joint in front of a piece by Giorno.”


“The thing to focus on because we’re doing this portfolio for Pride month, is that AIDS was a devastation and it took out most of the creative people in New York City. I think we’re all still in post-traumatic stress syndrome from that. It was unbelievable because we were all so young and a lot of our best friends died, it was like all the greatest artists. That’s why it’s worth and important to mention.”

Kate Simon, June 2020.


All images © Kate Simon. For photo inquires contact: fortworksart.com