Fred W. Mcdarrah - Obituaries - News - The Independent

Fred W. Mcdarrah

'Village Voice' photographer


Frederick William McDarrah, photographer: born Brooklyn, New York 5 November 1926; married (two sons); died New York 6 November 2007.

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.

McDarrah was the leading graphic light behind The Village Voice, the alternative weekly newspaper which started in the city's arty Greenwich Village but became a national institution. He started as its only photographer, became head of its photo desk as the paper grew and was still working for the Voice when he died, having trained many successful photographers including James Hamilton.

It was McDarrah who 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, McDarrah captured an image of Dylan, by now famous, saluting the photographer in an unusually respectful greeting in Sheridan Square Park. The latter image has appeared in many books and exhibitions on Dylan. While the Voice's writer Nat Hentoff was credited with being one of the first to recognise Dylan's talent and potential, McDarrah's accompanying photographs helped launch the phenomenon of the young protest singer with the tousled hair, drainpipe trousers and high-heeled boots.

McDarrah's images not only helped turn The Village Voice into a leading alternative player in journalism – a timely challenge to the staid reports of The New York Times – but chronicled the era like no-one else. He photographed Bobby Kennedy visiting a New York slum on the Lower East Side; when Kennedy was assassinated in 1968, the Voice ran the picture – JFK's brother on a ghetto staircase, passing an image of Christ in a crown of thorns – across the top of its front page.

In February 1959, McDarrah 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. McDarrah had captured the writer a couple of months earlier, on New Year's Eve, partying inside a New York night club with Allen Ginsberg. McDarrah 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 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. McDarrah and his son Timothy later published a well-received book of photographs, Gay Pride (1994).

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 22 August 1966 after they first hit the US (his studied photographs of the event continue to resonate perhaps more than the group's self-conscious, nervous words); and 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.

On a whim, he once put an ad in the Voice, urging readers to "Rent Genuine Beatniks – badly groomed but brilliant (male and female)" to liven up parties. He meant the ad as a joke but the paper was inundated with requests and McDarrah enlisted artist friends, and sometimes beatniks off the streets of Greenwich Village, to "add a little colour" to dinner parties around the Big Apple in return for a free meal.

Fred William McDarrah was born in Brooklyn in 1926. He served as a young 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.

McDarrah published more than a dozen books based on his photographs. Among them is Kerouac and Friends: a beat generation album (2002, co-authored by his son Timothy McDarrah). His book Anarchy, Protest and Rebellion (2003) uses his pictures to trace the 1960s in the United States, from the arrival of the Beatles, through the Civil Rights movement and the Stonewall gay riots and the influence of Warhol's Factory to the trauma of the 1968 Democratic National Convention when brutal attacks on anti-war demonstrators stunned the nation, and the catharsis of Woodstock the following year.

His photographs have been displayed in numerous exhibitions. Last year, to mark his 80th birthday, the Steven Kasher Gallery in New York mounted an exhibition, "Artists and Writers of the 60s and 70s," featuring more than 100 of McDarrah's photographs. A review in The New York Times described the exhibition as "a visual encyclopaedia of the era's cultural scene. Mr McDarrah was everywhere and seems to have known everyone who lived in or passed through New York, capturing them all on film."

Phil Davison

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
property
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week