5 Questions with Jeannette Montgomery Barron on Her Most Recent Book, JMB
Jun 20, 2023
We’ve always been a fan of renowned photographer and artist Jeannette Montgomery Barron, whose work has been celebrated for decades. So, we were thrilled to have her join our panel discussion many years back. Since then, we’ve been following her activity closely and are super proud of her latest endeavour, a limited-edition book, JMB, which showcases her remarkable portraits of the late Jean-Michel Basquiat alongside Andy Warhol. The complete sittings, taken in 1984 and 1985, have never been published, making this a truly special release for fans of both artists.
In this interview, Montgomery Barron shares with us her approach to selecting the photos and why she waited so long to publish them. We also discuss Basquiat's artistic evolution during his brief yet impactful career and what was revealed in the portraits of him and Warhol together.
1AN: To start, congratulations on your latest book! How in the world did you approach the process of selecting which photographs you would include in JMB?
JMB: Nick Groarke, the publisher (NJG Studio) and I decided to show every single frame I took of Jean-Michel alone and of Jean-Michel and Andy Warhol together. Nothing was left out. This shows how little film I shot back in those days! Nick and I work together remotely--he's in London and I'm between Connecticut and Rome. Amazing how well this works.
1AN: I love that you’ve included every single frame, which, by the way, were taken almost 40 years ago! Why have you waited so long to publish them and why now?
JMB: I've been going through my archives for the past few years and decided I've kept all of this work to myself for way too long. The book that Nick Groarke and I published previous to JMB was a book of portraits I took of Cindy Sherman in 1985. Again, every single frame I took of Cindy was included in the book. I have a vast archive and we will continue making these books together. My photographs of Keith Haring will be an upcoming book--again all of the photographs were taken in one sitting.
1AN: Well, decades may have passed since you sat with the artists in the Factory, but I’m sure you remember it as if it were yesterday. How would you describe Basquiat's artistic evolution throughout his career, and why was the timeframe of 1984 - 1985 so significant?
JMB: Jean-Michel was at the height of his very brief career during this period. In fact, within three years of these photos, Jean-Michel would be dead. And Andy too.
1AN: Speaking of Warhol, what is revealed in your portraits of he and Basquiat together and how did you achieve this?
JMB: Jean-Michel and Andy were really great buddies and collaborators when I took that photo of them. They were getting a huge amount of energy from one another. The sad part is that shortly after, their friendship broke up because their collaborative paintings were not well received. So ironic--now everyone loves them.
1AN: The photos really do portray the “soul” of these artists. It’s clear they trusted you and felt comfortable. Word on the street is that you don't work with assistants and that you use minimal props? Is this true and if so, why?
JMB: This is true, except on a fashion shoot. When I take a portrait, I like to be alone with the subject to gain a sense of intimacy. And I use minimal props because I don't like to carry a lot of heavy stuff around with me. At the core, I'm a minimalist.
As we concluded our interview with Montgomery Barron, it is clear that JMB is a significant contribution to the legacy of two iconic figures in art history. Not only does the book showcase never-before-published portraits of Basquiat and Warhol, but it also presents an intimate glimpse into their friendship and artistic collaborations during a pivotal time in their careers.
Montgomery Barron's decision to publish every single frame she took highlights the value of having access to archives and not restricting the public's ability to view an artist's work. JMB serves as a testament to the enduring legacy of Basquiat and Warhol, and Montgomery Barron's esteemed portfolio of work. We look forward to future releases that showcase her archives and contributions to the art world.
Jeannette Montgomery Barron
Jeannette Montgomery Barron is a photographer. Born in Atlanta, GA, Montgomery Barron and studied at the International Center of Photography in New York.
Her works are held in numerous public and corporate collections, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, The Museum...