Trust me, love, there’s a lot more to it than just ‘point and shoot.’
Come on in and meet my sweet gentleman-of-a-friend, Patrick McMullan. Patrick, who lives in New York City, is one of the greatest celebrity, society and party photographers in the world.
His party photographs of the famous and fabulous have appeared in just about every media outlet from T: The New York Times Style Magazine and Harper’s Bazaar to Vogue and Vanity Fair, where he’s a contributing editor.
His six books, including So80s, a photographic diary of behind-the-velvet-ropes 1980s nightlife, are an absolute must-have for anyone who loves the party life. Given that Patrick’s been photographing events for more than 30 years, it’s no wonder that he’s considered one of the most important visual archivists of American nightlife. Grab your gimlet and join our tete-a-tete. I’m going to ask Patrick about his work, his favorite photos and the best advice he ever received from Andy Warhol.
Patrick, you’ve probably been to more parties in the last 30 years than anyone in the world. How have parties changed over the decades?
They haven’t really. A party’s still a party. Some are good, and some are not good. If anything, they’re more planned out now. The spontaneity is missing.
What’s your favorite party photo of all time?
I don’t know, but it’s never of people, believe it or not. It was probably a photo of my son’s birthday party when he was a kid.
What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?
My 46th birthday party at Cipriani Wall Street. Amazing.
What party moment do you most wish you’d captured on film?
The last supper with Jesus. It always pains me that I missed it.
Irving Penn used to tell his models to say “Thursday” to get the best, most natural smile. What do you tell your subjects to say?
I always tell them to say “cheese”!
What are your top tips for looking great in a party photo?
Establish a firm footing, lean forward, touch the people next to you and smile. This way a fake smile can easily turn into a real one. And right before the photo fix the hair. Definitely fix the hair.
What’s the best way to ask a celebrity for a picture?
What’s the best thing to do if you’re stuck in an awkward photo moment?
Close your eyes. This way the photo is never going to be used.
I know that you and Andy Warhol were close friends until his death in 1987 and he’s the one who encouraged your interest in photographing celebrities. What’s the best advice he ever gave you?
Always have a camera on you.
All photos: Patrick McMullan