Photographer, author, vagabond. Christopher Makos has been training his eye on the world’s stage since he came to this earth, creating an understanding of life that integrates everything into a cohesive whole. Whether people, places, or things, Makos’ gift is his ability to embrace them all as subjects of beauty befitting himself. For Makos is nothing if not a presence, a force to be reckoned with.
The author of 21 monographs. Makos’ work has been exhibited around the world since 1975. He first burst onto the photography scene with his 1977 book White Trash, which was recently re-released by Glitterati Incorporated in a deluxe edition titled White Trash Uncut. The book, at once raw and luxurious, chronicled the New York City pink scene, interspersed with portraits of Uptown Boldface names.
Makos 21st monograph, Everything: The Black and White Monograph (Glitterati Incorporated), is a sumptuous retrospective of three decades in the artist’s illustrious career. Weighing in at 352 pages, with 248 photographs, Everything is printed in quadrotone for the richest, most effective reproduction of Makos’ work. The oldest photograph in the book was a taken in 1973. It is a single foot set bare upon the beach in Ditch Plains, Montauk, New York. The journey of a thousand miles had begun. Everything stands as a testament to a life lived in the present tense, forever creating itself anew with every click of the lens.
Everything will launch at Lord & Taylor, New York, on Thursday, October 9 from 6-8pm. Hosted by Manhattan magazine, the event will include a book signing, as well as a fashion presentation, fashion style, a photo booth, grooming stations, and a live DJ. All are welcome to attend, and to RSVP with the subject line “Everything” to firstname.lastname@example.org
Everything can be seen as a photo-biography, if you will. Here are portraits, landscapes, nudes, snapshots, studio shots, cars, dogs, horses, from Fire Island to Ascot, Mallorca to Moscow, Morocco to Puerta Vallarta, Giza to Palm Springs, as well as portraits of everyone from Elizabeth Taylor to Queen Elizabeth II, from Man Ray to Jean-Michel Basquiat, from Tennessee Williams to John Lennon.
The Lord & Taylor launch is the only New York public appearance Makos will be making this Fall, as he tours the world presenting his original collaborations with Ports 1961 and Kiehl’s, featuring some of his most iconographic images. He chats with The Chic about his life in photography.
Makos recalls, “I was always interested in anything visual. Growing up alone, an only child in Lowell, Massachusetts, I think I was always looking outside of my own world. In the beginning it was just about looking at things. then I started to want to hold onto these things that I looked at, like capturing butterflies with a net. Taking pictures of things would be a way to hold on to them, so I started to play with the camera.
“When I first came to New York City I was playing in all kinds of arts. I acted in a play. I did some things with music. I wrote poetry. What emerged from all these things, where I could have the most control and where I could see the results of what I did was photography. Acting, music, poetry: you need a public forum to say it or print it. Photography is where I had control. I liked that, and ended up there.
“I began taking photographs of everything in front of me. Of building, objects, things, of people I would meet in the West Village where I lived. It was easy to connect with people, with actors and writers who were interesting at that time. New York was a much more simple world; it was less complicated than the electronic world we are living in. It was an innocent time, and much more naïve.
“Everything was happening at that magical moment in time. Real estate was inexpensive and you could come to New York an open shop. You could apprentice with Warhol or with Halston. People came, lived, works, and practiced here.
“Travel has been an integral p-art of my life. I need to see the world firsthand and not see it through the news media or second hand sources. It is so important in my life. My neighborhood has become the world. Like right now I am doing this interview from Paris at the Hotel Vendome. That is very chic, isn’t it.
“For me, chic is a matter of personal style. Very few people have it. You don’t just pick it up in a magazine. You either have it o you don’t. Visually, it’s about a person’s aura. It could be a young person, an old person, any person at all, a person at a party of on the street, thee is something going on with them. There can be beauty anywhere.”
Indeed, that beauty can be found in Makos’ photographs, photographs that forever capture the ephemeral and grace us with their eternal presence. The pleasure of instant gratification met, time and time again, is at the heart of Makos work. As he reveals, “The thing that really excites me about photography is the immediacy of it. How can you capture an image or see a person or an object or a place or a thing? If you have the right camera and the right eye, you can capture it and you can have it for a while in your possession. You don’t really own it but it’s sort of on loan to you. And so for me, especially in today’s world, because I came from the world of analogue photography and now being in the world of digital photography, the sense of immediacy is so much more enhanced, it’s much like the idea of having an abstract idea. Photographing that abstract idea and then actually making it concrete or touchable or seeable is just minutes away from the original thought. Before, you would have to take film to a lab and have it developed. Usually from idea to finish line it was maybe two or three days, but today it’s just a few minutes.
“I love photography because it’s like being a psychotherapist. When I photograph people it’s so interesting to see their responses and their reactions. You often have to calm them down or bring them to a place that is comfortable for them and for you to capture them. People often say that when they come to my studio I put them at ease, at least enough to let their authentic inner personality shine. It is this interaction between me and my subject that I enjoy so much. I like doing portraits of people because it is intimate, it is singular, just between me and the subject, not like photographing crowd shots and all that.
“Photography became an integral part of my life. Putting the camera between my eyes and the world made me a participant in it. I look at things. I see things. It’s the natural way. Pictures prove that I have a life. It’s an amazing life whether it was flying back and forth to Paris on the Concorde, or flying with Malcolm Forbes to Istanbul, riding around on motorcycles, or going to Russia on Calvin Klein’s plane. I don’t look back—sure, I love memories. Nostalgia has a place and sometimes a certain song or a certain picture will evoke something that will take you into that world. But for me, the most important moment is the moment that I’m experiencing right now, in front of the camera with you.”