Fred W. McDarrah

Music, Art & Culture Photographer

Frederick William McDarrah (November 5, 1926 – November 6, 2007)

Born in Brooklyn, McDarrah bought his first camera at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. After leaving Boys High, he served as a U.S. Army paratrooper in Occupied Japan at the end of World War II, camera usually in hand. He earned a Journalism degree from New York University on the G.I. Bill.

He began to photograph the artists, writers, musicians, and actors who frequented the bars and coffee houses, art galleries and cafes in Greenwich Village not because he was assigned to, but because he wanted to document what he called, “The most colorful community of interesting people, fascinating places, and dynamic ideas.”

When a neighbor told Fred he was starting a newspaper, to be called The Village Voice, McDarrah signed on. He was associated with the paper for the rest of his life. He was for decades the paper’s only staff photographer and its first picture editor.

Before the Internet, there was McDarrah – the most curious, knowledgeable, and indefatigable chronicler of the New York scene over the second half of the 20th century. Combine that with the role of the Voice as the house organ of the counterculture, and you have a body of work that is unique, historic and still riveting to look at.

The Voice covered off-Broadway theater, political rallies and demonstrations that were virtually ignored by the mass media at the time–including the nascent Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War marches, the first Earth Day, and experimental theater.

Many of his subjects, often little known when McDarrah shot them, became cultural icons: Kerouac, Dylan, Koch, Warhol, Ginsberg, Hoffman (Dustin and Abbie!). Like McDarrah, they all were denizens, in one way or another, of Greenwich Village. The only thing that McDarrah took more pride in than his beloved New York was his family.

Many of his books, including The Beat Scene (1960), The Artists World (1961), Greenwich Village Guide (1963), New York, New York (1964) Museums in New York (1967), Stock Photo and Assignment Source Book (1977), Kerouac and Friends: A Beat Generation Album (1985), Gay Pride: Photos from Stonewall to Today (1994), Beat Generation Glory Days in Greenwich Village (1996), The Photo Encyclopedia (1999) and Anarchy Protest and Rebellion & The Counterculture that Changed America (2003), and Artists and Writers of the 60s and 70s (2006) were collaborations with his wife Gloria and sons Patrick and Timothy, who now proudly carry on his legacy.

The work of Fred W. McDarrah has been exhibited at hundreds of galleries and museums around the city, nation, and world: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Albright – Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Steven Kasher Gallery, New York; Tibor de Nagy, New York; Pace, New York; and is in numerous private and public collections including the National Portrait Gallery, Washington; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Among other honors he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a New York Press Page One award.

Click here to see the complete collection of McDarrah’s fine art photos.

Photo of Fred W. McDarrah credit: Abner Symmons