A Week in the Life of a Celebrity Photographer

A Week in the Life of a Celebrity Photographer

Notes from different corners of the world.
Sept. 18 1997 12:30 AM

A Week in the Life of a Celebrity Photographer

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       Ariel Kaminer and Patrick McMullanFrom his vantage at the top of the Guggenheim's spiral ramp, Patrick can see this was the wrong party to go to. As soon as he walked in he approached a publicist and asked, as he always does, if "there's anyone here I should know about," but her search for VIPs, which has taken them all the way up to this altitude, has yielded only a trustee or two. Patrick spots a dozen or so people she missed ("He's really good at this," she says, a bit unnerved), and glad-hands his way back to sea level, running into a model, a few artists, and some of his colleagues. "Say 'cheese,' " he tells one of them. "MI5 killed Princess Diana," the colleague answers.
       Stephanie Seymour and Peter BrandtOn his way to the taxi queue he runs into Barbara Leary, then Kenny Scharf and Bruno somebody, who are rarely in New York, then Peter Brandt and Stephanie Seymour. That cheers him up a bit, but Patrick is still annoyed that he wasted 40 minutes in a cab for so little payoff. And now he realizes he's going to have to skip the anniversary party for Kirshenbaum & Bond, the hipster ad agency, which he'd been hoping to squeeze in. "It gets to the point where I don't worry I'll get bad pictures, 'cause I'll get good pictures anywhere. I just worry who I'll end up offending the most."
       Tonight the person he's most reluctant to offend is Ingrid Sischy, the editor of Interview magazine, who is hosting an intime dinner 120 blocks to the south. Filling the tiny upper floor of the Independent, it is the party circuit's rarest species: an event not staged for the exclusive purpose of publicity. Rather, it is a private honor for Karl Lagerfeld, and every one of the 40 or so guests present is a boldface name. Patrick, who's been invited as a longtime friend of the magazine, not a hired lens (photographers are out right now, Sischy reportedly told an assistant), is careful as he takes his camera out and casually snaps a few shots.
       Parties like this are the very hardest kind to shoot. Patrick has to walk a line between participating in their quiet interactions and recording them, without being obtrusive or tacky. He asks Cindy Sherman if she dresses up for Halloween (she doesn't) and tells her about the time he and a friend dressed up as the photographer Steven Meisel and Madonna, and went to a party--a Visionaire party, actually--and fooled so many paparazzi that they ended up in newspapers across Europe. As she laughs about it, he snaps a few shots of her and tells a few more stories. Some time later Sischy warns Patrick that Sherman "freaks out" if she's photographed, and not to do so under any circumstances.
       But socially, this is the kind of event that makes Patrick happiest: A party that's both incredibly glamorous and completely unhurried. Feeling very happy, he tells his table about the old days, when his friend Andy Warhol ran the magazine. Back then, Patrick hadn't yet made a name for himself. He was just a charismatic kid on the scene who'd been told he'd soon die of cancer.
       Kravitz, Waters, and MaxwellCrystal Waters confesses a bashful desire to meet soul crooner Maxwell, who's sitting over by the window between Lenny Kravitz (another singer) and Karl Lagerfeld. She--the dance floor diva--is too shy to introduce herself. So Patrick takes her by the hand and strolls over. He insists they all get in a picture together, then another, and then he says to Maxwell, "You know the fabulous Crystal Waters, don't you?" Maxwell smiles and invites her to sit beside him and talk. In the world of celebrity traffic control, it ranks as one of the smoothest landings of all time. Waters' friend, a young, beautiful fellow who's been watching it all unfold, comes over and asks Patrick if he'd like to come along after dinner. They'd been thinking of stopping by Life to see what the scene was like. Patrick thanks him for the invitation, but declines. He'd love to, but it's been a hell of a week. And it's getting rather late. He ought to get home. The film crew is waiting.
      

Ariel Kaminer is a contributing editor at New York magazine. Patrick McMullan is a free-lance photographer.