Billy Name: 'The man who turned The Factory silver'

1960s Andy Warhol Billy Name contemporary art Edie Sedgwick Lou Reed New York photography The Factory

Billy Name in the Silver Factory, 1964

“Billy’s photos were the only thing that ever came close to capturing the feel of the 1960s Silver Factory”—Andy Warhol

Billy Name was not a trained photographer when, in 1963, Andy Warhol thrust a 35mm Honeywell Pentax into his hands and told him to start taking pictures. ‘Billy you do the stills,’ the artist told him. ‘I’m gonna do films.’ Billy had to make a covert visit to a camera shop the next day to find a manual for the camera, but he soon picked up the knack. He transformed a bathroom into a darkroom and got to work.

Andy Warhol by Billy Name

Like many Factory regulars, Billy, born Billy Linich, was rechristened by Warhol—his name chosen as a playful inversion of the instructions on an application form (Billy: Name). The pair had first met in 1959 at legendary queer New York hangout Serendipity 3, where Marilyn Monroe and Jackie Kennedy were counted among the glamorous clientele. They quickly became lovers and creative collaborators.

Andy Warhol by Billy Name

Though he wasn’t a photographer pre-Warhol, Name was a hairdresser and a set designer, both of which explain his other great aesthetic contribution to the legacy of the Factory: all that silver. According to the Guardian, the idea to decorate the space in the silver foil we associate it with today began when Name began hosting ‘hairdressing parties’ in his loft, covering the walls and furnishings with tin foil and silver because he couldn’t afford wallpaper. When Warhol came over for a haircut he was wowed by the effect and asked Name to recreate the set at his Factory.

Lou Reed by Billy Name, 1967

Name is most famous for capturing some of the great shots of New York artistic life. Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground looming tall. Nico bathed in glowing light. Edie Sedgwick in chandelier earrings and her signature black tights. Bob Dylan preparing for a screen test.

Nico by Lou Reed, 1967

His social connectedness was to be short-lived, however. Increasingly anxious due to a rocketing amphetamine addition, after a few years Name became a practical recluse within the Factory—he would stay in his darkroom for days on end, only surfacing for supplies when no one else was around. Eventually, he vanished altogether, leaving only a note behind: ‘Dear Andy, I am not here any more, but I am fine. With love, Billy.’

Edie Sedgwick by Billy Name, 1965

As Vogue points out, Name was not the only photographer to have captured the Silver Factory. A young Stephen Shore, for instance, also documented the space and its lively cast of characters. But he was, perhaps, the only one to have really lived the Factory—to have been part of its very fibres. Warhol’s Superstars did not perform for Name’s lens (at least, any more than they performed for one another).

'Superboy' drinking Coca Cola by Bill Name, 1967

His role also far surpassed that of in-house photographer and became something more akin to Andy’s bodyguard. ‘I would always be there as the foreman, always making sure that it remained the art piece which made everyone want to be there,’ he recalled. ‘I could handle these temperamental and vicious people because I was one of them, but quiet.’ Name was there for the highs, the lows, and even the shootings: when Valerie Solanas pierced Warhol’s lung with three gunshots from a .32 revolver in 1968, it was Name who cradled his dear friend as he lay in a pool of blood, waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

Andy Warhol by giant inflatable Baby Ruth bars, 1966

Name passed away only this week, 18 July 2016, long outliving many of the Factory’s most brilliant stars, including Warhol himself. In the years following his departure from the Factory he travelled the US extensively, taking in New Orleans and California, growing a beard, writing concrete poetry, converting to Buddhism and dropping out on ‘the culture’. Though he had long since walked away from that crowd, his death puts a little more distance between us and that magical moment of sixties New York, now gradually receding from view.

Rosa Abbott / @VertovVertov

Want more? View additional imagery on our Billy Name Pinterest board!

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