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In Memoriam : David McCabe (1940-2021)


By Amy Paulsen

David McCabe, Warhol Chronicler and Fashion Photography Eminence, Has Passed On.

David McCabe (1940-2021), the photographer who famously documented a year in the life of a young Andy Warhol, has died near his home in Rennselaerville, New York.

Born in 1940 in Leicester, England, McCabe was raised in the shadow of WW2 bomber planes, educated in graphic design and photography, and sent to New York to fulfill his promise as a prize-winning photographer.

In 1963, at the age of 23, he received his first big assignment, from Condé Nast. His career took off. And then, it took a turn for the strange.

McCabe’s work had caught the eye of Warhol, who was looking for a photographer to shadow him as he made his mark on New York’s nascent Pop art scene. The gig went to McCabe.

By day, McCabe worked at his Midtown studio; afterward, he’d wander over to Warhol’s famed Factory to see where the night would take him, tagging along as Warhol partied with the likes of William Burroughs, Mick Jagger, Rudolf Nureyev, Judy Garland, and Salvador Dalí.

“Looking back, I didn’t realize what a fantastic opportunity I’d been given,” said McCabe in an interview with Dazed magazine last fall. “I was 24; I was just an aspiring photographer, and all of these people were pretty strange to me.”

The assignment ended after one year, at which point McCabe had amassed more than 2,500 photographs. Warhol didn’t have a plan for them, so McCabe stashed them in a file cabinet and forgot about them—for nearly 40 years.

In 2001, he was contacted by the director of the Warhol Museum, who had heard rumor of the buried treasure. Their conversation ultimately resulted in the 2003 book “A Year in the Life of Andy Warhol” (Phaidon), a surprisingly intimate portrait of one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.

McCabe’s photography career flourished, uninterrupted, for much of his life—though he did indulge an entrepreneurial whim in the 1970s, when he bought the Shelter Island House, a hotel on Long Island best known for the wild parties McCabe threw in its British-style pub, the Earl of Stirling.

McCabe’s images have appeared in the pages of LIFE, Harper’s Bazaar, Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, The Times of London, The Guardian, and The New York Times Magazine. His work has been shown in museums and galleries around the world. Most recently, he had found inspiration photographing landscapes in and around the tiny Catskills hamlet of Rensselaerville, his home for the past 15 years.

Throughout his life, McCabe was an avid sailor. He loved to cruise Long Island’s bays with his family; in 2001, he and his wife, Susan Cipolla, took their baby, Lily, on a year-long sailing sabbatical to the Bahamas.

McCabe is survived—and missed dearly—by Susan and Lily; and by his son, Mathew (from his first marriage); daughter-in-law, Kim; grandsons, Jake and Lucas; and his brother, Robert.

Amy Paulsen

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