Screen Test 3 Edie Sedgwick
In August 1962, Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987) began making silkscreen paintings of popular icons, including a series of images of Marilyn Monroe that he began a month after her death. He went on to experiment in portrait making with public photo booth machines, which automatically take four exposures several seconds apart and print them in a strip, like a sequence of film frames.
Combining the seriality of these silkscreen and photo booth portraits with the ephemeral quality of the filmed image, between 1964 and 1966 Warhol shot approximately 500 rolls of film: several-minute silent portraits of acquaintances, friends, and celebrities, including many of the artists musicians, poets, actors, models, playwrights, curators, collectors, critics, and gallerists who composed New York City’s avant-garde scene. Some subjects were invited to the artist’s East 47th Street studio, known as The Factory or The Silver Factory, to sit for their portraits; others were captured spontaneously. At times Warhol left his subjects alone with the camera, creating a heightened sense of vulnerability that is perceptible in the films. His first subjects, seated before a sterile backdrop, were asked not to move or speak (later portraits were shot under more flexible conditions). These films, known as “stillies” around the Factory, were also referred to by Warhol as Living Portrait Boxes, and, later, as Screen Tests.
Warhol shot the portraits at the standard speed for sound film (24 frames per second), but specified that they should be projected at a 16 frames per second, the conventional projection speed for silent films in the early period of cinema. The result is an unusually slow fluidity of pace, a rhythm gently at odds with the large-scale close-ups, which are rendered almost abstract by stark contrasts of light and shadow. The images, still yet moving, play in a continuous loop, bearing a timeless presence.