Nat Finkelstein

Andy Warhol & Bob Dylan

Andy Warhol & Bob Dylan

Nat Finkelstein was the house photographer for the Factory from 1964 to 1967, Mr. Finkelstein created spontaneous portraits not only of Factory regulars like Sedgwick and Gerard Malanga but also of the artists and celebrities who drifted in and out of the Warhol orbit. 

He was on hand when Warhol presented Bob Dylan with one of his Elvis “Flaming Star” silk-screen portraits, and took pictures of Allen Ginsberg and Salvador Dalí. He captured Sedgwick and Nico, of the Velvet Underground, at their most glamorous, and photographed the first Velvet Underground performances and recording sessions.

Nathan Louis Finkelstein was born in Brooklyn on Jan. 16, 1933 and grew up in Coney Island. Mr. Finkelstein got an internship with Alexey Brodovitch, the legendary art director of Harper’s Bazaar. Fashion journalism led to photojournalism and early assignments for Sports Illustrated covering bridge tournaments, dog shows and fencing matches.

After being signed up by the Pix and Black Star photo agencies, he made a specialty of chronicling subcultures in the United States, an interest that led him to Warhol’s factory and later to cover antiwar rallies, civil rights marches and the emerging counterculture.

In 1964, while attending a party at the Factory, Mr. Finkelstein met Warhol, who had seen his 1962 Pageant magazine photographs of a Claes Oldenburg happening in Greenwich Village. Intrigued by the scene, Mr. Finkelstein offered his services and for the next three years was a constant presence at the Factory, whose activities he recorded in four books: “The Andy Warhol Index” (1967), compiled with Warhol; “Andy Warhol: The Factory Years, 1964-1967” (1989); “Andy Warhol: A Portfolio” (1990); and, with David Dalton, “Edie Factory Girl” (2006).

A political radical, Mr. Finkelstein became involved with the Black Panthers and in 1969, after a warrant was issued for his arrest in connection with an old drug case, he fled the United States, saying he was worried that the government might assassinate him. He spent the next decade traveling the hippie trail to Katmandu, selling hashish to support himself.

In 1982 he returned to the United States but became addicted to cocaine, traveling frequently to Bolivia to nourish his habit. He also managed the post-punk noise group Khmer Rouge, whose members he used as photographic subjects.

After weaning himself from drugs in 1989, he resumed his photography career in earnest. His portraits of women were collected in “Girlfriends” (1993). Still drawn to subcultures, he spent time in the 1990’s with the club kids who clustered around the Manhattan dance club Limelight, a night-life posse whose doings he recorded in the book “Merry Monsters” (1993).