During his 50-year association with the Village Voice – the world's most famous alternative newspaper and the house organ of the post-war counterculture – McDarrah amassed an archive of over 250,000 images that are an encyclopedic catalog of the people, places, movements, trends and events of the New York scene across the second half of the 20th century.
So many individuals and groups came to the gallery shows, and staffers were peppered on a daily basis with so many questions about the photos and the changing face of Greenwich Village and the convulsions of the culture that McDarrah captured... The exhibition ended, but the interest in the Village in the '60s and McDarrah's documentation of the changing scene did not wane one bit.
Now, tour-goers get a multi-postcard set of some of the most iconic of McDarrah's images and see the exact same places today, including the townhouse on West 11th St. blown up by the Weather Underground, Electric Lady studios, the Stonewall Inn, Christopher Park, Judson Church and Washington Square Park. Plus inside stories from licensed guides, all New York City natives.
Other tours in the Save the Village series include The Beats and Bob Dylan, Stonewall, The Artists World and The East Village.
If Greenwich Village is the historic home of the counter-culture, then the East Village can be called famous for its off-the-counter culture. On this tour, see where Chicago 8 defendant Jerry Rubin paraded down St. Mark's Place with a machine gun; the Polish catering hall where the Velvet Underground played its first gigs, the original home of the Fillmore East concert hall, and more.
The Artist's World tour is based on a 1961 McDarrah book that is often the sole visual record of a special time and place in the history of American art. The tour visits the East 10th St. gallery row where Willem de Kooning had
his studio and the nearby neighborhood places where artists including Franz Kline, Ad Reinhardt, Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner, and Adolph Gottlieb lived, worked, played, exhibited and famously drank.
The Stonewall tour was first conducted in June 2017 for Gay Pride Month, and proved to be such a success that it has become the first and only regularly scheduled, guided and illustrated walking tour on the Village's LGBTQ history.
As the photographer for the Village Voice, the only (somewhat) mainstream media outlet on Earth paying serious and respectful attention to gay issues and events in the 1960s and 1970s, Fred W. McDarrah amassed what is generally regarded as the largest collection of gay-themed documentary photos taken by one individual, ever. Stops on the tour range from Eleanor Roosevelt's residence to the dance club where the first mirrored glitter ball is said to have hung from the ceiling.
McDarrah images have become the signature photos of what is now inclusively referred to as LGBTQ+ history; his photos were featured by the Barack Obama White House in the video announcing the Stonewall National Monument in 2016 (https://youtu.be/ywtvJyXDWkk), hang in the National Portrait Gallery and are in hundreds of public and private collections.
The Beats and Bob Dylan tour will visit the coffee houses, clubs, and other venues (some remaining, some not) where Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Peter Orlovsky, Diane DiPrima, Gregory Corso and William S. Burroughs made literary history. And when Dylan met Ginsberg in Eli Wilentz' apartment above the 8th St. Bookshop in 1963, the two began a lifelong friendship. Dylan was well familiar with the Beat poets when he left Minnesota for Greenwich Village in 1961. The tour stops at the MacDougal Street club were Dylan first performed, the bars he frequented and often performed at, some of his Village homes, hangouts and hideouts, and Pete Seeger's longtime MacDougal Street home.
In addition, all tours are available for private bookings; custom or combination tours can be arranged.
Fred W. McDarrah (1926-2007)
Born in Brooklyn, McDarrah bought his first camera at the 1939 World’s Fair in New York City. After leaving Boys High, he served as a U.S. Army paratrooper in Occupied Japan at the end of World War II, camera usually in hand. He earned a Journalism degree from New York University on the G.I. Bill.
He began to photograph the artists, writers, musicians, and actors who frequented the downtown bars and coffee houses, art galleries and cafes, sit-ins, love-ins, be-ins and teach-ins not because he was assigned to, but because he wanted to document what he called, "The most colorful community of interesting people, fascinating places, and dynamic ideas."
When a neighbor named Dan Wolf told Fred he was starting a newspaper, to be called The Village Voice, McDarrah signed on. He was associated with the paper for the rest of his life. He was for decades the paper’s only staff photographer and its first picture editor.
Before the Internet, there was McDarrah - the most curious, knowledgeable, and indefatigable chronicler of the New York scene over the second half of the 20th century. Combine that with the role of the Voice as the house organ of the post-war counterculture, and you have a body of work that is unique, historic and still riveting to look at.
The Village Voice covered off-Broadway theater, political rallies and demonstrations that were virtually ignored by the mass media at the time - including the nascent Women’s Rights, Gay Rights, Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War marches, the first Earth Day, and experimental theater.
Many of his subjects, often little known when McDarrah shot them, became cultural icons: Kerouac, Dylan, Koch, Warhol, Ginsberg, Hoffman (Dustin and Abbie!). Like McDarrah, they all were denizens, in one way or another, of Greenwich Village. The only thing that McDarrah took more pride in than his beloved New York was his family.
Many of his books, including The Beat Scene (1960), The Artists World (1961), Greenwich Village Guide (1963), New York, New York (1964) Museums in New York (1967), Stock Photo and Assignment Source Book (1977), Kerouac and Friends: A Beat Generation Album (1985), Gay Pride: Photos from Stonewall to Today (1994), Beat Generation Glory Days in Greenwich Village (1996), The Photo Encyclopedia (1999), Anarchy Protest and Rebellion & The Counterculture that Changed America (2003), and Artists and Writers of the 60s and 70s (2006) were collaborations with his wife and sons, who now proudly carry on his legacy.
The work of Fred W. McDarrah has been exhibited at hundreds of galleries and museums around the city, nation, and world: the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Albright - Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Steven Kasher Gallery, New York; Tibor de Nagy, New York; Pace, New York; and is in numerous private and public collections including the National Portrait Gallery, Washington; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Among other honors he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a New York Press Page One award.
Although McDarrah’s work often hung on gallery walls, critics considered him more photojournalist than artist, an assessment with which he cheerfully agreed. “If somebody called me a fine arts photographer I’d laugh them out of the room,” he told The East Hampton Star in 1999. But over time, his photos, both for their subject, historical significance and technical achievement, more and more became regarded as fine art.
Steven Kasher Gallery has represented his estate since 2001.
McDarrah's New York Times obituary: