Patrick McMullan in his backyard

It was one of those New York moments. Artist David Foox called me to catch an event at Cooper Union, which was apparently harder to get into than Soho House. So instead we decided to go to Soho House. I insisted on being green and we happened to walk by  Patrick McMullan’s studio. McMullan is a good friend of Foox and had just received some of his Follow rabbit pieces we had seen in Foox’s post-apocalpytic Wall Street studio space.

McMullan is an American photographer, most well-known for his work on celebrities–rooted in his days at Studio 54. But like most New Yorkers, his story is not what you expect–Untapped, even. His catalog is not like yours or mine–Aamoth to Aoki, Barton to Blass, Bridges to Cary, Clooney to Dicaprio.  His studio is full of Mac computers sitting beneath some of the photographs he’s taken over the years.

He just moved into the space above his studio and was in the midst of unpacking, deciding on how to hang Foox’s  pieces and teaching his childhood friend how to use the dishwasher (or was it the other way around?). In fact, there were two friends hanging out from high school. “I wasn’t cool,” McMullan says. “I’d show up [at Studio 54] with a briefcase that said NYU business school. Margie had to get me in.” One of his earlier cameras was sent to him by Andy Warhol. An Olympus XA, small enough to bring to parties. It cost $200 at a time when his rent was $120.

The photos in his book so8os: A Photographic Diary of a Decade reads like a who’s who, with photos of Madonna, Jack Nicholson, Warhol, Basquiat, River Phoenix, Michael J. Fox. A complete list would take paragraphs. He kept a low profile though–the small camera from Warhol helped. He also shot with a Canon Sureshot, a 35mm and a Nikon in addition to the Olympus.

These days, the pace is a little slower even though he is still just as much in demand as he ever was. The night we saw him, he was invited to photograph the GLAAD awards.  He’s maxed out the number of friends he’s allowed to have on Facebook, at 5000, but he really just enjoys sitting on his patio or watching the show Hoarders. “They don’t have it on demand, he laments.”

The view upwards from his patio

On this balmy summer evening, we sat on his new patio talking about the old days and new. Should they go see Cowboys and Aliens? There were amazing garage sales in Texas. The office building just across the way was Google–can you imagine how many computers there were inside?  Could someone demonstrate some cool acrobatic tricks?

He then let us wander around his studio and apartment, photographing what we wanted. We exited through the front door of his new place, wondering if it was time to call it a night.

“Fasten your seat belts, it’s going to be a bumpy night” – Bette Davis, on a pillow held by artist David Foox

Rabbit painting by David Slonim

Photography books by McMullan:

so8os: A Photographic Diary of a Decade

Glamour Girls

Kiss Kiss

Secrets of the Riviera: A Photo Essay

Men’s Show

Get in touch with the author @untappedmich.