William John Kennedy - Woodbury House
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William John Kennedy

Photographer of Andy Warhol before he was famous

WILLIAM
JOHN KENNEDY

“William John Kennedy is a part of my life and work daily. His portrait of Warhol looking out through the Marilyn Acetate dominates the lobby of the Andy Warhol museum, reproduced in a giant print. It is the backdrop for the casual snaps of the thousands of tourists who visit the museum. The image has become our informal emblem. Sometimes when I leave late at night, I turn back and see the illuminated photo through the museum’s windows. In those moments, Kennedy works his magic of turning a photograph into a time machine capable of transporting us back to a moment when we were young and triumphant.”

Source: Patrick Moore | The Andy Warhol Museum | Director.

WILLIAM JOHN KENNEDY

William John Kennedy (1930-2021) was born in Glen Cove, New York. Orphaned as a young child he was raised with his older sister by his aunt and uncle in Garden City. After high school Kennedy enrolled at Syracuse University to study fine art. His studies were interrupted by the Korean War where he served as a Paratrooper making over 35 jumps. He was honorably discharged as a Master Sergeant.

When Kennedy returned to the states he moved to NYC to a studio on 23rd Street. He began working as a photographic assistant and studio manager for the renowned Vogue fashion photographer Clifford Coffin. After his time with Coffin, Kennedy launched his own commercial career and became a very successful freelance advertising agency photographer.

In the early 1960s Kennedy met Robert Indiana and subsequently Andy Warhol. Kennedy’s extraordinary 1960s photographs of these two artists at the seminal early part of their careers lay in storage for nearly 50 years. The film was rediscovered by Kennedy in the early 2000s. This amazing body of work reveals a story of the pivotal moments and players who shaped the course of American art in the second half of the 20th century, including Andy Warhol, Robert Indiana, James Rosenquist, Roy Lichtenstein, Henry Geldzahler, Dorothy Miller, Claes Oldenburg and Eleanor Ward. A selection of Kennedy’s rare and newly published images premiered during Art Basel Miami.

Kennedy’s photographic career thrived throughout the 1960s and beyond with his work appearing in publications such as LIFE Magazine and Sports Illustrated. In the commercial arena he created national and international campaigns for corporate clients including Avon, GE, IBM, RJR Nabisco, American Express, and Xerox.

Throughout his professional life, Kennedy has pursued his passion for fine art photography and developed a full body of work. Kennedy’s photographs are included in over 15 museums collections around the world, including the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.