Friday, April 11, 2014

On the Passing of Leee Black Childers

On the Passing of Leee Black Childers

Leee Black Childers posing in NYC. 1990. 

I don’t remember exactly when I met Leee, but it had to be soon after I came to America, which was in 1974. In 1976, Charles had a show called POSTCARDS TO CHARLES HENRI FORD at the Iolas Gallery at 52 East 57th Street. Leee was the person who took the photograph for the invitation. In the years to come I took several portraits of him, and he was a frequent visitor to the Dakota. Very often he came for tea by himself, just to sit and talk. He also sometimes brought punk groups with him to meet Charles, and if memory serves, I think he brought Marianne Faithful to visit one day. 

In the 1990s, Charles took portraits of Leee as part of a photography series he made using projection. He rented a big loft on Greene Street for that purpose, and he’d ask whoever was coming to sit for him to bring slides along—their own work or something they liked—images which he would project onto the person and then photograph them. I think Leee brought slides of models he had photographed. After Charles photographed him, he gave him the contact sheets and the negatives so he could have prints made and Leee never returned them. So there are photos that Charles took of Leee, at least one or two contact sheets, somewhere in Leee’s archives. I just hope that all of his work will be preserved, by someone somewhere. You assume that it will be, but it’s not unusual for a person’s whole archive to end up in a dumpster. I hope his work will be preserved in a good place.

Leee Black Childers. 1995.
For a while, Charles and I saw a lot of him, and I’m quite sure we ran into him at Studio 54. I don’t remember him going around with a camera there. I think he mostly photographed people in the studio with his Hasselblad. That’s not the kind of camera you use to shoot on the street or in a club. I believe he used the Hasselblad to collect a lot of his stars back then, although I could be wrong about that. 

At some point after 1980, Leee went to London for some years, and eventually he came back to New York and began all over again. He would take photographs of celebrities and up-and-comers both. I remember running into him at the Limelight one night. Charles and I sat down with him and a blonde lady, who he introduced as his wife. He was a character. I remember running into him on 57th Street one day—I don’t recall now whether it was before or after Charles passed, but I ran into him on the street and he was wearing two completely different shoes on his feet. One foot with one colored shoe and the other with another. Since that I’ve wondered about what it signified. I’m sure he did it on purpose and I still wonder: what was the significance of that? I’d like to ask him, but now he’s gone.

I wish I had seen more of Leee. Charles liked him very much and I did too. We enjoyed his outgoing, friendly personality.  It was through Andy Warhol that we came to know him. Meeting Andy and the Warhol crowd was how Leee got his first opportunities to photograph all those people that he did, and in the collection Charles kept of postcards sent to him over the years is one from Leee: a portrait he took of Jackie Curtis posing as if ‘waiting for someone,’ you know, the way I used to see girls ‘waiting for someone’ along 42nd Street. 

Today I dug up the old invitation to Charles’s show at Iolas—a postcard—with the  photo Leee made of a crowd of people, including Ruth Ford, Ned Rorem, Holly Woodlawn, Charles, myself and quite a few others, and the message: “Having wonderful time—wish you were here! Charles Henri.”

Invitation card for "Postcard to Charles Henri Ford" show that used photo by Leee Black Childers. 1976. 

Quite a few of the people in that photo are still with us, but it feels like many of the people we knew in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s have been dying like flies lately. It was always wonderful to be in Leee’s company, and although we hadn’t been in touch for some time, I was very sorry to learn that he passed away. I will keep him in my memory. 

Leee Black Childers at Charles’ Apt at Dakota. 1979.

July 24, 1945 – April 6, 2014
May he rest in peace

Indra Tamang

Copyright Indra Tamang, 2014, all rights reserved. 


  1. Hi Indra,
    That looks like it could be Harold Stevenson (back, left) wearing the scarf. What do you think?