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Goodbye...DUCHESS OF CARNEGIE
Perhaps it was her free-spirit that she became one of artist Andy Warhol's muses. On November 1, 2013, Editta Sherman, famous for photographs of celebrities died at the age of 101. Born in Philadelphia, her father, an immigrant from Italy was also a portrait photographer. By the age of 10 she was familiar with the darkroom and started her own wedding shoots at the age of 16.
For 61 years, she lived in a studio/penthouse above Carnegie Hall which was an artist's paradise. A fiery Italian, she fought for artists that were fighting eviction from century-old studios right above Carnegie Hall. The number of her penthouse studio was 1208, with clients ranging from Elvis Presley and Joe DiMaggio to Tilda Swinton.
A note on her website reads: "Editta Sherman's vibrant sparkling life faded from this earth on November 1st, All Saints Day. She is at peace now and she is clothed in her ballerina dress with her diamond shoes dancing her way home to our hearts."
She made her income by taking photographs of celebrities - from dancers to actors, from sports stars to writers in one of two towers that Andrew Carnegie built. The towers were for artists - an enclave that was affordable. Celebrities such as Robert Redford, Grace Kelly studied acting there and Leonard Bernstein (famous for his West Side Story musical) wrote his music in the towers as well.
THEY CALLED HER THE DUCHESS OF CARNEGIE HALL The Boston Globe newspaper described her as the "long-reigning matriarch of a colony that percolated with singing, dancing and literary life." She was the grande dame of Carnegie Hall Towers.
It all started in 1949 when Mrs. Sherman saw an ad in a newspaper. She recalled, "New York, it says: Live and work in Carnegie Hall." So above West 57th Street, there was an apartment for rent. This was the hub of classical, jazz and popular music. Carnegie built over 100 studios for artists, writers and musicians. A great find, Mrs. Sherman, her husband and four children took possession of this apartment. High ceilings, enormous skylight, windows facing Central park - all for $150.00 a month.
The "Duchess" was already supporting her family through her portrait photography when her husband died. In time, celebrities of Who's Who of Broadway, Hollywood, literary stars became her clients.
AVANT GARDE She dressed flamboyantly, ahead of her time. Perhaps it was her eccentric and artistic personality that Warhol wanted her to be his muse among others. She was also a model and muse for photographer Bill Cunningham, for his 1978 book Facades. As to her own collection, she has over 2,500 portraits of stars and celebrities displayed in her apartment.
But In 2010, she and others were forced out in a landlord-tenant battle. Carnegie officials argued they needed the space for educational purposes and found new apartments for them.
MONEY OVER ARTISTS The Carnegie Hall Corporation however, wanted to demolish the studios and create educational/recreational spaces. The Duchess was being evicted. She fought for 3 years but gave up. She then moved to a subsidized Central Park.
One of her famous book of portraits is titled "Studio 1208: Camera Studies by Editta Sherman."