In his essay “Echoes of the Jazz Age,” F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that, by 1926, society “had divided into two main streams, one flowing toward Palm Beach and Deauville and the other, much smaller, toward the summer Riviera.” Fifty years later, during the first week of September in 1981, British photographer Steve Wood showed up on the coast of Normandy to snap the celebrities who were attending the Deauville American Film Festival for the Daily Express of London, and found that same festive element still streaming in. Amid the glittering red-carpet arrivals of Rock Hudson and Clint Eastwood, the then-35-year-old Wood happened upon his friend Elaine Kaufman, famed proprietor of the New York City restaurant Elaine’s, staying at his hotel. Kaufman, who was in Deauville on her honeymoon, introduced Wood to her friend Andy Warhol and encouraged him to shoot some portraits of the artist. “I think Warhol saw himself lost at a film festival,” remembers Wood. “There was no interest in him.”
Wood, a second-generation photographer who had sold his first picture to a newspaper at age 11 and who had already snapped an iconic portrait of Princess Diana before her marriage to Prince Charles, was admittedly less than starstruck at the prospect of shooting the pop personality. “It’s a bit like Picasso. I’m aware that he’s a great artist, but I’ve never been impressed by him personally,” Wood says. “I’d studied art and was always more into Van Gogh and the classics.” Still, Wood spent a free afternoon photographing the then-53-year-old—and notoriously guarded—Warhol, capturing an openness and vulnerability the artist rarely exhibited. “He seemed to be quite pleased with the way I looked at the light,” Wood recalls. “I suppose I photograph people the way he himself would like to be photographed: clear and crisp with no veil.”
A journalist who accompanied Wood didn’t see a reason to interview Warhol for the festival so there was never any call to publish the images. The slides then went into one of Wood’s filing cabinets in London, where they sat until 2012, when photographer David Munns, who shares studio space with Wood, got to talking about Warhol. “David said, ‘You’ve never met him, have you?'” Wood recounts. “I said, ‘Of course I have!’ David said, ‘Go on, prove it then.’ So I went to the files.” From a file marked “W” emerged the incredible, never-before-seen pictures that make up the show “Lost Then Found,” opening at New York’s 345meatpacking this month, with color shots of Warhol posing with, among other props, a yellow sunflower, a September 1981 issue of Interview, and his own purple nylon backpack.
Astonishingly, according to Munns, Wood was blasé about the pictures. He still didn’t think they were worth anything. “I told him they were great and that they had to be seen,” Munns says.