The Camera Turns: Patrick McMullan’s Birthday

You’ve seen his photo credit hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times. Patrick McMullan has been documenting the red carpets, the parties, the comings and goings of New York society and New York celebrity and the New York powerful for decades now. So much so, that he can be (by the miracle of a team of hired hands) at five or ten events at once. Sometimes on different coasts and different continents.

At center, Patrick McMullan, Jean Shafiroff, host, at left (Photo credit, PMC)

These days he is as much of a brand name as a person. When a photo is credited to him, or to PMC — the Patrick McMullan Company — it  belongs to Getty Images. In 2016, Patrick McMullan, the person, sold his archive dating back to the early 1990s and all of this current work, including 50 events a week, to Getty Images, to manage and sell.

Fern Mallis, a good friend (photo credit, Patrick McMullan)

That leaves him free to enjoy life a little. Last year was a tough one, starting with thyroid cancer in January, and back surgery in November. The current year has had its trials as well. When he returned from a trip in February to his apartment in Greenwich Village, his door was swinging ajar. Construction work on a new tower two doors away had so damaged the foundation of the old brownstone he lived in at 12 Fifth Avenue, a giant crack had developed in his ceiling and dust covered everything. (Those in No. 10, on the other side of No. 12, were ordered to evacuate because their building was so unstable.) McMullan told Curbed, “I’ve lived here for 45 years, three-fourths of my life.  It was my college apartment. … My whole life is here.”

Instead of leaving, he had his super repair his apartment doorframe, and stayed.

(Photograph by Patrick McMullan)

So his friend Jean Shafiroff decided that the-once-in-a-great-while Super Blue Moon on Thursday night, August 31, was a great time for her and her husband to invite McMullan’s many friends to Southampton to celebrate his birthday. It coincided with Assembly Member Rebecca A. Seawright giving McMullan a plaque earlier in the day recognizing him for his contributions to life and culture in New York.


The artists Renee Cox and William Quigley (Photo by Patrick McMullan)

There were 100 guests at the Shafiroff home, and they included artists and photographers, business people, the society figures McMullan had spent decades photographing, realtors, a stray British couple, and creative people from New York. Among them were Michael Gregson Reinert, known as a man about town, influencer and brand manager for the Colony Hotel; Piet Sinthuchai, creative director of Vartali hair salon and one of the producers of the Elaine Stritch documentary “Shoot Me”; the fashion designer Peter Som; Marcus Teo, a design guru, and Nicole Salmasi.

Piet Sinthuchai, Marcus Teo, Peter Som  (photo credit, Patrick McMullan)

People alternated between going outside to see the moon — another Super Blue Moon will not occur again until 2037 — and hanging out in the kitchen.


Photo, Patrick McMullan

The menu for the birthday party was sushi, pizza, and cake. Also served, apparently, Tate’s cookies and pies.

It is clear that these were friends, comfortable with each other and with the hosts. Other guests included Jeff Arle, Jesse Froman, Lieba Nesis, Adam Weiss, Chris Clark, Erin Lazard, Alex Hamer, Roy Paul, Enrico Bruni, Yubal Marquez-Fleites, Mark Masone, Jonathan Sessions, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Maria Fishel, Richard Golub, Ruth Miller, Sylvia Hemingway, Tobias Levin Steimberg, and Victoria Schneps.

Martin Shafiroff, William Cavendish, Jean Shafiroff, Liliana Cavendish (Photo credit, Patrick McMullan)

It should be noted that Patrick McMullan went around, at his own party, taking these photos. It apparently made him happy to be in his element. And the people, as we see here, were happy to see him with his camera.

Josh Fox, Erica Hirsch (Photo, Patrick McMullan)

One of the secrets of his popularity as a photographer is that he was always polite, and that he worked hard. When he went to an event, he acknowledged people he knew with a nod or a hello. Perhaps he stopped for a few words. But he was not there for a social visit.

Julia Haart and Jean Shafiroff (photograph by Patrick McMullan)

McMullan always moved through an event as if he had somewhere else to go. Usually he did. He started taking photographs professionally in the 1980s, urged on my Andy Warhol. He had a degree in business from New York University, which no doubt helped him in the early years in turning what he did into a business.

Jean Shafiroff and Ese Azenabor, who designs wedding gowns and evening dresses (photo, Patrick McMullan)

Moreover, Patrick McMullan was not a paparazzi. He did not jump out of bushes, or shoot embarrassing photos. People trusted him, and thus he got access.

The subjects of his pictures knew he and his camera were there. They posed willingly. And if anyone was ever caught in an ungainly moment, those photographs did not see the light of day.

In Patrick McMullan’s world, people look their best.