Conversation with Hitchens Photographer

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You probably know these images, or others by this photographer (and you may even have appropriated them for a posting or used them for a meme).  You can’t google Christopher Hitchens without seeing his work. He is Christian Witkin, a Brooklyn based photographer, who has photographed Hitchens as many as six times, frequently for Vanity Fair Magazine. He has an extensive portfolio with some of the most well known personalities in the world.

All photos in this posting by Christian Witkin, and used with his permission.

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I spent an afternoon in his studio where he told me some of the stories behind the shoots.  The most interesting was the day he spent documenting Hitch defying the quality of life laws put in place by then NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg (whom Hitch, never short for clever descriptions, called a ‘micro-megalomaniac’). The story appeared in the February 2004 edition of Vanity Fair (see VF photo tribute to Hitchens).

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A still shot from a video on Christian’s site where he explains his methods.

That session produced the now well-known bicycle photo, where Hitch is on the bike in Central Park, without…I can hardly say it… his feet on the petals!  That same day the two went downtown to dine at Lucien, in the East Village.  Hitch sat at the bar, smoking a cigarette, again, in violation of the Mayor’s laws. He wrote about it in “Love, Poverty and War“.

Hitchens smoking at the bar at Lucien.

In the past year, I’ve dined at Lucien’s on several occasions, including last night where my friend and I had the Pigeonneau Roti Hitchens (roasted squab with wild mushroom risotto and foie gras, which Lucien placed on the menu to tribute his friend.  One of the first postings on this blog introduced Lucien: Meet Lucien, (not a fractious juvenile).


For more of Christian’s work please visit his site, and check out his Instagram feeds.

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Christian at work

Meet Lucien (not a fractious juvenile)

In “Love, Poverty, and War” Christopher recounted the day he spent protesting what he saw as the restrictive laws that had just been put in place by NY mayor Mike Bloomberg.  He had lunch at one of his favorite New York haunts, Lucien’s in the East Village.  I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Lucien over the last year.  He was a great friend to Christopher and he told me the relationship was not about politics, debate or issues Christopher wrote about – it was just a joyful human to human connection between two people who liked each other very much. If you meet Lucien, you will understand why this was so  – he and his son Zac treat you like you are a guest having dinner in their home.  They provide old world charm, style, and excellent food.  Below is an excerpt from “Love, Poverty, and War” (from the copy Lucien keeps in the restaurant).



Lucien showed my friend and me the wine Hitch preferred (which he often drank before getting to to the Johnnie Walker Black), and also the dish he named after his friend – roasted squab with wild mushroom risotto and a slice of fresh foie gras.

Lucien (l) with artist Ilona Royce Smithkin, and Tom Casesa, the author of this blog (r).


Hitchens on the menu!
Tom, with filmmaker Hector Carosso holding “Hitch 22” and Lucien’s copy of “Love, Poverty, and War”. Notice the photo of Christopher on the wall above us (slightly obscured by the reflection of the lights).
Lucien (r) enjoying the company of a friend and patron.