Andy Summers has been a photographer since the early 1980s when he was the guitarist with The Police. He has published three books of photography: “Throb” with William Morrow & Company in 1983, “I’ll Be Watching You” with Taschen in 2007, and “Desirer Walks the Streets” with Nazraeli Press in 2009. He also collaborated with Ralph Gibson on “Light Strings.” His best selling biography, “One Train Later,” was turned into the film “Can’t Stand Losing You.” Released in July, his latest solo music project is a new instrumental collection titled “Metal Dog.”
Andy’s exhibition “Del Mondo” opens up at the Leica Gallery São Paulo, the first ever Leica gallery in South America, on August 6 and runs through October 5, 2015. The exhibit is comprised of forty-two black and white images that show the artist’s life in photographs captured from around the world – from Tanzania to Shanghai – between 1978 and 2014. We spoke with Andy when the exhibit was at the Leica Gallery Los Angeles in this part 1 and part 2 interview. Here he shares more about “Del Mondo” and its next stop in São Paulo.
Q: What are you looking forward to most about your exhibit in São Paulo?
A: I am always happy to be in Brazil because of the great people. At the exhibition, my first one in São Paulo, I am interested to see how my photos are received in a new context.
Q: What do you hope viewers take away from the exhibit?
A: I hope they take away my pictures and purchase them!
Q: In one description about “Del Mondo,” it reads, “It shows the artist’s life recorded in trips around the world, showing an emotional and very tuned street photography style.” I get the sense that you don’t see your images as street photography. Is this accurate?
A: There is a difference between street photography which is done as a form of social realism and photos which are taken out in the world using the “streets” – the world as a surrealist tableau.
Q: Can you share the story behind the “Help” image? This seems like it could be symbolic of some aspect of tour life, no? Is there a story behind this image you could share with us?
A: The “Help” photo was made in a hotel in Mexico City where fans surrounded the hotel for three days and made it impossible to leave. Therefore, I got inventive…
Q: “Honey Trap” is a striking image. Can you tell us what we’re looking at?
A: You are asking me to explain the mysteries of photography…
Q: You get asked a lot about music’s relationship to photography and have said that you try to find the same sensibilities in photography that you’re drawn to in music. Is there an image in the Del Mondo exhibition that exemplifies this statement to you?
A: Maybe it is fanciful, but my information about creativity comes from music, and I think it is possible to see one medium in terms of another. I certainly look for the qualities of music in other art forms like photography and writing. I think of all my best photos as musical – striking a chord if you like.
Q: You shared with us in a previous interview, “It was one day in New York between gigs when I decided to go and buy a serious camera and to pursue it with intent.” Did how you look at things change after you bought this camera?
A: Certainly, it is possible. If you engage seriously with photography you can get a photographic, visual mindset. It is something that gets better with practice. I know when I go out and am really shooting with intent I get into the zone – as if the mind’s eye opens – I start seeing.
Q: You’ve described your art as “tearing pages from a book and then reshuffling the results into a new visual syntax.” I love this description! Can you expand on it and about your process related to it?
A: I think that statement describes some of the action when “out there” that can be fast and rough sometimes. When I say this, I am talking about some of my experiences – particularly in Asia (i.e. western China, Tibet, back streets of Hanoi. etc.). This is when you need to be fast, subversive, and watching out … so tearing out pages is, in a way, an apt description.
Q: You’ve done books, a documentary, and galleries – is there a preferred medium in which you like to present your images?
A: A very large cinema screen is fun! This is something which I did with about 150 images recently in Los Angeles. My next thing would be to somehow get a lot go images moving while I sit below and improvise a soundtrack.
Thank you for your time, Andy!
– Leica Internet Team
Connect with Andy on his website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.