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Issue No. 16 - Chaos

"95 Rolls of Film and a Prayer"

One fine Spring morning in 1983 my answering machine asked me to return a call to Andy Summers. The message stated that he was working on a book of photographs and would like me to collaborate on the sequencing etc. We met the next day at the Stanhope Hotel and as I walked into his suite I saw guitars and prints all over the place.  They were all great and I told him that I started playing the guitar at age 13 and he replied that he began photography at age 12. It appeared we had a lot in common and a great friendship was born, and is still going strong. Our dialogue has never wavered. His music needs no introduction. His  eight note arpeggio from "Every Breath You Take" is firmly imbedded in the collective unconscious world-wide. His photographs have been published and exhibited in many countries. He continues to work at warp speed in music, photography as well as film and literature. His auto-biography "One Stop Later" remains a must read and is a beacon of candor.  

 We have been together in many countries around the world.  I recall a trip we made through Brazil back in 2005  I was working on a book about Brazil at the time and Andy agreed to join us . Our Brazilian friend Luiz Marinho, the Leica distributor for the region, took it upon himself to show us his country. Every time we got lost in some remote region I would sarcastically say to Luiz:  " ...Vasco, get out your GPS..." Andy , on the other hand, sat in the car content and with the calm of a man who had spent most of his life on the road. It was an attribute that could not be ignored. He would throw his bag in the car and off we would go, and as a photographer he would instantly dis-arm his subjects.

Well, I am pleased to write about my friend and fellow traveler, his recent work from Asia has a spiritual component that only true photography can convey. His delicate touch with the camera is not unlike his music for guitar...

 Ralph Gibson Feb 1, 2013 NYC

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"95 rolls of Film and a Prayer"

by Andy Summers of The Police

Other than snapping and trying to get a good shot like everyone else with a camera, I didn’t get serious about photography until the early eighties.

At that time, I was in a popular rock band, and, as often as not, in the company of photographers. It may have been this prevalence of cameras and film that eventually created the spark which brought me to B&H camera in New York to purchase a Nikon FE. It was a conscious decision on my part to start taking photography seriously. Subsequently, I went on tour with enough equipment to spend a year in the Arctic circle — the standard beginner's mistake.

At that time, I was heavily influenced by the work of Robert Frank, and I probably attempted to make photographs that had emotional impact rather than strictly formal qualities. The photographs of Man Ray also caught my eye, and that led me to surrealism and the making of many lists of surrealist-type photographs which I attempted to set up in hotel rooms all across the US.

All of this was great fun for me, and over the next few years I photographed just about every facet of my overprivileged existence.

The best moments with the camera — if it’s not stretching the metaphor too far — are like improvising on the guitar, free from laborious thought and just sailing in the moment.

Wandering though the back streets of Beijing or Bangkok, climbing up the sides of at temple in Bagan — these places, with their quality of being unknown, are still situations that rev up my photographic thirst. Maybe the visceral thrill of being in a challenging moment or a dark alley, having to cope with only a camera and a smile, is the drug that keeps bringing you back.

This past summer, I traipsed around a number of countries in Asia. Despite the distinct traveler's advantage of digital, I chose to stick with film. My sojourn ended with 95 rolls of film and a prayer that everything would come out all right.

 

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