Henry Rollins and the Power of Photography

Rollins Performing with Black Flag in the Early 80s. Photographer unknown.

Rollins Performing with Black Flag in the Early 80s. Photographer unknown.

While working on the Pinehouse last summer, Henry Rollins provided the daily soundtrack via his radio show on KCRW. I love his encyclopedic music knowledge, his kooky intensity (randomly shouting the word “FANATIC” mid-sentence) and his uncanny ability to sonically connect The Stooges to Public Enemy to Deerhoof to Bollywood Pop in a way that makes sense. 

Rollins is also an enigmatic, fascinating character. In addition to having few close friends outside of William Shatner on Thanksgiving (hear him talk about this in an interview with Joe Rogan), he is a hard core solo traveler and photographer. So he has decades of really interesting photographs that he has put together into a sort of photographic monologue that he takes on the road and shows on stage. When Henry and his traveling slideshow came through Boulder, I was there, and it was awesome.

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He showed pictures from some of the hardest-to-get-to-because-no-one-wants-to-go-to places in the world. The nooks and crannies that most people skip. He narrated through incredible pictures of trash pickers, active minefields, political uprisings, and what for me was the most powerful image, a picture of the Highway of Death, a war-torn road that runs between Kuwait and Iraq. His pictures were great, not only because they were well composed, with dynamic, crazy subjects, but also because they all drove home his central belief that we are all humans, connected to each other more closely than we realize. His pictures, while wide ranging geographically, are all about humanity.

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea © Henry Rollins

Democratic People’s Republic of Korea © Henry Rollins

His clear thinking and his strong views, coupled with his unique images and a hyper intense delivery, made for a powerful evening. I was really moved by his passion for this part of his life — meeting and exploring and connecting, and always taking time to look at things from the other side. He was very outspoken against the current administration, and strongly anti-war, but at the same time, supportive of the troops on the ground.

It was cool to see someone harnessing the power of photography to communicate a point of view. I’ll be honest, I came away wanting to be more like Henry, and finding ways to make a difference with my own images. Which starts with keeping an open mind, and staying curious.

As he said in a recent interview, “When you go far and wide, you see how the rest of the world gets by and sometimes, it can be quite the awakening. Why is this family on the verge of starvation and America has an obesity problem? What does climate change look like on the African continent? What does intolerance look like when fuelled by poverty? You’ll have to go to find out. You might conclude that there are global winners and losers and that they are chosen by some obscenely powerful people. Not everyone’s going to make it. Most of the time, you and your friends, all westerners, you will make it, so your consideration of things comports to that. Try talking to an elderly Dinka man about retirement, or a vacation or savings and interest. By travelling, you get out of your way of seeing things, valuing things, and you can really have an opportunity to think differently.”

Rad portrait of HR © Robert Maxwell

Rad portrait of HR © Robert Maxwell



Jamie KripkeComment