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Henry Rollins Speaks (Via Email)


Henry Rollins last visit to Tanks Arts Centre was a sellout and the marathon 3 hour talkfest, only interupted once by telling an over eager fan to sit down and stop taking photos with flash was one of the best shows ever seen at Tanks.

It has been a busy time since we last saw him, He Turned 50 and published a book of his photography called "Occupants" (which we were lucky enough to buy a signed limited edition of) and is a beautiful book with some insightful and often controversial thoughts written down also.

Rollins is back on the road the place where he seems to be most at home in the world and will be heading back to Cairns in May to catch up with us all again and with a presidential election on the way I am sure he will have a lot to talk about.

We caught up with him on email which is always hard but this is what he had to say...


How does creating images of travel differ from writing about travel?

The photographs happen quickly. The writing for me is more challenging in that there are many ways to take away information and I try to see things clearly as I can and not through a “Western” filter, as it were. Sometimes, it’s impossible for me to do so. So, the writing is for more careful and analyzed at some points, immediate and visceral at others.

I have read a number of your books that deal with your travels what drove you to drop the pen and pick up the camera?

I have been taking a camera with me all over the world for years. Over time, I have upped the quality of equipment in an effort to see what was possible.

What was the inspiration behind the title of the book “ Occupants”?

I wanted to show people where I was going, what I was seeing, what it meant to me. It was something I had never done before, so I figured it was something I could throw myself into. I am always looking for something to do and this seemed like a steep learning curve, so I went for it.

Have you always had in interest in photography?

Yes. I have had cameras since I was young. Did a lot of darkroom work as a young person.

You have a pretty gruff public persona...what I am interested is how you interact with your subjects?

I don’t agree with your assertion as to my character. My public persona is for the most part rendered and created by people like you, not me. As to how I relate to subjects in photos, I am polite and usually ask if I can take their photo. If they say no, I don’t. Sometimes I am on the street and just take photos of what’s happening and no one seems to care. In many of these locations, one must tread with care.

Do you see yourself as someone who creates images of the world around you or interacts with the world to create images?

I would rather not react with the people to create the images as that’s too much manipulation for me. Photography is a medium that is manipulated and perverted enough. I read something that Susan Sontag wrote one time about that and it had a real impact on me.

Many ‘Celebrities” have dabbled with photography. Richard gere did a series of photographs on Tibet, Michael Stipe, Helena Christensen....do you see this as simply a phase of your life or something you will continue with?

I don’t consider myself to be a celebrity. I am just out in the world, doing things. I reckon I am no one from the minimum wage working world. That’s all I have ever thought I was. I would like to think that I could keep taking photographs. I have nothing to do, so I do a lot. The next photo book project is a fair way finished. I am thinking 2014 perhaps.

50 is a time for reflection on one’s life work and you recently reached that milestone....what do you see as your biggest achievements?

I’m still working. That’s it. I don’t think I have done anything big. The one thing that I concluded when I hit fifty is this is what I do, there is no growing up and getting a real job, as it were. This is me and I am well over the half way point in my life and need to make the most of things.

How would you like the world to remember Henry Rollins?

I don’t think there is any reason I need to be remembered for anything, really. I can’t think of anything that I would underline and point to in that regard.

If you want to follow Rollins on his tour you can always read his dispatches by following this link HERE

To find out more about his book Occupants or to buy a copy HERE

Henry Rollins play at Tanks Arts Centre on

the 1st Of May 2012 Tickets avaliable HERE