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Destroyed: Moby

The music maestro talks to Dazed about his photography and why he's now ready to show it to the world

Moby is a music superstar who is now releasing his ninth studio album, 'Destroyed'. In conjunction with this landmark release, Moby also publishes a book of photography. Born out of the isolation of being on tour, coupled with the strange view of the world insomnia gives you Moby has produced a book that juxtaposes the still and the moving, the loud and the quiet. As he has been taking pictures as long as he has been making music this is less a foray into a new discipline by a bored artist but the realisation of a long ambition. We met with Moby to find out why he has started showing his photographs and got an insight into how he views the world.

Dazed Digital: Why did you decide to now start working as a photographer?
Well, I’ve been a photographer for 35 years I started doing photography when I was ten years old, from around the time I started doing music because I uncle had been a photographer at the New York Times. He had a bunch of equipment he wasn’t using and he stated giving it to me. Like some old film cameras and an Omega D2 enlarger he wasn’t using so I started shooting film and developing film and printing film and working as a photo assistant when I was really quite young.

DD: But you never called yourself a photographer?
Moby: I guess I never felt all that comfortable calling myself a photographer even though I have been doing it for 35 years because my uncle was such a good photographer and his friends were really successful remarkable commercial photographers and I just felt like I could never compete with them. And it was only in the last few years when I was showing my pictures to friends of mine who are artists and they were actually really encouraging. So that’s what led me to put out this book.

DD: Would, you say the book is creatively linked to the album?
Moby: They are linked in that they are made by the same person, at the same time. They are both the product of being on tour but with the photography, I wanted to show the alien strangeness of being on tour. There are so many books and photo essays of rock bands on tour doing glamorous rock band things and even though this is a book about a musician being on tour I wanted it to be the opposite of all the other musician on tour books to show more potentially at least more realistically for me what my experience on tour is actually like and that strange juxtaposition of going from and audience of 50,000 people to a completely desolate and empty dressing room.

DD: Yeah, what is that like?
It’s normal. For me at least it’s normal. My uncle when I was growing up and some of my other friends who are documentary filmmakers instilled in me this idea that whatever environment you live in it’s probably worth documenting even if you don’t see that, like things that seem normal to you in your environment to someone else can seem very interesting and strange and so I wanted to document that strangeness of touring and show it to other people and get other people to try and help me try and make sense of it cause my life on tour makes no sense to me whatsoever but it’s still how I live.

DD: And did you always intend to make the photos into a book?
Moby: When I was taking the pictures I thought they might make an interesting book but I had never put out a book of photographs before so I didn’t know if it ever would become a book but then the tour ended about a year ago and I fairly sheepishly met up with some of my friends who are artists in New York as asked them what they though and said I was thinking of making them into a book and they were actually very encouraging and supportive.

DD: You must have wanted to share the images if you thought they would be negative about them?
Well I thought they were quite interesting because on one hand the book is about the individual images but it’s also about the serial repetition of the types of images where it goes from emptiness to crowdedness and the strangeness of the empty spaces and the strangeness of the crowded spaces with these moments of accidental beauty interspersed within.

DD: Where do you continue to find inspiration for what you do?
In some ways I have very little objectivity about the way that I work. Like if I’m making a record, when I’m working on things I’m pretty much doing everything by myself so I have no perspective or objectivity but if what you say is true then I guess it’s the product of the fact that the underlying things that compelled me to make music ten, twenty thirty years ago are all still there. The deep abiding love for music and how music affects me and simply that music and visual art for me is all the product on one hand of living in this strange and beautiful world and on the other hand trying to represent the strangeness and the beauty and the world just keeps getting stranger and more beautiful. I feel compelled to make art that on one hand reflects and sometimes almost create like a sense of comfort when confronted with the strangeness of the world.

DD: It’s surprising to hear you say you think the world is getting more beautiful, most of what you hear at the moment would says the opposite…
It depends upon what people base their perception of the world from how it’s represented via a computer or tv screen or sometimes a newspaper and so I had this realization about 25 years ago in 1987/88 New York was in the midst of the crack epidemic and AIDS epidemic and crime was rampant and the cover of the New York Post said ‘New York Murder Capital’ or something and the article made New York seem like the most vicious barbaric bloodthirsty place but while I was reading the article, I was on the subway, I looked around the subway and it was filled with normal people doing normal things and I suddenly realized the media do not necessarily represent things as they are it represents things in a way that is sensationalistic and will compel people to pay attention to the media. There are a lot of bad things going on in the world but the bad things are dramatic and get a lot of media attention and the good things tend to get overlooked.

DD: And would you continue to make photographs in reaction to that?
I hope so. As long as the world continues to be strange and interesting I still want to take pictures of it. I think there are two types of photographers, those who want to document the world and those who want to create their own world. I am more interested in documenting the world and presenting it to people with the question attached. Does this make any sense to you?

The exhibition will be held at Camden’s Proud Gallery until June 19, 2011. BUG: Evolution of the Music Video special with Moby, hosted by Adam Buxton, Wednesday 1 June, 8.45pm, BFI Southbank - More info HERE