Digital Animal

Self-portrait.Photo: Courtesy of Lou Reed and Animal Lab

What do you do in your semi-retirement if you’re Lou Reed? He’s become a shutterbug. Reed’s first major photo exhibit, opening January 20 uptown at the Gallery at Hermès and in West Chelsea at Steven Kasher Gallery, showcases urban landscapes. Reed spoke to Jada Yuan.

Why did you start taking pictures?
When I was touring around the world, I would find myself getting a chance to see things that other people might not, and I just thought it would be crazy not take pictures of it.

But your pictures are all of New York.
I think Leonard Cohen had a line, “I would travel anywhere in the pursuit of beauty.” And this is the beauty of New York, and I just wanted to take pictures of that, with no motive other than that.

Who are your photographic influences?
Andy Warhol. Billy Linich. Wim Wenders.

How does Warhol’s influence on your art differ from his influence on your music?
I’d be looking at the same thing he was, and then you’d see the way he would explain it and it was completely original.

Digital or film?
I’m not someone mourning film.

Do you wrestle with the stigma against artists going outside their fields?
That’s so nonsensical it’s beneath comment.

How would you have photographed the city differently in the seventies?
Differently! I didn’t. I don’t think there’s one dot of nostalgia in anything I do. You want me to tell you about downtown then. You’d have to ask a historian. I guess I’m as close as you get today?

A lot of your pictures are taken at dawn.
I don’t sleep very much. I sleep in pieces, like Einstein.

Do you get fawned over when you go out to clubs?
I’m on line with everybody else.

Who rejects Lou Reed?
You’d be surprised.

What’s the last band you saw?
Let’s see … Arcade Fire, or was it Franz Ferdinand?

Do you like them?
That’s why I was there, sweetie.

Could the Strokes exist without you?
Of course they could exist without me. Everybody and everything could exist without me. For sure.

Digital Animal