Moby returns to Fairfield County for a photography exhibit by Patrick Ehlen Before Moby rose to the status of International Pop Star, he lived in Fairfield County, where he cut his teeth as a young DJ at venues like The Beat in Port Chester and “The Café,” a youth group dance night sponsored by Christ Church in Greenwich. In those days he had not yet settled on the career choice of International Pop Star, and aspired to become a photographer, spending long hours holed up in a makeshift darkroom in the abandoned Yale Lock factory in Stamford with an old Nikon and some equipment donated to the young wannabe by his uncle, a photojournalist for National Geographic and The New York Times. Inspired by the uncle and also by Man Ray, André Kertész, Edward Steichen, and Diane Arbus, Moby eagerly enrolled in photography courses at SUNY Purchase and buckled down to master the craft. He also acquired some synthesizer keyboards, but that is another story. A couple decades and platinum albums later, Moby has revisited his old stomping ground and almost-career with a photographic exhibition at Samuel Owen Gallery in Greenwich. The exhibition, Destroyed, features photographs from Moby’s book of the same title. The coffee-table photo book comes packaged with a CD of his latest album, and, as a photographic arrangement, draws a compelling chain between two poles of observation: the vitality of human assemblage, and the austere serenity of its absence. The photos in Destroyed shift from images of swarms of ecstatic fans sweating under stadium floodlights to secluded hotel rooms and airport waiting areas, or otherworldly landscapes captured from miles above the Earth. These photographs, along with the songs of Destroyed, fixate on a thematic contrast that has long pervaded Moby’s music: at one moment a connected energy pregnant with possibility and excitement, and at the next moment a still and barren peace, perhaps lonely, bittersweet or lovelorn, but exposing a tender beauty in the spaces between our more active occupations. The prints on display in the gallery—looming at around three feet by five feet in vibrant color—justify their subject matter in a way that isn’t as evident in the book. The view from an arena stage of 50,000 heaving concertgoers doesn’t make the same impression from the coffee table that it does from the wall in large form. Even more compelling are the large prints that depict scenes devoid of action—arid landscapes and empty hallways that feel ominous and ambivalent on the wall. Key among them is the cornerstone photo of the exhibition that provided Destroyed with its title: A sterile white hallway with a black LED sign that displays the
If anyone has a unique perspective that most of us don’t get to see, it’s a rock star like Moby. The photos in Destroyed convey “the vacuum-like aesthetic of touring.” word “destroyed” in yellowish dots. While one could easily surmise that the photo was staged on a forgotten set from Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, in fact it was snapped in a random instant in an empty hallway at La Guardia airport where a sign repeatedly scrolled the words, “Unattended luggage will be destroyed,” which Moby caught as the last word appeared. Such serendipitous captures are made possible by the photographer who never left Moby, and keeps a camera ready at all times, whether performing onstage or wearily journeying from one hotel room to another. The young photographer in Stamford who drew on Kertész’s aesthetic intuition for accidental beauty still shoots with an eye for immediate but studied composition. “I guess I still shoot as if I have only a few frames left to use on a roll of film,” he says. Of course, times have changed, and now anyone with a smartphone can pose as an amateur photographer, thrusting photostreams into the world without ever knowing the solitude of a darkroom or the stench of developer chemicals. While Moby maintains a fondness for the bygone days of analog cameras and film, he doesn’t think today’s proliferation of amateur photography has cheapened or diminished the art form. “Actually,
I think it’s a great thing that more people are able to do something that you used to need a lot of expensive equipment for. I see photography as a means to see the world from a different perspective, and that’s what posting photos to social networks lets you do: See the world from someone else’s perspective, which you would not have been able to see otherwise.” If anyone has a unique perspective that most of us don’t get to see, it’s a rock star like Moby. The photos in Destroyed convey “the vacuumlike aesthetic of touring,” as Moby puts it, which is at once nomadic, isolating, and artificial, yet connecting with seas of people and touching lives in ways that most of us don’t ever experience. Moby describes touring as, “all contrasts and strangeness, and that’s what I’ve tried to convey through these pictures.” The Samuel Owen Gallery makes an appropriate home for Destroyed, not only because of its location in Greenwich but because owner Lee Milazzo is an old friend of Moby’s who has accompanied him on tour and experienced the life of touring first-hand. Moby and Milazzo have known each other since the late 1980s, when they met at The Café at Christ Church in Greenwich where Moby deejayed. They later lived as roommates on 14th Street in New York City during Moby’s break into the techno scene in the early 1990s. If that sounds glamorous, Moby insists it wasn’t. “Actually, we were pretty nerdy back then,” Moby confesses. “We used to sit in our tiny apartment and play each other videotapes of our achievements for the day playing Super Mario Brothers, while we talked about the girls we liked…. That was about the extent of it.” Samuel Owen Gallery, 378 Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich, CT. The gallery can be reached at 203-325-1924, or at samuelowengallery.com.
Published on Jul 1, 2012
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