Nick Zinner Talks Supernatural Beings And The Perfect Photo

Yesterday afternoon, whilst sorting through the indecent proposal wasteland that is my junk mail, I found this long-forgotten interview with Nick Zinner that I’d originally conducted in 2008. It focuses almost entirely on his photography work and as such, might be as valid today as it was two years ago. Except for the “last photo you took” question of course. If you’re a Yeah Yeah Yeahs fan or even a budding photographer read on as Zinner discusses the floating spirit head of Prince Rama, his favourite contemporary image makers and how to document a band on the road. Here’s to serendipitous junk mail purging.

What equipment do you use? My 3 favorite cameras are the Contax G2, Olypus Stylus, and Contax T3. I recently got a Canon G9, but mostly I prefer to shoot film.

What’s the most useful photography advice that someone’s ever given you? I had an old teacher who told me, basically, sometimes you cant shoot that great photo without shooting all those bad ones. You can apply that to all areas really.

What’s your favourite photograph that you’ve personally taken? I’m not sure I have a favourite, but one I really like is a group of men looking up. It was shot at a Hindu ceremony in Bali years ago, and in the background you can see the floating spirit head of Prince Rama, from the Ramayana, an epic Hindu tale. I remember showing it to Balinese people who were not shocked in the slightest. ” Oh yeah, that’s him. ”

And your favourite photo taken by someone else? Again, I really don’t have a favourite but I like Robert Frank’s photos of American jukeboxes.

What was the last photo that you took? My girlfriend playing Guitar Hero.

What makes a memorable photo? To me it’s something that causes a reaction in any way and can tell or suggest a story or moment within its frame. I’m basically trying to capture and remember the small things that come in and out of my life.

What photographers do you admire? I like a lot of old school guys like William Klein amd Cartier-Bresson, and more recent ones like Terry Richardson and Ryan Mcginley. I studied under Larry Fink and Stephen Shore, so both of them taught me about how to see and think visually.

You once said “I wish I could attach a camera to my brain” – which moments of your life do you wish you captured on film? Did I really say that? I’m not so sure how valid that quote is now, I’m enjoying being a little selective nowadays, although it would have been sweet to photograph my birth from my point of view.

You received formal training in upstate New York but said that you didn’t really get any technical training. Do you feel that photography is an intuitive art form? The type of photos I like definitely are because they’re pretty spontaneous, and can never be planned out. You need to develop your instinct- its not unlike playing music with someone in that after a while you’re not plotting out everything you’re going to do, you just do it.

In “I Hope You Are All Happy Now” you explore the rigors of touring through empty, sometimes disheveled hotel rooms, what is the most difficult part of touring and being away from home so often? My band takes a lot of time off between records, and we try to never be gone for more than 5 weeks at a time, so I can’t really complain compared to most bands. Aside from personal strains, finding vegan food can be pretty challenging in some places.

All Images Provided by Nick Zinner