As a musician, Moby needs no introduction: millions of albums sold, songs in films and commercials, and those black, chunky glasses. But on the occasion of his ninth studio album, he’s coming out as a photographer too. Destroyed, a book of photographs that accompanies the album of the same title out this month, takes us on tour with the eclectic star across places, spaces, and continents. The images are spare, stark, and vibrant, set in airports, airplanes, hotels, corridors, and concert arenas. The latter, taken from Moby’s on-stage point of view, are the only ones filled with the presence of others in this gallery that points to the “strangeness of touring.”
Before a recent talk at National Geographic headquarters, Moby stopped to chat with Pop Omnivore. He’s taken pictures for 35 years—as long as he’s been making music—and credits a photographer uncle with introducing him to the craft. He says he doesn’t know which he would choose if he were forced to live without sight or sound, but his musings at the end of a long evening might have offered a clue. Said the artist: “I hope to be making music until the day I die.”
You’ve taken pictures since you were ten. Do you think audio or visual is a more potent form of expression?
The methodology of creating music is so very different for me than the methodology behind creating a photograph. Photography’s really quick; it’s spontaneous and immediate. For me, taking pictures is documenting, and making music is a long, creative process. From start to finish a song can take me a year, two years, and there are so many different components to it. I’m always working on every last little aspect of it.
What subjects intrigue you as a photographer?
I love what empty spaces say about people. My favorite thing to take pictures of: completely neutral, empty spaces. I’m so much more interested in an empty chair than in a chair with a person sitting in it. Aesthetically I like the simplicity and purity, like just simple angles. But it’s almost like aesthetic forensics where you take a picture of an empty space. On the one hand there’s a simple beauty to it, but it’s also trying to understand us as a species through the things we’ve created.
Your book, Destroyed, takes us on tour with you, to cities around the world, through empty spaces and airports and concert venues. It made me wonder: Where do you feel most at home?
British Airways international business class has an upper deck that’s my favorite place on the planet. I’m not trying to be a shill for British Airways but they have these flat beds that are sort of private. They have five windows and flying from London to Los Angeles—I’m pretty happy up there. Because you look out the window & it’s just this beautiful simple skyscape for 11 hours. For better or worse that’s where I feel most at home.
If you had to live without sight or sound, which one would you choose?
Wow, it’s the single hardest question I’ve been asked, and I don’t know. I truly don’t know.
Maybe we can relate it back to the first question about different modes of expression. Is there a way to describe the relationship between music and photography?
Music is ineffable. Music has no form whatsoever—all it is is air moving just a little bit differently. It’s the only art form that you can’t touch. You can touch a CD, an iPod, but music technically doesn’t exist. Once it hits your ear, you have a reaction to it, and it’s gone. Sometimes we think that’s a song about trucks, or forests, or that’s a song about a girl named Jenny, but it’s still just air moving a little bit differently. And photography—most visual arts are much more formal, etymologically in the true sense of the word, like pertaining to a specific form. It’s almost like left brain/right brain. But when they work together, especially film and music, boy it’s just perfect.