Anyone walking into the small gallery space of Public Works SF last night for the opening party of Nick Zinner’s 1,001 Images, would’ve felt as if they’d known Zinner for years. From ceiling to floor, the white walls of the exhibit room were covered with photographs (1,001, to be exact), documenting the Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist’s life. Zinner — with an incredibly low and soft-spoken voice, and wearing his signature all-black ensemble — was incredibly kind and enthusiastic to talk about his work with Ear Bud.
“This exhibit and project is ten years of my life: on the road, with friends, on stage, everything.” Zinner wasn’t shy discussing the process, passion, and effort that went into this eclectic collection: “I chose these images out of so many just because they were some of my favorites.”
Those “favorites” were an exceptionally balanced mixture of images from the past tours of the art punk trio: excited crowd shots; famous friends, such as Conor Oberst; and road experiences — from views from airplane wings, visits to local zoos, even a wall of photos of unmade hotel beds. All photos were given the same status, with no label or description — which simultaneously frustrated and amazed visitors. Long time YYYs fan Elisa Elkind spoke with Zinner about his choices as a curator for his own pieces: “At first I really wanted to know where all of these photos were taken, especially the crowd shots, but after looking at all of them I really appreciate the uniform quality of it.”
1,001 Images (which runs at PublicWorks until March 6th) is an exhibit that exists more in the world of true art photography, rather than that of a glimpse of the life of a rock star. While playing with the lighting, aperture, and subjects of his prints through only two cameras, “95 percent film and 5 percent digital”, Zinner makes each photo seem incredibly personal and inviting. The shuffling crowd in the narrow space seemed to make multiple trips around the exhibit in order to not miss a photo that would grab their attention the second, third, or fourth time around.
Highlights of the exhibition include the various photos of Zinner’s animal friends, like Geronimo the Raccoon, of whom he is extremely proud — “That raccoon is real. He and I chilled for hours once I made friends with him” — and the series of gorgeous photos (candid and posed) of his friend and bandmate Karen O. “As a personal rule for myself, I made sure that all of my friends had to approve the photos that I put up of them in this exhibit. More specifically, since I have so many different photos of her, Karen had to personally look over every single photo. I made sure of that.”
Zinner also explained his leap from music to photography: “Photography was always what I was first interested in. My music with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is related to that because it is a means to get more and different photographs. Beyond enjoying making music for the love of music, being able to have the opportunity to travel the world and see such unusual sights, which is what allows me to take better photos.”
A decade of Zinner’s voice, vision, and personality is nailed up one by one in the Mission for two weeks free of charge. Check it out before it leaves, you won’t want to miss it.