Art-rockers Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been on hiatus since their ‘It’s Blitz!’ tour ended in 2010, but that doesn’t mean the trio aren’t busy working. When guitarist Nick Zinner isn’t thrashing around onstage, he’s also an accomplished photographer, having displayed his work in art galleries around the world. He and friends Zachary Lipez and Stacy Wakefield have published four photo books together, including the recent ‘Please Take Me Off the Guest List,’ for which Zinner supplied the photos and the others wrote the text and created designs.
Last month, at San Francisco’s Noise Pop festival, Zinner appeared at the opening night of his ‘1,001 Images’ show at Public Works, marking the second time he’s displayed the collection. “I get nervous a lot, but that’s just my thing,” Zinner tells Spinner. “I never think that all of these people are going to see it. I never think about that final step.”
Perusing his portfolio, his Robert Frank-inspired photos encapsulate intimate portraits of his bandmates, members of TV on the Radio and Marilyn Manson, crowd shots, street scenes, random pictures of kangaroos and snapshots of rumpled hotel beds. As Zinner reveals, he doesn’t have a favorite place to photograph because the desire can strike at any moment.
“I feel like good photos come so spontaneously and so randomly,” he says. “It’s never a specific place I’m excited about shooting. Essentially, I was doing composed snapshots, so it really depends whatever happens in front of me — that could be Tokyo or that could be my friend’s apartment down the street.”
During YYYs shows, audiences can catch a glimpse of Zinner snapping pictures from the stage, an act that exemplifies the marriage of his two passions. “They both kind of inspire each other,” he says. “When Yeah Yeah Yeahs are on tour, I can take a lot of photos. They kind of go hand in hand.”
Though he mainly uses film but will sometimes just snap pics on his iPhone, Zinner says the best part of this hobby is the fans. “It’s great that people are in love with photography,” he says. “That’s all that really matters, ultimately. It doesn’t matter what camera you use or what film you use. If people are thinking visually and are excited about images, that’s awesome.”
Looking ahead, Zinner says he’s building a studio and will accompany his bandmates when they perform at the inaugural Lollapalooza Chile in April. The festival will be the band’s first show together since last September, when they commemorated their 10-year anniversary as a band with a couple of small shows in New York. After a decade together, Zinner still can’t believe their success. “We’re still in awe by it,” he says. “It’s amazing. We’re really happy about it. We didn’t see it coming.”