This interview was original printed in the No. 24 issue of Musée Magazine called "Identity."
LAURIE DOLPHIN: This is an issue about identity. So, do you think of yourself as a photographer who acts, or an actor who takes photographs?
NORMAN REEDUS: I don’t think of myself as either one of those. I feel like I act, and I take photographs, but they don’t necessarily limit each other out. Sometimes I take more photo-graphs than I act, and sometimes I act more than I take photographs. So acting is kind of a job that I do and photography is more like something I do for myself.
LAURIE: Did you take photographs before you became an actor?
NORMAN: Yes, I started taking photographs in, I think, junior high school. I was in a photography class that taught us how to develop our own prints, et cetera, et cetera, and I just always did that. And then I started doing other things like sculpting and cutting rock and stuff like that. And once I started acting more and traveling around it sort of just became a photography only thing. I had all these opportunities to go to all these great places and I always had a camera in my hand so I just always did that.
LAURIE: Has fame and becoming a celebrity affected your creativity?
NORMAN: As far as photography is concerned?
NORMAN: As far as photography is concerned, no, it hasn’t. I did photography shows and art shows in differ-ent mediums before I was an actor, and it seemed a lot harder to get a show. I’ll tell you that. Once the acting thing took off, it was a lot easier to get a show. I will say that.
LAURIE: Has having a newborn child affected your photography and your creativity?
NORMAN: Not really my photography. I do a lot of art with my daughter, and that’s a lot of fun. Seeing where her head is at when she’s doing her artwork is kind of interesting to me, to watch that happen and watch her process of color or scribbling. And that’s kind of fun for me, so she and I do a lot of artwork together where she’ll start something off and I’ll add to it and we’ll do that for a couple of hours every day.
LAURIE: In your upcoming book Portraits from the Woods, which is coming out in the fall, there are several quotes from photographers and artists talking about their creativity. How do you feel about this Jud Bergeron quote in the book?: "I love the process of refining something until I can make it the most perfect example of itself, but I also like the involvement of chance." Doe this reflect how you work? Are you constructing or staging your photographs, or are they more about spontaneity?
NORMAN: I would say they’re more about spontaneity. I mean, sometimes in the printing process there is that tweaking that you have fun with as well. I'm usually trying to capture a moment, and they're hard to stage-moments. So I usually just fly from the cuff. The editing process can take a bit of time, and can take you to a different place than you even thought of after you saw the image, so that’s kind of fun for some of the images. And some of the images I like to keep as fresh as they were when I pushed the button.
LAURIE: Also, there's a quote by Joel-Peter Witkin. He said, "My art is not about darkness, my art is about love. Basically, I'm a dramatist and a romantic, and my work is about showing that we live in a diverse world. People are different, but we all need to be loved.” Your photography has been described as dark, but I don't think you feel it's dark. Are you a dramatist and a romantic? Do you feel similar to Joel-Peter Witkin?
NORMAN: I do. And I agree with him. Sometimes people say my photography is dark when I didn’t mean it to be dark. I’m always around dark things and I’ve always been attracted to dark imagery. I’ve always worked a lot with masks and collected masks, and I kind of put on a mask for my job, so to speak. I'm not trying to be intimidating or scary, but a lot of times I find the humor or the beauty in an image that looks, I guess, frightening. But I never see them as frightening images. I never try to make a scary photograph.
LAURIE: The photographs of zombies smoking a cigarette or drinking a grape drink is a mixture of life and the otherworldly—a dead character doing a real-life act. Do you identify with zombies in those photograph?
NORMAN: I don’t know if I identify with zombies. I’m around zombies all the time. Sometimes those zombies become friends of mine, and I think the tongue-in-cheek humor there is that I could be talking to a zombie who’s eating a cupcake and talking to me about him breaking up with his girlfriend last night. But if you’re not privy to that conversation, I guess it can look a little scary.
LAURIE: Do you feel that the theme of death is integral to your identity as a photographer and as a person?
NORMAN: Yeah, I think it is to everybody, whether they admit it or not. I think images that are hysterical and make you laugh remind you that things are funny and you’re alive. I think images that are scary and remind you of death do the same thing. So I think that’s a topic that people think about all the time, whether they admit it or not. So yeah, it’s all relevant.
LAURIE: We know that you're influenced by Joel-Peter Witkin and Roget Ballen and Danny Lyon, but it would be interesting to know what other artists across various media have influenced your creativity.
NORMAN: The Rolling Stones, Iggy Pop, Hieronymus Bosch, Peewee Herman, Yo Gabba Gabba!, Edgar Allen Poe, there's a whole bunch of them.
LAURIE: Love it. How have you stayed creative during quarantine? Are you shooting photographs while you're in quarantine?
NORMAN: I wrote a book, so I’ve been doing that. For about year, another writer and I have been putting together a book and we just finished it the other day. And I think we had like six weeks to do the edit with the editors and so forth. But that’s taken up a lot of my time. I have a production company where I’m putting together television shows. I’m reading a lot of books, I’m listening to a lot of music, making art with my daughter. It's not, "Oh my god, I need to be creative and find ways to be creative!" I'm just this guy all the time.
LAURIE: Is your book fiction or nonfiction?
NORMAN: It's a book of fiction. It's four stories based loosely on my life and my experiences that I’ve turned into four different stories of characters all on a journey of discovery.
LAURIE: Can you talk about your new and upcoming photography book, called Portraits from the Woods, which is coming out in the fall?
NORMAN: Yeah, it’s my time the past couple of years and what I’ve seen through my eyes, sort of my sense of humor, my sensibilities. Some of them are my friends, some of them are people I’ve met along the way. And there are some other images that I’ve run into in my daily life. I just always kind of have my eyes open. That’s where if there’s a picture, I take a picture, or if I want to remember it, I take a picture. It’s just kind of like stepping in my shoes for a couple years and seeing some of the things that I’ve seen.
Portraits From The Woods is available now, exclusively on Big Bald Gallery.