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October 28, 2013

I’m Glad I Spent it With You: On the Passing of Lou Reed

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Just a perfect day
you made me forget myself
I thought I was someone else
someone goodOh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
you just keep me hanging on

– from Lou Reed, Perfect Day

If this site was more about words, I’m sure I’d be putting in the effort to articulate the profound impact Lou Reed had on me — to permanently experiment, to let others fret over categories, to just follow where it leads. Instead though, this site is about the language of images, photography being one of the pools Reed waded in. You know his quote: “I’m sure God owned a Leica?” It seems that thing a rocker has for his guitar, Reed also had for cameras.

Although I’m not that familiar with Reed’s three books of photography, I was drawn to two pictures. The first, above, has been widely seen as it’s one of the promo images from his last photo book, Rimes Rhymes. It shows a youth (the gender ambiguous, not surprisingly) looking at the camera in what seems like one-third wonder, and the rest fear or terror. Rather than riff on that photo, however, and what it potentially expresses of Reed’s early psychiatric travails and time spent down the rabbit hole, I was struck by the parallel (and dialog) with a second image found in the multimedia collage-heap in the pictures section of Reed’s website.

Screen Shot 2013 10 28 at 12 38 10 AM

If the second photo is in any way a reprise of the first, what it seems to be letting us know is that Reed did keep on. And if the fear remained (as it does in most of us), he grew to see it, and to look through it if not to see past it. …And to share. To the extent the odyssey of the artist can typically be fixed in in one of three categories, personal destruction, recovery or transcendence, these photos use those themes — like it always was with Reed — as just more theater, more ironic material.

With Reed, that was all.

(photos: Lou Reed)

  • black_dog_barking

    At the 30th Anniversary tribute concert for Bob Dylan, a night full of great performances, Reed’s reading of Foot of Pride stands out with a singular intensity, focus, and power. Just listening to the CD I imagine the stage was warm to the touch for the next act that fine night.

    • BooksAlive


  • RHariman

    Wow, you too. He did a lot for me as well. Not sure why I still am surprised to learn of friends who were influenced by Reed. Perhaps it’s because he didn’t become a household word; perhaps it’s because he connected with something deep inside.
    I wonder if I understand you, though: was it just the sharp, dark ironic insights and an ability to keep moving forward? What I found so important was the heart that was there in the midst of all the pain and waste and nihilism that he saw so well. He didn’t use irony as an emotional shield; he cared and bleed and shared in spite of it.

    • Michael Shaw

      Yes, I agree. It’s what I meant about his ability to share. He put it out there.

  • Ian

    So grateful for what he made and shared. He’s been an inspiration to me since I was 16.

  • Stan B.

    No, he certainly won’t be remembered for his mediocre photography- but there is no doubt when it comes to his long legacy of ground breaking music and transformation.

  • LanceThruster

    “Americans don’t care too much for beauty
    They’ll shit in a river, dump battery acid in a stream
    They’ll watch dead rats wash up on the beach
    And complain if they can’t swim.” ~ Lou Reed


  • lquick

    Thank you L T for the link to The Rude Pundit; great tribute.

  • aSouthernMan

    Old memories of drumming to ‘Sweet Jane’ long time ago…
    Great Music. Missed getting to see him in concert though.

  • aSouthernMan

    Thx SNL

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