Deeply sad to hear about Lou Reed’s death. I have thought a lot about him since I was lucky enough to interview him for Salon, back in 2006. Days before the opening of the rock icon’s first major photography exhibit in New York, we spoke about his photographs, which were surprisingly sentimental and pretty. “I was following this beauty, this overwhelming beauty that you see in New York,” Reed told me as we sat in the Steven Kasher Gallery, in Chelsea, surrounded by pictures of sunsets, darkly glowing clouds, moving light and the view of the Hudson River from his West Side apartment.
Reed, a notoriously difficult interview, immediately put me on notice. He made fun of my low-tech tape recorder — and my name, which he found absurdly punny, given my profession. He was in complete control of our conversation, leaving me and my list of questions hopelessly scrambling to keep up as he discussed his technique and inspiration and associations. But when he decided I was not out to get him, as he obviously felt many journalists were, he warmed up, speaking to me longer than scheduled, even reaching out, at one point, to give my hand a little approving pat. He appeared to want nothing more than to be heard and understood, to connect.
“I think these things are fascinating and beautiful and available to anybody,” he said of his photographs, or perhaps the moments he sought to capture in them. “And I think beautiful things make us feel good.”
As I finally moved to leave, taking my apparently ridiculous tape recorder with me, Reed enveloped me in a hug. It may have been after I told him I had been seated in front of him years before, in 2001, at soul singer Howard Tate’s first back-from-nowhere NYC gig at the Village Underground, a night no one in attendance would ever forget. Or it may not. I can’t specifically remember what prompted his sudden warm embrace. But I do remember that, after I revealed I had only months before had my second child, he pulled me back into the gallery to look at an image he thought would mean something special to a new parent.
It was a generous gesture, and I was touched, if perhaps a bit confused, by it, as I was by the call I got afterward from his rep, asking if I would be interested in interviewing Reed for a British magazine that wanted a word with him. “Lou wants you to do it,” the rep said, sounding frankly mystified. “He liked you.”
The feeling was mutual.
Lou Reed takes his best shots (Salon)