PARIS, (Reuters) - Police guitarist Andy Summers always took his beloved Leica camera on tours with the band. So when the legendary rock act split in the mid 1980s, Summers decided to explore his skills as a photographer.
More than 20 years later, The Police are back for a reunion tour around the globe and Summers’ shots of the band in the early 1980s are on display throughout October at RTL radio in the posh 8th arrondissement near the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
“Like anyone I always took pictures, but I think I got serious about it at some point in 1979. I bought a Nikon in New York and eventually I became completely obsessed by it,” Summers told Reuters.
“There is a parallel with playing music. They’re both very satisfying and obsessive. It’s like a drug, you know, you keep wanting more of it,” he said.
Summers claims he is “happiest with a Leica at night in the streets” but when asked what he would pack if he could take just one item to a desert island, he says “I’ll take the guitar”.
“For me playing guitar is like breathing. I’ve done it since I was a child. Making music is the highest form of human aspiration.”
Summers, 64, was in Paris on Monday for a signing session of the photography book “I’ll Be Watching You: Inside The Police 1980-83” at the same-name photo exhibit after the band played two dates in the French capital over the weekend.
On Monday, Summers, singer and bass player Sting, and drummer Stewart Copeland were also made Knights of France’s Arts and Letters Order.
The 40 black and white prints on display are both a personal diary and a documentary of a rock band from the inside.
Summers vividly and often candidly shot the rehearsal sessions, the parties, but also the fans, the landscapes and the hotel lobbies.
Summers, who says he is inspired by masters of photography such as Robert Doisneau, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Brassai, Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander or Diane Arbus, captured frozen moments in time such as a hotel maid making a bed, autograph-hunting girls, or a spiky-haired Sting sitting at a make-up table.
The prints also fixed the energy and excitement of an era during which posters of Summers and his mates reigned supreme on the bedroom walls of teenagers.
“Anytime you are doing what you are really meant to do and people love you for it...it’s as good as life gets and a lot of these photographs express that,” he said.
Members of The Police pursued separate projects after the 1983-84 Synchronicity world tour. The band has played together on some occasions since, notably reuniting to play three concerts for an Amnesty International benefit in 1986.
Summers is photographing the band during the current reunion tour but is unsure if this will lead to a new photo project.
He said the mood on tour has been uplifting and that the comeback has been a fantastic experience.
“Nobody forgot us, it’s great.”
Asked about the band’s plans beyond the tour, he said “It’s an open door....the tour is being extended until next September ...So maybe we will think about it”, adding that making a new album would be “the obvious thing to do”
“One of the reasons why the band could come back is because we did not spoil the band’s image by doing anything stupid,”
The exhibition, at RTL radio, ends on October 17