I met up with Nikki Sixx at the Leica Store and Gallery for a somewhat spontaneous interview and photo session for the launch of the special “Nikki Sixx Edition” of the Leica Q camera and photo exhibition of Nikki’s exceptional photo work capturing images of the homeless benefiting Covenant House. Nikki Sixx’s collaboration with Leica Camera coincides with the 10th Anniversary of his New York Times bestselling Memoir “The Heroin Diaries” and “The Heroin Diaries” anniversary edition soundtrack album by his other band, SIXX:A.M. “Conversations with Angels” is a complete collection of Nikki’s photographic work that adds a new dimension to his already considerable ability to tell a story beyond his music and writing legacy.
Nikki is a well-known rocker with a reputation that has grown well beyond his Mötley Crüe roots. His work has included 3 New York Time best-selling books. Those stories that has opened a door for him to give back, making him a spokesman, or more precisely a storyteller with an insightful and positive message. Those stories built from his own experiences with addiction and homelessness. He has moved beyond music and beyond the written word with his first gallery exhibition “Conversations with Angeles” at the Leica Store and Gallery. The images he has shared are graphic, exotic, erotic, grungy. They are at times freakishly involving or richly engaging, filled with details of damaged beauty that proves moving and are deeply satisfying with his unique way of presenting a story. It all comes from his sincere interest in people and his eye focused on the human experience. On every occasion Nikki spends time with his subjects: interviewing, asking questions with a desire to really connect with the people he photographs and the lives they lead. It shows his and his subjects humanity in powerful ways that words rarely can capture. These photos are on exhibition at the Leica Gallery and will be showing from October 4 through November 5, 2017.
After the jump, my interview with Nikki on the opening night of “Conversations with Angels”
LA Beat: At 28 you OD’ed right, you and that experience and you bought a camera. Was it a Leica camera?
NIKKI: Yes. I don’t think my first camera was a Leica camera. I think it might have been Canon. I carried Polaroids around with me. You know, to shoot on the road. I always loved Polaroids. It was like a path to finding what it liked, the photographers I liked and realizing that they all shot with Leicas. It made sense!
LA Beat: Yes, if you like the aesthetics and the vision.
NIKKI: There was that thing for me where I see stuff on the street. I see it punchy and black and white. I’m like, what it is… How do I tell the story. It felt like it was the camera for that.
LA Beat: Afterwards, in your journey: did you have an epiphany, a vision, a specific gaol when you started or were you experimenting, floating with the situation?
NIKKI: Being an artist, I was always looking at stuff in an artistic way. So whatever I was doing… Whenever I was shooting I was always looking at interesting angles, focus points, not knowing really what I was doing: which I think was really great. I gravitated towards manual so I could make it do stuff. Of course, back then it wasn’t as easy to learn like you can on digital, because you can make a thousand on digital and start over and that’s exciting! I think for me, even with the early shots, you know, my personal life had the same sense. It’s how I like to shoot now. My wife almost hates it when I take pictures of her. It’s moody. When I develop things I really push the structure and the contrast – I love it! She like, it looks so hard… I think that’s part of story telling so I not a good person to shoot models.
LA Beat: Right, I can see that! It’s very strong, very graphic.
NIKKI: The deeper the line the more interesting.
LA Beat: Models don’t like that!
NIKKI: Yeah, no…
LA Beat: I’m interested in the charity you are involved in.
NIKKI: You mean Covenant House?
LA Beat: Explain to me what the funds raised from this charity is going to do?
NIKKI: So when I was releasing 10 years ago “The Heroin Diaries” I felt it was an opportunity to raise awareness around addiction and that I had a short experience being without a home. And doing research I found right here in Los Angeles there was Covenant House that was doing all this work with young kids. You know, I met with them and I figured that I’d donate proceeds from the book to build a music program. My goal was and their goal was the same, which is they pull the kids off the street. However they would get there, they all have their own stories, but they are finally in a safe environment. They have doctors, they have education. They can get people jobs: besides housing and get them on a healthy track. That’s a lot of work, there’s therapy and that’s a lot of work! And when you are a young person you’re asking, what’s the cookie at the end of it; besides, getting your life together? We thought, music! That’s what saved me. We created a music program. We raised a lot of money. We have teachers there that come in. We had lots of companies donated guitars, basses, drums, computers, software and everyday at the end of a certain amount of hours kids get to go in there and make music. The goal now, behind donating the photos of the homeless people is help create a photography room at Covenant House. Kids can get in there and learn about photography, developing, printing and have something that they can carry throughout their lives.
LA Beat: That’s cool. It’s bigger: People need bigger!
Nikki: People need things they can take with them through their whole life. I’ve noticed in myself, those things I did when I was young, that I was passionate about, I kept doing them whether they became a career for me or of something of high interest, they’re always there, they’re like my friend. It’s like photography and music those are my things I always have no matter what’s going on in the world. It’s a nice gift to teach people of having a deep commitment to something like that. It’s something that they can take into their 50’s, 60’s 70’s, 80’s and pass on to their kids and grandkids. I think it’s just a good thing!