June 22, 2007, Santa Monica, CA. You would think that a 50-something rock star in the midst of the most highly anticipated tour in years might want to enjoy a night off once in a while. But not guitarist Andy Summers. Instead of enjoying some down time between sold out Police concerts at Staples Center, Honda Center and Dodger Stadium, Summers spent his night off attending the opening of his photo exhibit “Andy Summers: I’ll Be Watching You. Inside The Police 1980-83” at Bergamot Station’s Frank Pictures Gallery. With Summers’ band mates Sting and Stewart Copeland in attendance, Police fans, stargazers and true aficionados of fine art were all more than satisfied by this very special event.
The exhibit (frankpicturesgallery.com/ andysummers) showcases over 25 of Summers best pieces. Shot entirely in black and white, the photos do a masterful job capturing the joy, exhaustion, success and emptiness of the rock star life. During the period the photos were taken, The Police was arguably the most popular rock band in the world. Their tours spanned beyond the traditional US/Western Europe bookings to places less traveled, such as Australia, Japan, Mexico, South America and Africa. Summers’ exhibit spans the globe and manages to give us all a glimpse of the simultaneous fulfillment and emptiness that he and his band mates must have felt during that chaotic time.
While best known for his guitar talent, Summers had an affinity for photography even as a youngster. “By 1979, the band was going, and I could finally afford to buy a real camera,” Summers stated. “I bought a Nikon and in an abstract way thought ‘Alright, I’m going to be a photographer now.’ I found I had a natural affinity for it. It became an obsession. For a moment, I was sort of on the edge of a schitzo situation where I thought, ‘Am I a guitarist or a photographer?’ But then, for me, music is a deeper art, and the band took off. But photography is still with me. Here I am, 25,000 contact sheets later.”
The best pieces are the most personal, including “Pyramid of the Sun,” featuring fellow Police-men Sting and Stewart Copeland atop a Mexican pyramid in 1980; “Girl and Guitar,” (Nashville, 1982) featuring a young, nude female adoringly curled up next to Summers’ guitar; and “Sting and Stewart,” featuring an utterly exhausted Sting and Copeland in 1982 Paris. These are very personal photographs that eloquently capture a very magic moment in time.
“Set List” filters out all of the drama, chaos and in-fighting that the Police were experiencing at the time; it is a simple photograph of a pair of hands (Sting’s?) filling out a set list for an upcoming show. Stars of popular music have often proclaimed that for them, the only chaos-free time is during a performance. This photograph perfectly illustrates the fact that for 90+ minutes, every time they performed, the members of The Police were able to put aside their differences, forget about record sales or concert grosses, ignore the endless pressure of fame and fortune and just play their music.
The exhibit runs through July 13. The total edition size for each photograph is 100, with prices ranging from $750-3600+ (depending on size). For further information, contact Frank Pictures at 310.828.0211.