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Musician Henry Rollins makes sharing vacation photos fun again

Punk rock icon Henry Rollins has added traveling to his long list of interests. (Ross Halfin / Ross Halfin)
Punk rock icon Henry Rollins has added traveling to his long list of interests. (Ross Halfin / Ross Halfin)

Throughout his career, punk rock icon Henry Rollins has worn a number of hats.

Musician (Rollins used to front a little band called Black Flag, and, later, Rollins Band.), television presenter, film, television and voice actor, activist, radio host, author, spoken word performer, the list goes on and on.

But over the years, all of those jobs have collectively added up in such a way that Rollins is now also a veritable travel agent.

Rollins has criss-crossed the globe numerous times, but there was almost always a performance or appearance of some kind attached to his travels.

Rollins enjoyed these trips, but eventually realized that though he was seeing the world, he wasn’t actually seeing the world.

“At the end of the 1994 tour, which was quite extensive, I realized that despite all the countries I had been to, I hadn’t seen all that much,” he said in an email interview. “For some reason, it was in that year that it occurred to me that it’s possible to go to a lot of places but still not have seen much. It’s a way to let life pass you by while still thinking you’re really living.”

Three years later, Rollins decided to set off for foreign locales without a gig lined up, describing it as “traveling to see and learn.”

He’s been traveling with that goal in mind ever since.

Like most travelers, Rollins has taken to carrying his camera with him, snapping thousands of photos along the way.

Even still, he doesn’t consider himself a photographer.

“Like a lot of people, I just take photographs,” he said. “Thousands of shots later, I’m getting an idea of composition, f-stop, options, etc. The more photos I took, the more I started to understand what was possible and the more work I put into it. I’m still not all that good, but I think I’m getting better.”

Earlier this year, Rollins decided to share his experiences from around the world with, well, people from around the world, touring North America, Europe and the U.K. with his “Travel Slideshow” tour.

At these shows, Rollins flips the idea of tediously viewing carousel after carousel of vacation photos on its head.

Yes, there’s a projector, but this is Rollins we’re talking about, so you know his stories are going to be good.

Rollins brings the “Travel Slideshow” tour to the Bing Crosby Theater on Thursday.

During this tour, he’ll share photos and stories from his travels to Tibet, Mongolia, Vietnam, North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, South Sudan, Uganda, Mali, Haiti, Cambodia, Easter Island and Antarctica, among other places.

When selecting images for this run of dates, Rollins said he was trying to tell “human stories.”

“The images that have stuck with me are the ones where the person or people in the shot are telling you a lot about themselves,” he said. “This often has to do with exactly where I’m finding them. When you’re able to see their environment and for a second, try to put yourself in their place.”

His images from Bangladesh, for example, are some of his favorites to share with audiences.

“The strength of the people I met that might not be so apparent at first glance,” he said. “I like unraveling that for an audience.”

Through his travels, Rollins has come to see America in a new light.

On one hand, “we’re very lucky, not deplorable,” he said, a guide for other countries of what to do and what not to do, a country that features both the great and the awful.

On the other hand, Rollins said Americans don’t have a generational understanding of what can be lost, like, for example, some European countries.

His globetrotting adventures have also taught Rollins a lot about himself, shaping him to be more patient and tolerant.

“It’s a trying task, day to day, realizing that everyone you meet deserves all the respect you can afford them,” he said. “It’s not easy when you really try, not easy for me at least, but it’s the right thing to do. I always kind of knew this but travel has really cemented that for me.”

Whether traveling locally or abroad, Rollins said those looking to take travel photos worth sharing should focus on the story they see and are trying to tell with the photo.

That story, that humanity, he said, will likely translate and be relevant to someone who views the image.

“I’m obviously no authority but this is how I’ve gone about all things artistic, with honesty and a desire to connect as directives,” he said.


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