Music | April 25, 2021 1:31 pm

Michael Stipe Talks Photography, Toxic Masculinity in New Interview

Engaging thoughts on art and life

Michael Stipe
Michael Stipe participates in a conversation with Douglas Coupland and Jonathan Berger at New York Public Library on November 01, 2019.
Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

What do you do for a second act in life after you’ve been in a generationally beloved rock band? In the 10 years since R.E.M. broke up, Michael Stipe has focused on photography and other visual art, with a new book of his work out this month. As befits a founding member of one of the most influential American bands of recent decades — and someone who, based on the people he’s photographed, seems to know literally everyone — Stipe has a lot to say and a host of subjects to speak about.

Miranda Sawyer interviewed Stipe for The Guardian, and — as befits someone with a wide array of interests — the conversation focused on a number of subjects. Among them? The difference between his musical work and his visual art. Regarding music, Stipe made an interesting point. “It’s creativity that you cannot touch,” he said. “And so making things that you can touch: a vase that you can hold, a book you can put it on the shelf, say… for me, that’s fascinating.”

Most intriguingly, Stipe also spoke about social media, toxic behavior and — more specifically — Twitter’s ban of Donald Trump, which Stipe felt took place much later than it should have. “That platform allowed Trump a voice that put wind under his sails, and allowed for the type of disgusting behaviour that earmarks those years, and allowed a pandemic to run ravage across our country and across the world,” Stipe said. “It’s an embarrassing and horrifying chapter of our history. This stupid male idea of power, it’s so dumb.”

For Stipe, reflecting on the work of artists and activists during the pandemic offers the chance for personal improvement. “We need all of these minds, pushing us to be a better version of ourselves,” he told Sawyer. As pandemic-era projects go, it’s an admirable one.