Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx — the Most Unlikely Art Photographer

Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx is a legendary wild man; now his thousands of photos, since sobriety and before, are being showcased

Last Updated: August 28, 2011 @ 5:02 PM

In  March of  2009, when the Annenberg Space for Photography opened in in Century City, the most remarked upon guest at the gala was David LaChapelle’s date, Courtney Love.

I thought of Love  during an unveiling of images late last week at the Annenberg — all taken over the last two decades by Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx — when he put up a photo of a homeless woman holding a sign reading,  “I’m Not A Bad Girl, I Just Made Bad Decisions”.

Anyone wondering about the wisdom of the Annenberg's decision to feature the art of Sixx was happily surprised. Not only was his camera work fascinating — and its variety a bit dazzling — the rocker’s world view as he answered questions from moderator Kristine McKenna and the audience was quite compelling.  

Sixx, now 51, said he'd been captivated by the medium since the late '80s, but his interest didn't truly flower until around the time he — after a long series of addictions, including a near-death by overdose, chronicled in his book “The Heroin Diaries” — got sober in 2001.

“I’m very passionate about what I wrap my  hands around,” said Sixx. “The recovery wants me to engage; the addiction made me disengage.”

What recovery gives one, he added, is that “it allows your heart to soften.” 

He noted his images ranged all over because, “My life isn’t consistent. My life is chaotic. Rock 'n' roll is chaos.” 

Sixx — who also has a new book and album out, both titled “This Is Gonna Hurt” — alluded not just to his sobriety but his struggle to show his individuality growing up, starting from his rough upbringing that included a “sorta” homeless delinquent stage.

“I was a gnarly little kid, a fighter,” he told the crowd. “I try to hold on to that edge.

"If you’re Bill Gates,” he added, individuality "is okay — in the beginning he was [called] a whack job.”

His pictures, many of them in brooding black and white —  like a deliciate study of a wet street in Prague at 3 a.m. — were often grabbed on the run as he toured. He’s asked for a shot from many a prostitute in the world’s capitals, but a certain gentleness emerges in the shots of the homeless — or even of a shy hotel maid who said she was too ugly to photograph.

I said, “I’m gonna take a picture and show you you’re beautiful.”

And the image shown proved it. 

“I’m an emotional terrorist," he said. "If I see you have pain, I’m gonna pull it out of you.” 

Sixx’s appearance was part of the Annenberg’s “Iris Nights” lecture series, which will include Leonard Nimoy’s “Goddess”  panel Sept. 15. It’s also linked to the gallery’s "Beauty Culture” exhibit, and currently hung in the space are photos of many of Hollywood’s more glam stars, alongside the less coventionally atractive. The show runs through Nov. 27.

The selection shown at the event  did not feature either of his Playboy Model ex-wives (nor Denise Richards, whom he dated last year), but it did show him in a set of bunny ears he used to charm his current girlfriend: “That’s the closer. You put rabbit ears on, you got it.”