ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Rochester fans of music and photography will get to enjoy a special confluence of both, as Rochester Music Hall of Famer, bassist, composer, first call musician, and photographer Tony Levin presents his new book, “Images from a Life on the Road,” a coffee table photo book full of his photos of decades of life on the road.

The talk will be at the Rochester Music Hall of Fame, Saturday, January 29 at 1:30 p.m. Levin will present as part of their “Books Backstage” series. The presentation will feature a discussion his book, his time working with some of the biggest names in music, and special photos.

The talk will take place in The Atrium at Eastman Place, 25 Gibbs St., Rochester. Seating is limited and all NYS Covid restrictions in effect at the time of the event will be followed. The $15 admission fee is a donation to the Rochester Music Hall of Fame. Tickets can be purchased in advance here or at the door.

Levin last spoke with News 8 when King Crimson was on tour. In that interview, he had called the project the next thing he wanted to accomplish, and the time of the 2020 “deep pandemic” afforded him the time to do so. This project follows his release of three other books, the photo books “Road Photos” and “The Crimson Chronicles volume 1.”

You’re back on the East Coast big tour last year, how is life more or less back to normal talk about the world of Tony Levin right now?

It’s not normal, but it’s good. Everything is good. We musicians who have had any work are very grateful, and have some artistic output is even better. That’s really important to me. During the years of lockdown, with less touring, I was lucky to have some touring and quite a bit of recording.

I decided that in the worst of it in 2020, to devote the year to go into the tens of thousands of negatives I have; pictures I’ve taken on the road through all these years. And by the end of that year, I had a quite acceptable book to put out. And I feel really good about that. So I’m plugging away the way all of us artists and musicians are.

The website of yours is one of the first that had been around for a long time, you’ve been a photographer for a long time, you’re coming back to your hometown to release this book… Has that sunk in yet? I mean, this has been something that you’ve spent decades working on.

It’s not quite like that. That’s a good, that’s a good narrative. Maybe I should just adopt that and twist the reality a little bit. That’s always worth worth considering. No, in fact, the touring of King Crimson has been very interesting. And we were very lucky to be able to tour all of last year 2021… and it was a really successful and poignant year for us.

But as for the photography, yes, I’ve been working at it a long time. And really, without the lockdown, I wouldn’t have had the time to do this book. The book’s been out a little while actually came out at the beginning of last year. And wonderful to, I guess, the best part of it the best feeling to me to be able to present these pictures, because I have a unique perspective, being onstage and taking photos.

Yeah, I should be playing the bass and not thinking about photos, but because I’ve been doing it so long and occasionally get lucky and grab a good picture. But always from this vantage point. This shows the audience behind the Peter Gabriel behind Paul Simon or Seal or Peter Frampton, I’ve been lucky to have many artists in front of me on stage. If I’m lucky, I capture something of what’s special about (it).

As you’re looking through all of these different photos, including some pre-selfie selfies, are there any that kind of stand out? Do you have moments of reflection as you’re looking through this? Because this is a massive archive with a lot of different stuff. I know that was a big question, but is there anything that kind of washes over you as you’re going through some of these?

Thank you. Well, well, thank you for that. That quote of yours that I wrote down “pre-selfie selfie,” I’m going to use that sooner or later. Jumping to a similar thing in the question you asked if I had a favorite I’m not big on favorites of my photos or my music. But if I have a favorite of this, it’s a photo of Peter Gabriel. Pre-crowd surfing crowd-surfing. So I’m stealing your way of talking about things. Because in the late 70s, early 80s when we did the piece, “Lay Your Hands on Me,” Peter started floating out into the audience and boy, were they surprised when that happened. Nobody had ever done anything like that, that I know of.

I have I got a number of pictures of it… Yes, people took pictures of it, but there I was on stage and vamping on “Lay Your Hands On Me” while we waited for the audience to have it in their mind to return Peter to the stage… Which sometimes was five or ten minutes. I got a lot of photos but only a few of them came out.

(It’s) very gratifying to have a chance to, to present these pictures that present a viewpoint that other people don’t usually have. I decided I had a lot of choices about how to organize the book, I thought about doing it by band, or by tour or chronologically through my career. And I decided to present it as what it’s like on the road.

So the first chapter is in travel, some pretty interesting pictures of trains, planes, and being stuck on boats, and things like that. (Even) just sitting around in the travel, which is, frankly, a lot of our day when we tour.

Then a chapter on getting to the venue, and very poignant part of the day is going on stage. If I’m lucky, I could capture some of the the magic of what that’s like different than every kind of show, and then of course, on stage, and a chapter just portraits of some of the guys have toured with.

So that’s how we decided to organize the pictures really, that was only late in the day, most of that year, 2020, I spent choosing which pictures to take and and finally I got it down to 800. And then I knew I had to get it down to about 250. That was that’s a work of art. And it took up a lot of the year, which was kind of fun.

So what’s interesting about doing things on film, as opposed to digital film camera, when you’re processing a photo on like Photoshop or something, you can hit “Ctrl+Z,” and then just do it again. So you know, so talking about the actual process of developing this film, and if your thinking shifted knowing it was going in the book.

It’s changed through the years is changed a lot, you’re very astute to bring up the subject, which is fascinating. For youngsters, I could explain that there was this thing called film. And we used to take a picture, and we actually couldn’t see what it how it came out. You just look at the back of the camera, there was nothing there.

A lot of these pictures were taken with Tri-X black and white film — you had to choose what kind of film of course before you put it in the camera — and I would take it for instance in Europe in the 70s and 80s of Peter Gabriel King Crimson on tour. And then I would have to find what we call the 24 hour developing place in some city.

Maybe in touring Germany, if I got a day off in the city get the pictures developed. And then I look at it as “Okay, this one scene that I’m going for on stage is out of focus all the time, or I need to do something different.” And then I would just and more days or weeks would go by so that’s the way it was early on.

And then in the 90s when I started my website, I decided to put these pictures up. And that was a pretty nice thing. They were tiny, for those who know pixels, they were 200 pixels wide, and that was the biggest you could put on a on a website.

So it was a pretty interesting process, changing the film to digital, and then getting it sent to a webmaster who could put it up. And then I made the biggest mistake — by far the biggest mistake of my photographic career — I switched to digital very early. So everything I shot through from about ’95 until 2002… I have it but it’s really crummy, small, low resolution digital, mostly. I don’t think any of those pictures made it to the book. Oh, well.

Then I jumped on digital and like everybody, learned it slowly, and learned Photoshop… I’m very happy with digital, I prefer it. I love being able to look at the picture, “okay, didn’t come out right,” take it again, and not have to wait two, three days to find that out.

It’s a much more instantly gratifying process. And it’s a little less to think about.

One learns when when I’m not the only one who’s aware of this, when you use the Photoshop, it’s like there’s a distinct parallel between that and being a musician in the studio. And when I record the bass, I know, okay, afterwards, I can do this. If I need to, I could do this. And you get familiar with that process. Likewise, when you’re familiar with Photoshop, and then I’m backstage with King Crimson and I see a situation I know that if I shoot it a certain way, then I have to be perfect. I know I can adapt in a certain way and it’ll come out with showing the scene I want the way I want to show it the same.

I want to circle back because you know one thing that I always tell people who are new to news is: The defining part of the news business is taking a lot of information and condensing it in a way that captures the essence of what you’re going for. And in a way, when you’re working with tens of thousands of photos, and you have to get it down to 200, that’s tough, because there’s a lot of stuff you want to keep in there. What’s your thought process from going from tens of thousands to 200? What are some things you’re looking for?

Well, the first months, were just being angry at myself for not organizing them better after I took them, because they weren’t all nicely laid out in a program. They weren’t all digital. Most of the good ones were digitized, because they use them for various reasons through the years. But a lot of them weren’t. I didn’t want to later come across a negative or contact sheet (and think), “oh my gosh, why didn’t I use that?”

So going through everything took a long time, that was a lot of kicking myself. I didn’t know that I was a professional photographer. And I didn’t know that I would have ever had the time to go through all of this. Having done that, picking them out, I found I work best in an analogue kind of way, print out the pictures actually make up a mock book, and which pictures are opposite.

First of all, I wanted only one picture on a page and blank on the other. But that cut in half the number of pictures I could use. So which ones complement each other became a factor I didn’t think of when I was choosing the pictures. And that’s I would wait. Most days, I would wake up in the morning. And really this room, this very room was just covered with pictures on the floor, and kind of fun; kind of wading through a mess of pictures.

Gradually they got into categories. And gradually I got this idea of well, let’s put the travel pictures in in one chapter and things like that. So it was an artistic process that was like most of them really enjoyable and immersive while I was doing it. And one of the really important ingredients to me is that when it was done, I felt good about it. And I felt like okay, it’s not perfect. And there’s some pictures that maybe could have got in there. But I’m not going to second guess myself, I feel very good about the result.

Well, there’s not too much more we can ask for at the end of the day, those who are in the business of making something creative. What do you want the consumer of your book to leave with?

Good question, and I haven’t really asked myself that. There’s a really good question makes makes the brain cells hopefully working. I’m having another sip of coffee.

I hope, I know, the reader of the book or someone who shuffles through it will get a sense of “this is really telling me what it’s like for those guys in rock bands out on the road.”

The gritty side of it, not so much the glamour side of it, but but some of that. And it’s a very interesting subject. In addition, and what helps, many of the pictures will just look like fine art on their own. I worked really hard on these photos. And hopefully, the reader will will say, “Oh, this is art. I love this picture.” And I would I would love to frame this and hang it up. If many of the pictures are that way, then that’s quite a success for a photo book, in my opinion.

Can people buy prints?

It’s a different subject but this year — released only a month or two ago — I released a very small series of eight Intaglio prints very high quality prints of King Crimson. I picked eight of the best ones — this book has 250 — I picked eight of my favorites, and indeed in the talk I’ll be giving, I’ll bring a couple of them and put them up on easels so people can see them. These are good photos… They deserved to have a high quality print available of them.

And you gave me my professional transition. You are coming back to Rochester, the place where you cut your teeth musically. Obviously you’re a member of the Rochester Music Hall of Fame. It’s hard to believe that ceremony happened in 2018, way too long ago… Obviously you’ve been in Rochester, this area, since then. This place was integral to your development as a musician, as a young man, and you’re coming back here.

Always great to come to Rochester. I come quite often. I have good friends. It’s my musical birthplace in a way. It’s not my birthplace, but it’s my musical birthplace, good friends and good memories. In fact, as I was just recently, before, thinking about the talk, I was going through the book and I found a picture of Chuck Mangione over in Eastman Theater, conducting us rehearsing for the Friends in Love reunion in 2005.

A lot of my heart is in Rochester, always good to come back. And it is in this little talk about my book. And maybe more than that, it’ll be a talk about my experiences on the road. I’ll be right across the street from Eastman, where I went to school and, and the Rochester Philharmonic where I got my classical start. And it’ll be exciting.

You can watch the full interview here: