Lamb of God Singer Randy Blythe Details NYC Photography Exhibit Ahead of Opening

 D Randall Blythe: Show Me What You’re Made Of
Randy Blythe

"Safe Haven" from the photo exhibit D Randall Blythe: Show Me What You’re Made Of by Randy Blythe.

Lamb of God singer turns a reverent eye to everyday subjects.

When you step inside the photo exhibition "D Randall Blythe: Show Me What You're Made Of," nothing about the display would tip off an unsuspecting visitor that it was created by a man who fronts a heavy metal band. Granted, Sacred Gallery NYC is located in a Manhattan tattoo studio, but the setting -- spacious, clean, bright-- looks like that of hundreds of other merchants doing business in a converted space.

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About three dozen photos mounted in repurposed wood frames run the perimeter of the slate gray walls. They aren't especially large; most are black and white. The subjects aren't out of the ordinary, either -- Blythe is essentially a street photographer; he calls himself "very young" in terms of shooting, which is about four years.

But his perspective as an artist, one who expresses his observations as the singer in Lamb of God, sets him apart from other amatures. When a photograph arouses substantial emotion, it typically means the picture is doing its job, and Blythe's work passes that immediate test by inspiring curiosity.

One of the few color prints on display is of a man in a fireproof suit encircled by a halo of orange flames. There's a shot taken from atop a narrow stone staircase in an alley of a little girl clutching a stuffed dog. Another is taken up close an old woman, her face grimacing in effort, as she busks on a tiny guitar. Then there's one of a solider leaning against a wall, his head buried in the crook of his arm. It's hard to tell where it was taken until you read the attached placard that he's at the Wailing Wall.

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"When I look at the picture, yes, it's an Israeli soldier with a weapon praying to his conception of God, but that's all window dressing to me," explains Blythe about the print, called "Individual Moment." "What it is is an individual looking outside of himself in a moment of peace. Whatever your belief or non-belief is, if you can look outside of yourself and look to something in here all the time…" he gestures over his heart "…maybe you'll be able to relate to people better." He gives a brief laugh. "Maybe there won't be so much strife."

Blythe's laid-back demeanor -- he wears a baseball hat and hoodie, sips a nonalcoholic beer and drags on a pleasant-smelling e-cigarette -- doesn't give off the vibe of someone who has seen more than his fair share of it. His story is well known: After 19-year-old Daniel Nosek died of a head injury after being pushed from the stage while Lamb of God performed in Prague in 2010, Blythe was accused of manslaughter and eventually acquitted in 2013. In his public statements about the case, Blythe expressed sympathy for Nosek's family; he stated at the end of his trial, according to CNN, "I can understand that pain as only the father of a dead child can."

We don't go into those details during the conversation, but that chapter of his life is acknowledged in prints like a blurred shot of a clock tour he stared at when he was allowed outside to exercise while waiting to make bail and one of the moon buffered by clouds, which he shot from the apartment he stayed in during the trial.

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When he's asked about one called "Turning the Tables," he says, "You're going to have to read that one. You're on your own," and ducks away to greet a guest. The print is of a crush of paparazzi outside the Prague Municipal Court, thrusting microphones at him moments after he was declared not guilty. The placard explains that Blythe held his camera at his chest to continuously shoot the crowd. For a reporter taking in the scene, it is a table-turning moment: The in-your-face shot of the microphones demonstrates their intrusiveness. The reporters' faces are less distinct. This part of his life may be be receding into the background, but to focus on it for too long is likely still very painful, because a common trait among his Prague pictures is blurriness.

If Blythe was deeply bitter about his own experiences, he could let it head in these images. But even when he shoots in dismal places, like the abandoned tunnels of New York's subway system or the remains of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, he's foraging for a glimpse of beauty. He's not interested in typical documentary work -- despite the exhibition being a visual passport of places where Lamb of God has performed -- Jerusalem, Czechoslovakia, Sweden, Australia, Germany -- the photos don't reveal much about the regions where they were shot. Blythe seems more focused on the reverence of the moment, whether it's the defeat of a Thai boxer who's slumped against the ropes or a street violinist in Vienna who knowingly posed for Blythe with his instrument tucked beneath his chin.

He doesn't want to be invasive either, but it doesn't keep him from capturing a scene like one man sprawled atop another on a Philadelphia street during a drunken brawl in "Alcoholism and Apathy."

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"I've been in that position," he says, gesturing to the two men who are embracing almost like lovers as they grapple on the sidewalk. (Blythe says he is an alcoholic who is now more than five years sober.) "So half of me is laughing like, 'Yeeaahh!,' you know? Been there. And the other half is just sad." He says that if the fight had gotten out of hand he would have stepped in, but the store owner broke it up after one guy got in a good swat.

"If I'm going to take a picture of someone on the street, I smile at them; I'll make eye contact, or if something messed up has happened, I'll stay away. I try not to be intrusive," says Blythe. "Some street photographers, I've read some books that are like, 'It is your right,' and they list out your legal rights [of what you can shoot], and I'm like, 'You may have that legal right, but you're also an asshole.' So it's a thin line to walk."

The opening reception to "D Randall Blythe: Show Me What You're Made Of" is Saturday (May 2) at 8 p.m. at Sacred Gallery NYC. The exhibit will be on display until June 30.


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