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all brief words and photos: Katherine Gaines/ambient eye

This past weekend, as part of Nat Geo Live! series Music on…Photography, Melissa Auf Der Mar stopped by for an informal evening of photo talk.


Fun facts:

  • Melissa has always considered herself a photographer, and becoming a full time musician was something that happened to her unintentionally.
  • She took us through her visual inspirations from her early days up through her current project. Her initial idea was to turn inward with self portraits.
  • As she went on tour she simply documented the people and things around her.
  • She offered a unique perspective of a time when nobody else was doing the same kind of work. Each image she showed came with an anecdote including early conversations with Billy Corgan and her first encounter with Courtney Love.


  • As her touring days progressed she moved towards documenting the crowds in front of her, and then once again turned inward to self portraits in hotel rooms.
  • There are the beginnings of an amazing project exploring the social and psychological aspects of life as a touring musician.
  • She contrasts seeing thousands of adoring fans shouting back at her, to seeing nothing but her own reflection in the television of a lonely hotel room. If only she could find the time to properly sort through her negatives and put it together.


She then transitioned into her current work: album, comic, and short film ‘Out of Our Minds.’

She explained how writing her own music freed her visually to explore the surreal. The movie itself is an exploration of multiple realities tied together by blood, from the mundane to the fantastical. There is some environmentalist commentary, and it was shot on a private estate in the woods of Vermont. The creepy droning soundtrack is provided by Melissa and The Entrance Band (including Paz Lenchantin) from one massive jam session. The movie was clearly shot from a visual perspective rather than a storytelling one. Shots like a woman’s heel sinking into the mud, and blood splattering onto loggers faces brought the viewers viscerally into the scene evoking multiple sensory reactions.


The following interview and q&a had Melissa asking if anyone was offended by the movie, which seemed a little silly considering what (and who) she’s been associated with in the past. She spoke a lot about Courtney as a person, and how they bonded over feminine empathy in a male dominated industry.

Afterwards, she hung out in the lobby and happily chatted with everyone until she literally had to be dragged away so security could close up the building. We love you Melissa.

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