The Toast | Occupants

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but if not I’ll say it again, one of my favorite artists (this includes musician, author, actor and whatever else you can cram into that category) is Henry Rollins. I’m a huge Black Flag fan, I’ve attended multiple spoken words shows (and left speechless) and actually watched movies for the sole purpose of him being in there (okay, so this is borderline fan girl, but bear with me).

When he released his book “Occupants,” there was a advertisement that the first hundred or so (can’t remember the exact number) would have their copy signed by the man himself. While that got me interested in pre-ordering the book, it was the content itself that made me order the book.  “Occupants” contains a lot of photography from Rollins’ travels around the world, but it also contains poetry, short stories and journal entries to go along with these photos. Think of it almost like a picture book for adults.

I remember Rollins saying at one of his spoken words shows that he traveled the world, specifically third world countries, in order to meet the people and learn about them. Whether he was sincere about that or it was just a ruse that statement really stuck with me. The pictures in his book range from 2003 to 2010 and the stories range from disturbing and sad to pretty random and at some points even kind of silly.

One memorable sections of the book was the introduction. One line really stuck with me: “ I hope that the random nature of my wandering will allow me to bump into the truth now and then.” It’s pretty obvious for anyone who knows of Rollins and any of his work that he is very opinionated, but I love the earnestness of that statement. Not many want to know the truth of the horrors that happen outside the comfort of our country, but he’s hoping to find it. I find that very noble.

Something I thought was very symbolic of the story was the section titled “United States 2008.” The rest of the book features a lot of third world countries, some that are not in the best of conditions and the pictures he features in this section are a luxurious room and a short bit about propaganda in the USA (at least that’s how I interpreted it). “ Everyone is someone else’s terrorist. Find new ways to hate, turn your brain cells into hammers and go work for USA… put your head in a bag and breathe USA”

Another part of the book that really stuck out to me was the multiple sections depicting Afghanistan. One was in 2003 and the other in 2004. The first picture is of a roped off area with a flag that says “Mines” on it, and the second picture in 2004 is of a soldier looking out into the horizon. Both sections touch on the US military being stationed there, but the section in 2004 is more from the perspective of the soldier. With lines like, “I remember the screams of men. I remember them smashing their heads into the walls of their cells,” this story was meant to give the reader an inside look at the damage war can do to a soldier.

If the saying “a picture’s worth a thousand words” is true, then I can imagine why Rollins felt the need to write to go along with his photographs. The pictures and the captions that go along with each other are powerful and worth a read to anyone who’s interested in seeing the world in a whole new perspective. This book is definitely worth a read, or even a look.



Written by: Katie Sperduti


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