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Ride With Norman Reedus Q&A — Patrick Hoelck

Renowned photographer Patrick Hoelck, Norman’s long-time friend and riding companion through Hawaii in the latest episode, talks his lifelong love of riding, how social media is affecting the world of photography, and what he considers paradise.

Q: In the episode, you talk about how you and Norman have been friends forever, but you don’t talk about how you became friends…

A: Neither of us remember! Those were the days of friends intersecting friends and when you’re in the art scene and making films and being weirdos, you just run into people. Norman’s special. He’s a kind, gentle force that you know is going to be in your life forever. Certain people have that ability, and he’s that guy. He’s the most considerate and kind person. He doesn’t have any malice in his body. He’s like that spiritual force. He’s unforgettable that way.

Q: How did you get into riding bikes?

A: Since birth. I came into dirt bikes when I was old enough to walk. I had family that rode and competed in motocross. It was like almost 10 minutes after a bicycle came motocross. It changed my life. My parents got me a motorcycle when I was very young. I’m 49 and that’s still the best day of my life.

Q: Is there any crossover for you between bike culture and photography?

A: I think to do good film or photography, you have to tune out. It’s ironic because the show is nothing like this – it’s stressful in production – but riding is the silence of not being able to check your phone, no one’s coming up to you to tell you a story and you zone out. It’s meditative, and it’s also a clearance for fresh and new ideas for your work. It’s the escape of work that makes the work better when you return to it. It’s a break. It’s a pause button, like surfing. When I go surfing now, it’s a silence and a regrouping. I don’t think of anything. It’s turning off.

Q: When you guys were in Hawaii, was there anything there that caught your photographer eye?

A: The landscapes are always inspiring and the weather changes in a tropical environment are some of my favorite things. But sometimes you go, “I’m not a documentary right now. I’m a person, and I want to feel and experience this as a person and not as a production member.” It’s funny because on the show, I had no pressure on me. It’s fun to be in a role reversal where [Norman] has to get his day and his time and the headset and director and all that, and I just had to be there and hold the handle bars. It’s a funny variance of being on somebody else’s project.

Q: Everyone considers Hawaii to be paradise. What’s paradise to you?

A: I like Costa Rica. There’s something about Costa Rica where the stars look like planets. It’s almost like getting off the Peter Pan ride at Disney. It looks fake in Costa Rica. That’s one of the places I’d call paradise. I was on a black-sanded beach and it’s surreal. It’s just dreamy. No disrespect to Hawaii, but it’s not on that level!

Q: As a professional photographer, what’s your view on the current cultural zeitgeist around social media images and photos? How has it affected your field?

A: It’s like everyone is a photographer and everyone has access and photography is devalued in a sense. The good news is we’re still getting work that we like and it edits out the nonsense. Good work always survives. I feel like this is a massive cultural shift, but I’m more excited about what’s on the other side of this era, because I feel like it’s dwindling. It’s becoming so mainstream and loud that I’m super curious about what’s next. I work with younger people in my office and there’s a lean towards analog photography. The kids I work with think I’m stupid when I shoot with digital. Maybe there’s a Bob Dylan-esque modern society coming our way. I feel like people have been in a massive consumerism moment, and it’s bigger than Instagram. You see people fretting about getting the iPhoneX because it’s new. It’s a world of consumerism. You walk out, and it’s almost like Norman’s show – the world is a zombie.

I got the luck of meeting the guy who did the Silhouette campaign for the iPod and he did a pitch and had done all this elaborate art work to present to [Steve] Jobs. He had done 1000 comps and he had some in the corner and his wife or girlfriend said, “What are those?” and he said, “I’m not presenting those. Those were me being angry” and she goes, “What does the silhouette mean?” and he goes, “It means that this is a vapid generation of nobody and they don’t mean anything, so they’re void. They’re absolutely no one and they have no voice and no opinion, so I made them blank.” Long story short, guess what won? In a sense, I side with that. It’s a really weird consumeristic time. It’s probably making therapists a lot of money. But I’m a guy that can watch Citizen Kane and Vanderpump Rules the same evening. I like everything. I’m curious.

Q: How do you stay inspired and focused when you’re working on several projects?

A: They’re all interconnected. If I’m making a song on an oscillator or writing a piece in a book, they’re all forms of expression and anytime you’re expressing yourself, you’re having so much fun that you’re not really thinking of anything to do with the work of it. It’s more just the process of expression. When I was a young kid, I knew everything and I was a bit of a dictator, and through my insecurity, I became very firm and controlling. The older you get, the more you see that your own personal work is better when you let go and open up. To know nothing has been helpful.

Q: How do you want your work to make an impact?

A: Being helpful to anyone that needs it and trying to get better in my own way with what I do to keep stripping down technique. If I’m into a certain kind of lighting strategy, I’ll change it. If I’m pursuing a subject in an interview, maybe I’ll come from a different direction just to not keep relying on a technique. I keep abandoning those securities and finding the other angles. You’re not always right. If you can erase all your stress and your projections on something and come from the right instead of the left, it might be a magical moment.

Read a Q&A with Aimee Nash.

Watch the latest episode now on and AMC apps for mobile and devices.

The Ride With Norman Reedus Season Finale airs Monday 9/8c. To get more exclusive extras, sign up for the weekly Ride With Norman Reedus Insiders Club.

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