Keyboardist Ben Folds has worn many hats in his illustrious career. He started off anchoring the deceptively dubbed trio Ben Folds Five, which recently reconvened after 13 years for the new album, “The Sound of the Life of the Mind.” But he also has collaborated on projects with authors such as Neil Gaiman and Nick Hornby; produced albums by Amanda Palmer and Sara Bareilles; and worked alongside Bareilles as a judge on TV’s a cappella vocal competition “The Sing-Off.” In Ben Folds Five’s video for “Do it Anyway,” he appears with Fraggle Rock characters plus comedy-world pals Anna Kendrick, Chris Hardwick and Rob Corddry. His first photo exhibit, “Image Versus Verse,” just opened in England.
As a photographer, what shots just beg to be taken?
Well, that would be the million-dollar question. Cartier-Bresson called it “the decisive moment.” He had well-thought-out theories for why someone presses the shutter and what state of mind he should be in and what exactly you’re capturing. So I don’t really know. But I think I do feel it when I shoot it.
Any favorite cameras?
I have a few cameras, but I like to shoot with film, when possible. And my film camera of choice is my old Leica. So I’ve spent a lot of time in the darkroom, which has been a formative part of my decision-making when I shoot. Because when you’re shooting with film, you become hyperaware of all things to do with the light, and your physical, material limitations on how much light can be captured, and you’re thinking of those things in terms of how it works as a print. So I find that a wonderful distraction, in the same way as when I’m in the studio and I find it a great distraction to try and get a good sound. Things that are technical often free my more spiritual self to make decisions.
You seem to have tons of famous friends now, no?
Over the years, some very established artists and musicians and actors, I guess, grew up with what I do, which is amazing. I toured with John Mayer because he had really liked my music when he was in college, so when he made it big he took me on the road, and that was really nice. And Katy Perry has always been really, really kind about mentioning how much she loved what I do when she was growing up. Inspiring people has been very rewarding, because it’s not something I thought about that much when I was making the music — I was just sharing what I did.