Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon on The Walking Dead, spends a good portion of his working life in Georgia these days, and when he isn’t on set slaughtering zombies with a crossbow, he can often be found cruising country roads with a camera in search of interesting things to photograph.
He was obsessed with roadkill for a period of time. "It sounds really morbid, but you could see the fear in the face of whatever animal just got squished and [taking these photos] seemed to go hand-in-hand with all the interviews I was doing about zombies at the time," Reedus says. "I would text the cast: ‘Hey, it’s Norman. If you guys find any good roadkill on the way to set, be sure and remember where it was so I can go back and photograph it.’"
Roadkill as well as dozens of other non-roadkill images snapped over the last 15 years during his travels all over the world can be found in The Sun’s Coming Up…Like A Big Bald Head, a book of Reedus’s photographs published by Authorscape. The title is made up of lyrics from Laurie Anderson’s "Sharkey’s Day." Reedus has been obsessed with the song ever since his mother took him to see Anderson in concert when he was a kid, and he sought her permission to borrow the lyrics for his book title. (Big Bald Head also happens to be the name of his production company.)
The work featured in Reedus's book was culled from more than 10,000 photos and ranges from scary shots of a naked actress covered in blood to sweet snaps of Reedus’s young son Mingus. "I wanted it to flow as if it was me, and I’m pretty ADD, all over the place," says Reedus, adding, "The pictures work well together without it having a structured theme."
One of Reedus’s personal favorites is a photo of two Russian prisoners on kitchen duty. He took it while shooting scenes for the film Moscow Chill in the subbasement of a maximum-security prison. The two inmates kept taking breaks from their kitchen work to sneak peeks of the shoot only to be yelled at by a guard. "When that guard left, I set up my camera, and I leaned around the corner, and I whistled," Reedus recalls. "The little kitten at the bottom of the page came running, and they just leaned around the corner so perfectly. They looked like supermodels, and that wall behind them was such an intense shade of green."
The pictures of the naked actress covered in blood were taken while Reedus was shooting John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns. "She was like that for a scene, and I wanted to take her picture. She was so bloody—I mean, bloodier than Carrie bloody," Reedus says. "I actually stole her from the set and snuck her into my trailer. She was sitting on the sofa of my trailer. I didn’t want to put down something for her to stand on. I just wanted her bloody in this really clean sort of environment, and I remember at the end of the day they were so upset because the whole trailer was covered in blood."
There is also a night shot of Hershel's barn going up in flames that was taken on the set of The Walking Dead, but there aren't many photos from the show in the book. "The first season they were much more accepting of us taking pictures as long as we didn’t give away storyline, but this season we’re not really allowed to take pictures—well, up to a certain point—because we have so many leaks on our show, you know, storylines and so forth and extras going through the garbage and finding slides, and people hiding in this bushes with cameras," Reedus says. "So it’s become a little more protected."
While photography has been a passion of the actor’s for years, and his work has been exhibited and even sold at Sotheby’s, The Sun’s Coming Up…Like A Big Bald Head is Reedus’s first book of photographs. He is a self-taught photographer who has never had formal training. "I mean, I took a junior high photography class where they teach you how to develop your own pictures, and you immediately run off to the graveyard for your first assignment, but that's it," Reedus says. "I have never taken a real class."
He has honed his skills over the years by simply carrying a camera with him as often as possible and snapping away, and he isn’t one of those photographers who bonded with a Leica or whatever camera early on and then stuck with it for life. "I don’t have really any allegiance to any brand of camera," he says, pointing out that the photos in his book were taken with everything from low-tech Lomos to Holgas to various digital cameras. "It’s just whatever camera I was playing with during those couple of months. I like to experiment."
Reedus says he has already been approached about putting together a second book of photos. "So maybe I’ll work on another book, but I’ve never really thought of myself as a professional photographer. I just like taking pictures, and it’s more of a hobby than anything. I just enjoy it," he says. "If I was to do a second book, I don’t know that I would be good at like ‘here’s the theme, and let’s just crank it out.’ I need the time and the experience to do it naturally."