A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


José Casals - Of Memory Lost, Gained & Lost Again
Monday, February 11, 2008

Pensó que en la hora de la muerte no habría acabado aún de clasificar todos los recuerdos de la niñez.

He thought that in the hour of his death he would not have finished classifying the rembembrances of his childhood.

Funes El Memorioso
Jorge Luís Borges

Memory and how it works is something I am constantly thinking about. I wonder how much of our shared life Rebecca will remember hence. I remember little of my life when I was 10.

I thought about this Saturday night when Rebecca was talking to cellist Colin Matthews after the performance of The Satchmo Suite at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. I asked Rebecca, "How many strings does a cello have?" I was disheartened when she guessed 12. When Rebecca was 6 she could tell the difference beween cellos and similar looking violas da gamba. Rebecca would have stated unequivocally, "Violas da gamba have 5 or more strings and cellos 4." I suspect that memory is like a red carpet at the Academy Awards. As it is rolled out (new memory) the back of the carpet (old memory) is rolled in. Thus I don't hold much hope for her remembering much of what we do now.

Last week I went twice to a wonderful photographic exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery. I went home thinking about photography and photographers. I remember that I photographed at least two photographers in my lifetime. They were Annie Leibovitz and Elliott Erwitt. But I also remember taking portraits of an extremely interesting photographer in Lima, Perú in 1990. I was in Lima to photograph Mario Vargas Llosa and I have several more blogs on him but this one should be enough.

I remember little of the photographer or the circumstances that led me to meet him. My writer friend Mark Budgen with whom I traveled to Lima remembers that after I took my photographs of the man I had told him that he was an interesting photographer who liked to contemplate sundown in Paracas, Peru when he felt depressed. And that was it. Somehow I am sure that Mark called me some years later to tell me, "Your Peruvian photographer friend died."

Trying to find the pictures of the photographer was tough as I had no memory of his name, Mark did not remember, and Google could not help me. I simply had no information on the man. Even trying to connect "Peruvian photographer, Paracas" gave me nothing. The only possible solution was for me to wade, through all my photo files (in alphabetical order) until I found him. That was daunting.

For yesterday's blog I had to scan a couple of CDs. One of them was of Pablo Casals. While scanning it I stared at the name Casals and became very excited. I ran down to my files and looked under C, under Casals and found : Casals, José - Perú - Photographer!

Here he is. Of José Casals all I have been able to find out is that he worked for Magnum and had several retrospective shows with other Peruvian photographers. I have not been able to determine when he died, where he was born or much else. A site lists one of his books here. Of the pictures listed on that site the one here (below,left) is the one that reproduced the best.

I wonder what the man was like? Why did he go to Paracas when he was depressed? What did he do for Magnum? I wonder what the man was like? My memory, my awful memory.

Of memory I have written before here and I cite Jim Byrnes as having a wonderful memory. I will ask him today as I will be in his kitchen taking his photograph. Just one more Borgesian labyrinth.


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