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


I Visit Myself
Thursday, October 01, 2009

Today I visited myself.

My ex student Gabriel Beltrán, he graduated from Van Arts where I teach photography, came for a visit. He is returning to his home in Monterrey, Mexico next week. He must be close to 30 years old. After our homemade pizza lunch, washed down with a blender pineapple drink, we sat down in the living room to sip some strong Kenyan Kambaa tea. Gabriel rifled through my photography book collection putting a particular emphasis on the ones that contain nudes. I decided to put some music. The first CD I played was Stan Getz and Kenny Barron People Time (the last recording by Getz). I played my favourite track, First Song (For Ruth) by Charlie Haden. With a pen in hand an a sheet of paper Gabriel asked, “Who's that?” I replied, “Stan Getz.” “How do you spell that?” he enquired.

That second question transported me to Mexico City College in 1962. It was there that my friend Robert Hijar said to me, “Have you heard this?” Somehow he pointed at a radio that was playing, perhaps in the college cafeteria. I don’t remember, exactly. I then listened to some of the most startling, fresh and beautiful music I had ever heard in my life. It was Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd playing Desafinado from the just released album Jazz Samba.

It would seem that in a smaller way, Gabriel first heard Stan Getz today.

From Getz we went to Charlie Haden’s Quartet West – In Angel City to listen to Haden’s own version of that First Son (For Ruth). I went to my book case and took out a couple of Raymond Chandlers and told Gabriel, “This Charlie Haden album is really inspired by the works of this writer. Humphrey Bogart played his hero in a wonderful film noir.”

From Chandler we then listened to the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Jazz Impressions of Eurasia. Again that question as to who it was and how did you spell Brubeck. Then it was Oscar Peterson and Milt Jackson playing the Work Song, Dizzy Gillespie playing Con Alma, Daniel Barenboim’s Mi Buenos Aires Querido and we sort of finished with an early Astor Piazzolla Octet CD. Sort of finished because I could not find Aaron Copland’s Salón Mexico I my CD collection so I went to the computer and found it on YouTube. I had told Gabriel that the American Aaron Copland (1900-1990) is my favourite Mexican composer. I will stick to his opinion as he sounded more like the Mexican Silvestre Revueltas (1899-1940) before (or simply better) that famous composer composed his own works.

Suddenly I was to answer the question as to who was my fovourite photographer. I mentioned Philippe Halsman. He had forgotten the name but not my book or the pictures in it as I had taken it to school and he had perused it during one of the class breaks. I then handed him Halsman at Work by Philipp Halsman and Yvonne Halsman. This book shows how Halsman took some of his most famous photograph all intimately explained by Halsman’s wife. Included here are the incredible ones of Dalí in the air with all those cats and buckets of water. Suddenly Gabriel had found a book that interested him more than all the ones about nudes. “It’s like being behind the photographer during the shooting session,”he said to me. All I could add to that was, “Unless you know that the book exists because you have it your hand now you would never in our present times now about it.”

It seems we ran out of time and I never was able to answer his question, “Can you recommend me some poets?” Right off the bat it would have been Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Mexican Homero Aridjis.

I had to go to town so I drove Gabriel. In the car’s CD player we listened to Duke Ellington playing Oclupaca (Acapulco backwards) and Tina (dedicated to Argentina).

It would seem that the much younger Gabriel is experiencing for the first time (alas that is something that few my age can do) the delights of Getz, Chandler, Ellington and Brubeck. It was me all over again.

But it wasn’t all one sided. As he leafed through the Halsman book I noticed how many of Halsman’s pictures had not been taken in a studio. I looked around my living room. It is a nice one with books, pictures on the wall and that psychiatric couch. I don’t have a studio anymore. Could this be a new and exciting beginning (continuation)? Could it be that I will experience something for the first time(again)?

I would have never given the pictures I took of Daniella Ciccone some 18 years ago a second look. Today I did. Not bad for pictures taken in her house!


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