Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The gaze of a five and a half year-old girl with camera















































































I have come to the realization that the visual/digital revolution is not for people over fifty. These pictures were taken by my five and a half year old daughter and I feel the winds changing so fast I have to steady myself and perhaps run to the nearest mast in this ship to tie myself down before I might be blown away. It is not that the pictures are overwhelmingly wonderful, it is that they have an air of undefined modernity hard to describe outwardly but easy to feel inwardly. They speak a different language to the one I learnt thirty five years ago of film cameras, and carefully composed portraits, and landscapes and scenes that were appealing and, well...nice.
Is it possible that I have been poisoned by the ultra-modern trends championed by gallery curators and trend-setting art journalists all over these modern times and now feel out-of-synch?
Maybe, but, it is just that I feel exactly the same way when I examine my 16 year-old students' work, sometimes, when they are good and thought-provoking and well constructed, even if they look as though they were taken as an afterthought or a chance encounter with un/reality...
Enough said.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Memoria de Guillermo Cabrera Infante



Guillermo Cabrera Infante, Londres 1997
©Lalo Borja

A Guillermo Cabrera Infante, escritor cubano de alto vuelo, le conocí personalmente a través de una triangulación originada por el escritor caleño Umberto Valverde, en el verano de 1997.
Anteriormente había conocido parte de su trabajo, sus maravillosos Tres Tristes Tigres y La Habana Para un Infante Difunto; su gran diatriba contra el Castrismo en Mea Cuba; sus mesurados cuentos pre-revolucionarios en Vista del Amanecer en el Trópico; sus crónicas de cine en Un Oficio del Siglo Veinte y su inimitable don para los juegos de palabras a través de muchos otros escritos. También vi varias veces su película Vanishing Point y leí de vez en cuando sus crónicas en El País de Madrid.
Valverde se enteró que yo vendría a Londres a la boda de un cuñado inglés que alguna vez tuve y me pidió que trajera a su admirado escriba, radicado en Londres desde hacía mucho tiempo atrás, su último libro que acababa de publicar en Colombia, una historia de la Sonora Matancera.
Con el libro y la dedicatoria me acerqué hasta la casa del escritor y su esposa Miriam Gómez en la dirección que me fue dada. Allí llamé al timbre y desde las entrañas de un citófono me llegó la voz del escritor a quien expliqué que venía del trópico con un libro dedicado a él por un escritor y admirador colombiano.
Dentro de la casa, rodeado de montañas de libros, ataviado de un blanco inmaculado y rotundo como un Bhuda, estaba el gran escritor quien nos recibió muy amable y luego de expresarle mis respetos nos invitó, a mi y a mi compañera, a tomar un café.
Luego de los preliminares le presenté un regalo de mi propia cosecha: un retrato tomado en 1984 en San Francisco, de quien fuera su gran amigo, el director de fotografía de cine, Néstor Almendros, ya para entonces difunto. Después de eso hablaríamos de Colombia, de fotografía, de cine, de política y me deleitó con sus anécdotas de Jesse Fernández, el inolvidable fotógrafo cubano, cuya imagen de un cuarteto de música cubana adorna la portada de su libro más emblemático, Tres Tristes Tigres.
Terminada la charla y luego de haber alargado el café hasta las postrimerías de lo posible, le solicité que me dejara fotografiarlo a lo que accedió sin demasiado problema. Dos meses más tarde le sería otorgado el Premio Cervantes de Literatura.
Ahora, por estos días, he empezado a releer sus Tres Tristes Tigres y a solas tirado en la cama me río a carcajadas al encontrarme de nuevo con su ingenio, su genio escrito en la palabra oral; aquella virtud sin igual de darle manivela al humor que llevamos tan dentro y por encima de la tristeza todos aquellos que tuvimos la fortuna, a veces infortunio, qué carajo, de haber nacido en nuestros tristes trópicos.
Me viene una vez más a la memoria una expresión que le escuché a un amigo cubano en San Francisco quien dijo, refiriéndose a su pirotecnia verbal y su inigualable capacidad de sacarle punta a lo que fuera, que el escritor cubano era "un jodedor con balcón a la calle".
Bravo y breve.


El 21 de febrero se cumplieron once años de su muerte. Se sabe que sufrió una caída que requería tratamiento hospitalario. También se sabe que en el Hospital del distrito de Chelsea fue atacado por un virus que las autoridades sanitarias de la Gran Bretaña han tratado, hasta ahora con modesto éxito, de contener. Tenía 75 años.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

At The Royal Academy, London














The gift














I owe my good friend John Butterworth the existence of this canvas. It hangs on the wall next to my bed and it is one of the first things I see when I get up every morning. It comes from a Polaroid shot Johnny B, as he is known around town, took at the time of Sahara's previous visit in November 2007. I was gladly surprised and very impressed on my birthday last May when Johnny B showed up with this beautiful gift.
Bless you mate, and many thanks.

A memory from Christmas


















I had not seen my daughter Sahara for more than a year this past December and we had not spent a Christmas together for more than 14 years, until the winter of 2008. And so we talked and ate and talked the untold stories for days on end. Many other tales and anecdotes, and stories we thought had been lost, all came rushing forth and many more will have to wait until next time.
For the time being I will have to look at my files and pull out a few memories, one at the time every now and then, so I can be reminded of the great times we spent together in England, of all places.

The roof next door

Two faces of the same winter 2009


















Un dia soleado y uno gris en la Ciudad Luz


Guest appearance















































































My five year year-old daughter has been using a ten dollar camera, a pocket affair with three million pixels. I have decided to show some of her pictures here because it seems to me that children are sometimes way ahead of their elders in the conceptual department. Also because of their absolute lack of self-consciousness when it comes to shoot pictures. Nothing is too complicated or too simple to be recorded.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Portrait of Allen Ginsberg


















I sought out the master at one of my favorite haunts in San Francisco, the City Lights Bookstore. I found him one day in the spring of 1981 signing copies of his books for the congregated faithful.

Street performer, Cali, Colombia


















I met this guy on the bus in my hometown of Cali, back in 1995. He made a living by reciting poetry in the buses as people go from A to B or to work. This guy, that's all I can call him since I never knew his name, would go all day long from one end of town to the other, under the soporific smell of petrol and the stifling heat of the tropic, reciting verses from Pablo Neruda and García Lorca. One day I saw him taking a break near my home and asked him to come over to my living room so I could take his portrait.

Negs found in an old trunk



































These two not-bad-looking negatives were found in an old box that my daughter Sahara sent me from San Francisco, California. I had all but accepted that I would never see myself again as I was back in those terribly fast paced days of my short lived saison de libertinage à Paris, in the memorable summer of '88.

Two portraits of The Prince



































I took these two lovely portraits of my son Camilo Alberto, on December 15 of last year, shortly before he was stricken by chicken pox. Lucky move, since the scars on his face are still visible and it will possibly take a few more weeks before they are completely gone from his sweet visage. Just so I can photograph him again.