On Tuesday ‘me and C.’ walked on Avenida Santa Fé. We had two little pieces of Buenos Aires bureaucracy to accomplish and the last of these took us down past ‘calle’ Uruguay. Both chores went smoothly. We had some precious daytime to ourselves. The sun was warm as we strolled back towards Puerreydón. I was relaxed and I saw more. I noticed the various ‘galerías’ that I have walked past those hundred times, and for some random reason I hesitated outside one. ‘Let’s go inside,’ I said. And so we made our way down the tunnel of stores that mark the entrance of Santa Fé 1662.
I expected to find a fairly motley collection of small shops, and at first that was all I did see: books, bags, watches, souvenirs… but there was more to this little ‘galería’, much more.
While my eyes soaked in the covered café, and my head was deciding whether I might prefer a table in the sun, Carlos had stopped. I glanced round and observed him standing in front of what looked to me like a rather grim fake tree. I followed his gaze. ‘Mono,’ I heard him say. Indeed it was a ‘mono’, of a rather special recycled kind. He was fascinated by the story of the creature, created from engine parts, from metal that had been forged in another life. I stared and he stared. We saw more and more. We shared our reactions. He wanted a picture. I got the camera out. And as I tried to photograph the monkey from below, something else beautiful, painted on the ceiling, caught my eye. Now the place had my full attention and I saw all that it had to offer. We were in that wonderfully thought provoking space of art and sculpture for a very long time.
Afterwards I was annoyingly obsessed by entering ‘galerías’. In the next one we encountered ‘art’ of a different variety: wall to wall tattoo parlours, and a juice bar of the ‘greenest’ possible kind. I dragged C. through its doors and before he could say ‘blueberry’ I had him sat up on an uncomfortable bar stool drinking nut milk and the said blueberries. He didn’t like the drink, or the throbbing music or the incessant whine of the tattoo needles, and to be honest neither did I. The view was a bit much: naked torsos being inked for eternity, in a goldfish bowl of a shop, across the hall. To distract C. from the sickening din and the fact he was spending $11 pesos on something that tasted far too much like it was healthy, I took his photograph many times as he shifted about on that high chair. I let him have the camera and he snapped the one of me, from which I cropped my eye.
It was only this morning that I took time out to notice the pictures we took on Tuesday. And there, from our afternoon of seeing it all, I found something unexpected in its beauty, to my eyes at least.
When I look at this honest portrait of the man who helps me to discover more than I ever imagined possible, I see everything.
Photograph published by kind permission of C.