Fig. 1 Chacon 2023. My Pile Library.
This is my pile library. It’s about as eclectic as me, and the physical design of the books and vinyl records is as varied as their subject matter. Yet their common thread is tactility. It represents where I am finding inspiration for my photographic practice in 2023. While there is an ease to the modernity of digital photography, e-books, and streaming music from a device that fits into the front pocket of my jeans, neither medium possesses any soul. Nothing compares to the singular experience of sipping a luxurious cortado while listening to the warm sounds of music engraved on vinyl records and flipping through uniquely designed books that show the avant-garde photography of Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Vivian Maier, Peter Beard, Patti Smith, and Henry Rollins. Each of them made space in their lives to capture distinct moments in time by engraving them on 35mm film and then sharing those memories through physical mediums, providing a rich communication on the human experience for others to appreciate, critique, or just dig on the vibe. While an argument can be made against their sustainability, you’d be hard-pressed to argue against their nostalgia.
Henry Rollins, the former frontman for the punk rock band Black Flag, features heavily in my pile library. I was first introduced to him by a stunningly cool French girl named Chloe that I met at a rave in the mid-1990s. I stole her away from a preppy frat bro wannabe trying hard to impress her by his acceptance to an Ivy League college, I don’t remember which one. I heard him speaking to her from behind me with the nasally intonation of a liberal elitist and Chloe’s yawns of boredom pierced the throbbing electronica that reverberated through the abandoned warehouse turned illegal nightclub for the night. I’ll never forget the look on that dude’s face as I grabbed Chloe by her petite shoulders, spun her around to face me, and introduced myself with a simple, “Hi, I’m Mateo.” Mr. Preppy just glared at me with a mix of shock, anger, and a delayed recognition of his own miscalculation in pickup lines. Fast forward to today, I still find myself surprised that I haven’t seen him on any streaming services employing his screeching whine to narrate documentaries about the scandalous failures of famous tech companies.
Chloe and I spent the evening talking over a stolen bottle of cheap tequila and listening to records in the grainy light of her small apartment. That’s where she showed me the Henry Rollins book Get In The Van, On the Road With Black Flag. I was immediately hooked on the visceral expression of his written words and the jarring emotion in his images. Chloe gifted me the book, and I still have it to this day. But I continue to wonder if I’m addicted to the raw reality with which Henry Rollins writes and photographs, or if I’m strung out on the memories of Chloe and the passionately short time we spent together? Either way, Chloe inexorably impacted my life and her last words left me with the implacable drive of a small ant intent on achieving greatness. Written on the inside of the book Get In The Van that she gave me, she wrote, “Whatever you do, live a passionate dedication to your personal talents.”
Chloe died in a car accident three weeks later.
I still flip through the book she gave me, allowing myself to reminisce about our unmatched emotional and physical connection as I sink deeper into the quicksand of nostalgia, even for just an hour or two.
List of Figures
Figure 1: Mat CHACON. 2023. My Pile Library. Private collection: Mat Chacon.