Jazz Notes: Photographer Adriana Mateo Exhibits an Inspiring Solo Show at Perugia, Italy and Munich, Germany
By Dan Ouellette, Senior Editor ZEALnyc, July 19, 2018
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the New York-based photographer since 1992 Adriana Mateo not only engages the viewer with her art work but also in the process of capturing her image makes an intimate connection with the artists themselves. That takes her photography into a rare space where communication between artists makes the exchange special. She has said, “Since photos speak louder than words, it’s great to see all of these talented musicians captured at a given moment.” American producer, drummer, singer/songwriter Narada Michael Walden said, “The main thing I observe in Adriana’s clear black-and-white art work is her capturing the passion that goes deep in the true heart and soul of the musician.”
Last year, Mateo was one of 121 photographers from all over the world who showed a sampling of their works in the exhibit The Image of Sound at the Museum Palazzo della Penna in Perugia, Italy. This year she was selected from the other artists to be invited back during the city’s Umbria Jazz Festival (July 12-23) for a solo show of 33 photos from her portfolio that features over 200 photos. It takes place in the museum’s Galleria FIAF, sponsored by the Comune di Perugia. Most of this exhibition’s images are from her impressive book, AM Jazz: 3 Generations Under the Lens, where Mateo collected 125 of her intimate black-and-white jazz photos.
Last year she exhibited 22 of those images at the art studio of jazz radio station, WBGO, in Newark, NJ, as well as an exhibit of 12 photos at the SoHo art space of Flos, the Italian company that develops modern lighting designed with architectural grace.
Even though presently the book is sold out, Mateo continues to exhibit her photos internationally. After her show concludes in Perugia, she will present 33 different images from AM Jazz in Munich, Germany, at the five-star luxury hotel Bayerischer Hof from July 23-28.
The daughter of award-winning Argentine director of photography Roberto Mateo, Adriana fell in love with jazz when she was 10 thanks to her dad playing Nat King Cole, Dizzy Gillespie and bossa nova around the house. She discovered in going to concerts with her father that “when I receive sound, I create emotion and images,” she said. “I wanted to photograph music, especially jazz, with its symmetry of sound.”
It’s also a mystical endeavor for Mateo, who said while at the Umbria Jazz Festival last summer, “I want to catch that vibration, especially the moment that they want to leave behind. Sometimes they call me and ask me to capture the spiritual side.”
In a personal tour of this year’s Perugia exhibition, Mateo noted that she hopes her images will have archival importance. “Many of my photos were taken when the artists were close to their final year,” she said. “They capture the essence of who they were—their beauty and their artistry. I feel blessed that they allowed me into their world so that I can share that with the rest of the jazz world for generations to come.”
In this Jazz Notes, we revisit last year’s posting with six of her exhibit photos with a thumbnail sketch of the background of each. At the end, as a bonus we will show another of Mateo’s brilliant photos from her book that is not in the current exhibit with pianists Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock.
I spoke with Cedar when I was doing a photo project on the generations in jazz. He was impressed. So he hired me to take photos of him performing at Dizzy’s, then he hired me for the last five years of his life. He was very strict and very polite. One day he called me. I didn’t know he was sick. So he told me to take this photo. He knew exactly what he wanted.
This was taken at a private show that was raising funds for [the nonprofit organization] Free the Slaves. I was hired by her to take photos for the foundation. You can see how inspired she’s playing. Note that she is playing the guitar owned by Prince who attended the event.
We met at Umbria. He knew my photography and admired it. He asked me to take this photo at soundcheck. We loved them. It was a very special, spiritual connection. I went home and developed the photos. I called and there was no answer. Later I learned he had been very ill and had passed away. So the photos were never published.
In 2009 I told Roy about my vision for a book that would be about the different jazz generations. He told me he wanted to be a part of it. Today, he’s got a new band and he’s playing at a level that’s better than when he was younger.
Sonny asked me to take this. He was not feeling well at the tine. This was one of the last photos taken of him before he retired. Backstage he asked me to take a photo of him live. But only if I catch him looking at the lens. He waited while he was playing, and I was on a mission.
Wayne was onstage and I was on the side. He didn’t usually like photos taken of him from that point if view. But he wanted me to take a portrait of him right before he was going into the music.
Chick Corea with Herbie Hancock
This was taken after their show together at the Umbria Jazz Festival. It was backstage where most photographers don’t have access to. Carlo [Pagnotta, the artistic director], and Enzo [Capua, Carlo’s liaison in New York], wanted me to take a photo of the two as friends—not playing together—so the photo could show the personal connection they have.
Cover: Adriana Mateo; courtesy of artist.