Lessons in the Humanities
He takes short sips from an e-cigarette pinched between first finger and thumb. The mist curls away from his hand then disappears, a conjuror’s trick. We still haven’t discussed my still life portfolio spread between us.
‘They told me to think of it as a compliment. Strange kind of compliment.’
One of his photographs – Derelict Britain – has been stolen from an exhibition at Watersmeet Gallery. He popped in on Monday, to ask if there’d been any sales, and spotted its absence. Staff hadn’t noticed, despite the blank space on the wall.
‘I suppose I’m the kind of photographer whose work attracts such people. Socialists, anarchists, thieves.’ He sneaks another half-inch from the cappuccino I’ve bought him. ‘You won’t find people pilfering David Bailey’s photographs, will you?’
He’s one of those old-school, fouled-up guys who’s never quite shed their sense of childhood grievance – a high-functioning victim. Of course, his photographs are astonishing, the bastard.
He won’t remove his hat, even though we’re indoors where the prospect of rain seems at best slim. A mottled right hand drums hard on the table, then moves to adjust his cravat. In other circumstances, I might think it was impatience, but surely it’s me who’s waiting. He keeps raising his eyebrows and widening his eyes – an unconscious tic. As though there’s something about the world – I’m realizing, at last, it’s not me, nor for that matter my art – that keeps taking him by surprise.
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