Film: Cuatro Hero

Robert Munro’s right hand. Photography by Mark Lyndersay.

During this shoot in 1999 for the Guardian’s U magazine, I found myself fascinated not just with Robert Munro’s startlingly fast playing but with the fact that he didn’t use a pick.
It was pointless asking Munro to pose with his instrument, once he had it in his hands, he began to play.

We did two shoots for the story, one at a delightful old house he sometimes visits on Duke Street and the other at my studio. While Munro played, I asked him at one point to just stop and show me his hands. It was just one photo among many, but I can’t look at that contact sheet without stopping at that image. Not a perfect detail photo, but a riveting one, particularly the bright sharp fingernails that are his personal instrument in making music.

The other thing that caught my eye was his guitar case when he popped it open. It’s a weathered, old and quite personal protection for his cuatro, as thoroughly used and worn in as his instrument. Even more compelling than the character beaten into the case were the many personal bits of inspiration attached to its lid, reminders of his many muses for a musician dedicated to entertaining with every performance.

Sometimes a photographer will find that as fascinating as their subject is, there are compelling details about their life and work that add to the story and sometimes can convey to a reader as much as a traditional portrait can.

Robert Munro carried his cuatro around in this case when I photographed him and probably still does. Photography by Mark Lyndersay.
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