A native of Mexico, Aceves has come a long way since he began taking pictures of prominent musicians in 1992. For the past 16 years, he has been the official photographer of Mexico's famed National Auditorium and is now considered one of the world's top photographic artisans. Intriguingly, Aceves has emerged as the only lens man in his country to devote himself full-time to capturing images of musicians. To date, he has shot more than two dozen album covers, including "Love Bites" for German hard rock group The Scorpions. He has been commissioned by a long list of artists ranging from Paul McCartney to the Rolling Stones.
On Friday, May 5, the Morrison Hotel Gallery will present the first major U.S. exhibition of Aceves' work, with a reception for the photographer beginning at 6 p.m. To make the event even more special, on hand will be guitarist Javier Batiz, a seminal figure in Mexican rock "˜n' roll, who will perform a short acoustic set.
"He started playing in the early '60s in Tijuana," Aceves said. "Before he came along, everyone played covers, but he played his own songs and that changed everything. He was the key to rock establishing itself in Mexico, and even taught [Carlos] Santana guitar during his Tijuana days."
While Aceves enjoys touring with international stars, he still has a strong passion for local artists. In 1999, he published a book of portraits of Mexican music stars spanning the past five decades, and in 2001 followed it up with a book on jazz.
"The Mexican rock scene is pretty strong," he said. "There is a lot of great music being made, but unfortunately it's a local thing. There are a lot of bands; however, only a few, such as Juagares or El Tri have been able to break out. If you compare that with the huge amount of bands that are out there, it's small."
Aceves is particularly proud of his relationship with the Rolling Stones, with whom he has toured the world. His work with the Stones earned him a solo show at Mexico City's Museum of Modern Art in 2000 "” the first time rock music-related art was featured in a major museum in that country. In 2002, he became the only Latin American photographer to take part in a pictorial retrospective on the band, 40X20, held in Washington, D.C.
"Music became an industry a long time ago," he noted. "It's interesting when you see somebody like Mick Jagger behind the scenes, because there he's in businessman mode, not the rocker that you'll see on stage later on. But when it comes to taking pictures, it's all so natural to everyone now, that even when they are taken backstage, no one has to say anything, everybody just moves into place, and it's all over before you realize it."
Having photographed hundreds of concerts around the world, Aceves sees some clear differences between American and Mexican audiences.
"In the case of Mexico, before 1991 there were very few concerts by touring bands," he said. "Possibly because these events are less frequent than they are elsewhere, when they occur, they are considered a real "˜happening.' Audiences in Mexico tend to be more receptive and get into performances enthusiastically. It's one of the reasons why so many bands love to perform there."
For his part, Aceves considers himself fortunate to be working in a field he enjoys.
"My main interest in life is music," Aceves said. "Photography comes in second place. When I started taking pictures, I really liked all kinds of subjects, landscapes, portraits and so on. I was snapping all over the place. But I had an opportunity to be involved with music. I love it so much, I've carried on."
Aceves' show opens May 5 with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Morrison Hotel Gallery, 1230 Prospect St. For information call (858) 551-0835 or visit www.morrisonhotel.us.