Growing up on the west side of Los Angeles, in and around Venice Beach, it was Pat Martin’s brother who first introduced him to the world of photography, “he brought me to my first photo-sets, helped me with my first internships and lent me my first camera” Pat tells us. “I was a freshman in high school, and he reluctantly let me borrow his 35mm Canon F-1, and never let me forget the only time I dropped it; I was running to catch a bus after school when my backpack unzipped and the camera hit the cement,” he winces, “I also learnt how expensive cameras were that day.”
In Pat’s second half of high school, he began taking evening photography classes at the nearby Santa Monica College; “they offered large format photography and had a colour darkroom” – a dream come true for burgeoning artists. He made the most of the facilities until assisting established photographers took over, which “became a photography school of its own.”
Despite the diverse characters that feature in his work (a range of friends, family and strangers), there is one common denominator – glorious lighting, be it the golden beams of Los Angeles sunshine or moodier shadows mirroring even gloomier subjects. The former down to the fact that “at the right time of day, the light from the California sun can create a special glow, and hand-printing the images helps me accept the colours for how they appeared naturally.” With established signatures (“Photographing at sunrise and sunset and setting subjects in a doorway”), Pat’s work is satisfyingly assured in style, thoughtful and coherent throughout, and often with an unexpected, playful undercurrent.
Picking a subject is a crucial part of the process for most photographers but, for Pat, it goes deeper than face value. “Each of us has a story, and some of us have an easier time sharing than others,” he explains, “I think of photography as a tool to connect, and a way to help people feel comfortable to share those stories. This is true for myself, and what I seek out in subjects.” This approach is evident in his work; it’s plain to see that here is a photographer who levels with his subject, giving just as much as he gets. Next up is a series of portraits of his mother, in the hope of achieving a longstanding ambition, “Eventually, I’d like for my mom to see herself framed on a wall and celebrated.”