[CM] – I guess the slow burn approach I mentioned before. It’s different every time. Sometimes I’ve been accepted straight away, but people are not always so open. At the moment I have been trying to get access to a new story for over a month and progress is very slow. You have to convince people that you will not be a negative presence, that you sympathise with their particular story, that you are flexible in your approach, all while trying to maintain authorship over the content. It’s a big ask to document an individuals or groups particular circumstance. Sometimes it takes a while to gain people’s trust and to find a compromise that works for everyone. It could take me 3/4 of the time just getting access and then I’d have to really work hard to make up for it! Being nice, honest, patient, flexible and transparent helps. And having a sense of humour.
courtesy Claire Martin / copyright
[TCI] Of the photo reportages you’ve done, which is your favorite to-date and why?
[CM] – I’d have to say Slab City. I had so much fun shooting it. I really enjoyed the company and I feel it’s a nice complex story. It’s been described as a warts and all celebration of humanity. That’s the kind of story I hope to keep telling. Not superficial but not depressing, just real!
[TCI] – Is there a current project you’re working on?
[CM] – Yes…… Slowly but surely trying to get access. I won’t go into it too much just yet, but I’m really interested in this story. I just need a bit more time to convince my subjects that they want to collaborate!!!
[TCI] – If there were no obstacles (i.e. time, money, other obligations), what would your dream assignment be?
[CM] – Time, money and other obligations! The bane of my existence!!! The current story I’m trying to get access to. And there’s another idea that’s been floating around in my head, more of a modern Anthropological study shot on Large format. But I won’t give away too much, because at this point it’s like making promises you can’t keep!!
courtesy Claire Martin / copyright
I like telling my own stories, finding them myself and giving my own perspective on the situation. Working autonomously without the imput of institutions, organisations or other people’s objectives and idea’s. Maybe i’m a control freak! I’m sure my idea of the “ideal” story will continue to grow and change as I do – as the best photo’s come with passion and understanding of the subject.
[TCI] - Perth is quite a distance from “centers of photography” - London, New York, Paris – even Sydney is pretty far from where you’re based. Is the internet really a worthy alternative to “just being there,” in terms of advice and critiques from colleagues, as well as face-to-face meetings with editors?
[CM] – I built my career on the internet. It has done more for me overall than any face to face meeting. Although that said I have met some wonderfully supportive people! But like you say, I am not central so I depend on the internet for information, resources, inspiration, new networks etc. Having my work blogged in the early stages was really important to getting my work out there and developing a name. I remember bloggers were asking to put my work in a blog and sending interviews. The questions were all assuming I was some kind of professional so I fudged my way through it all and pretended I knew what I was doing. I was really just a cook who took some photo’s in my spare time! But it shows how democratic the internet is. If your work is good, people will see it! Put it out there!!!!
A quick disclaimer here: I am NOT an internet geek by any far stretch of the imagination. I am more of a “luddite” – I have never really liked computers but it is just so easy and like I said so democratic! Anybody can have their work on the internet and the publishing options for those in the early stages of their career are infinite! The opportunity to put your work in front of industry professionals is huge too, through all the online competitions that are juried by really important industry people. The easiest way to get your work seen by people that count!!! Also, sorry to rant….I have had editorial work come directly to me from great magazines in Germany, New York, London, China, Singapore, France, Spain etc just from people finding me on search engines. Spanish Rolling Stone Magazine found me online. It opens doors – that’s all I can say!
[TCI] – Among your generation of photographers, whose work do you most admire?
[CM] – Veronique De Viguerie look her up! She is the most incredible woman!!!! Access Access Access. This woman is unbelievable in the situations she navigates. Oil pirates in Nigeria, Somali Pirates, the Taliban. She has an incredibly intelligent approach to photography. I also really like the work of Stephen Dupont. His was some of the first current photographers work that I saw exhibited who was working in the documentary tradition. His work intersect documentary, journalism and anthropology and is exquisitely executed. Also loving Trent Parks work lately and and one of my favourite photo essays is Christopher Anderson’s – Capitolio. One of my all time favourites is Mary Ellen Mark.
[TCI] – What’s your take on the often-heard statement that more opportunities will exist in the internet than were ever available in the print realm of publication – magazines, newspapers, etc.?
[CM] – I think it’s beginning to look that way already. I think, yes it’s probably inevitable. But, there’s something luxurious about print. I think it will always have it’s place but it will become more boutique. More of a luxury item. It’s funny time for business models etc and the value of images on line VS print. I’m a little bit ambivalent about this subject though. A great photograph will find a worthy home. Technology changes as does the industry – it always has. The emphasis for me is on making memorable images that impact upon the viewer regardless of the medium it’s viewed in. Keep making good images, have a good attitude and work hard and you’ll be fine either way.
[TCI] – This final question has become “cliché,” but I’ll phrase it a bit differently this time. If you were just starting out as an ambitious young photographer today, what advice would you give yourself, knowing what you know now?
[CM] – Follow your heart – it’s the only way to be happy. I’ve carved my own path in this career. There’s a different route to success for every person. You’ll know when things aren’t working for you and when they are. Cultivate the positive experiences and don’t try to bend yourself to fit what you think other people want. But I guess that’s what I’ve done anyway……I don’t know that i’d change anything, except if I could wind back time I would like to have figured out what I wanted at a younger age!
[TCI] – Thanks! We’re looking forward to working with you.
More of Claire Martin’s work can be seen on her website. She currently conducts online and interactive portfolio reviews of student work at The Compelling Image.