text by Alex Schuchmann / pictures by Pat Martin / 15min
Photography, like every art, is a very personal craft. That’s why we can become so easily obsessed with the results that we have in mind. Sometimes you will find satisfaction, while other times you will only hit a wall of frustration. Sometimes, the picture just does not want to turn out the way you had in mind. That’s absolutely normal. We are perfectionists and we want to present our work in a way that transmits our feelings, emotions or an opinion in the best possible light. Therefore, we came up with the idea for this topic - to present to you the unselected and unpublished photographs of photographers we love. This series is meant to highlight the fact that we can all make mistakes and get frustrated about our work sometimes. Failure is simply part of the process. You can use this as an assignment for yourself and study the work of professional photographers around the globe: What would you have done differently? How would you approach a lighting situation like that? In which posture would you have shot the subject? In this quarter’s issue, we are honored to show you the work of Pat Martin, a 28-year-old photographer based in Los Angeles, California. Pat has been digging in his photography archive for us and found extracts from a very personal series.
“By opening the boxes, I realized that they had been closed for a while for a reason. It is a transport to a time I can’t really look at,” says Pat. Through his childhood and teenage years, Pat has experienced a series of events you would probably consider as “tough”. Massive drug abuse by his mother led to lies and broken promises. At some point, the situation in the family house got so bad that Pat’s older brother Drew moved out and turned his back towards his mother for a couple of years. Since Gail was single parenting and absent most of the time, Pat started to develop anxiety problems while he was left alone in the family house in Mar Vista. At the age of 17, it got worse. Gail relapsed, and the family was sent out of their apartment due to rent arrears. Pat was then taken in by the family of his best friend and lived under their staircase “like Harry Potter” for a while. Gail went on an exhausting odyssey defined by homelessness, drugs, and police arrests. After one year of constant collapsing, she finally managed to make her way into rehab. From that moment onwards, life got better as she found some peace again. She was finally reconciled with Drew after so many years of silence, and her grandchildren became the focus of a newfound optimism that would remain until her death.
One night, when Pat was 22 years old, he got a call from his mother after she was hospitalized with acute breathing problems. She had been grappling with respiratory problems for several years. At this moment Pat realized that he wouldn’t have his mom in his life for much longer. Soon after she was discharged, he began to portrait her. Starting out with more observational images, but over time he became more thoughtful and aware of the way he photographed her. Pat wanted to show her from another perspective, one that was positive, beautiful and celebrated.
“I didn’t want my mom to look the way she feels about herself. We all can look a certain way that we don’t feel our best, but my mom was never feeling her best my whole life. She was always recovering. When my father left, when I was three years old she got really depressed.” Pat used photography as a therapy for himself. He created candid portraits that, even without the story behind them, leave a lasting impression.
When he was in a bad place, he came over to his brother’s house and just spent time with his family. On some days he took photos, on others he was just embracing the intact family life. He says the photos helped him deal with his past and the loss of his mother - they still do.