Written review by
Associate Curator, International Center of Photography
The rigor in Martin’s Urban and Industrial Landscape series is very impressive. I appreciate the constant research for, if not the obsession with, geometry and order in chaos. Finding beauty in the ugly or the dull is very challenging and Martin has succeeded in his mission, illustrating one of the most inhumane of the modern human creations.
Image 3, with its intriguing mix of textures – the reflection in the water, those lines seemingly sinking like the crossing of an ancient civilization’s, is one of my favorites in this portfolio. Image 9 is a beautiful geometric accomplishment: all those lines, horizontal, vertical, curves, blend into the perfect composition―the pedestrian sign reminding us of the remote presence of human beings. The complete chaos in image 12 contrasts beautifully with this dehumanized landscape, the car exiting the picture giving us a sensation of ghost world, the last inhabitant on its way out after Armageddon.
I also very much like image 13, but somehow this woman in the foreground blocks my train of thoughts. She is too warm, perhaps, in comparison with to the overall feeling, atmosphere of the series. I love the wall in image 11, but the image would perhaps be stronger with a narrower frame emphasizing on these cracks. Same with image 10: I feel very attracted to the cement of the overpass, and lesser attracted to what is happening underneath. I love the white line at the top, letting some light in. I think I would have liked the image more had it stopped at the second third of the image.
The other images in the series leave me cold somehow. Instead of dragging me into the frame like the others, they won’t let me in, they are too cold, to primarily grey, not transcended in the same way as the better pictures in the series. Perhaps the composition is not right, perhaps I would like to know more about them, read something about that bus, that burnt sign, that road, that place.
There is something to be said about mute landscapes, ugly at first glance and then offering us a million potential stories. The coldness of the style, the brutality of the subject, is not easy to tackle but Martin managed to tell us a story there, about the violence of the urban landscape. The feeling is sometimes reminiscent of “Tokyo Nobody” by Masataka Nakano. I could only encourage Martin to pursue his visual wanderings and wonderings in Tokyo and L.A. to complete this series and explore his visual universe even further.