How can I believe what I see, when the truth is a show?
In the years after I graduated from photography school in 2006, Edgar Martins’ photography was on my radar. His “Topologies” series in particular was compelling; Martins insisted in his artist statements and interviews that he used no digital manipulation in his work; Everything was captured “in camera”…
“This is all found imagery, I’m not consciously referencing anything.” (via Shoot the Blog)
“Though my images are minimal in tone, they do not pare down my experience of place. In my work there is scope for so much more. What seem like highly controlled and manipulated photographs are but a product of illusion. The illusion of the photographic process. This is especially evident in “The Accidental Theorist” series. Most people assume that these image are manipulated. Or perhaps even staged. In reality, there is no post-production work, no darkroom or computer manipulation.” (via The Morning News)
I discussed Martins’ photography with other photography friends – specifically when we saw his work at the Photographers Gallery in London in 2006; we couldn’t work out how he had photographed the beach scenes in “Topologies”; However I was prepared to take Martins’ claims of authenticity at face value.
Martins spent the autumn of 2008 on commission for the New York Times making work on the real estate collapse in the United States. When I saw the slide-show (which has now been removed) on the NY Times website, something felt a little bit wrong. I’ve been making work in a similar vein to this in Spain since 2007. “The Brick Business”, which I am now continuing thanks to funding from the BJP and Nikon, is a study of the effects of the economic crisis on Spain’s residential landscape. I’ve made several trips out to Spain’s Mediterranean coast, with many days spent wandering through desolate housing estates, half finished construction sites and downtrodden suburbs. With this experience in mind, what disturbed me about Martins’ images was that they were just too perfect – when did you last see a half built house with almost perfectly clean floors?
So when the essay (titled “Ruins of the Second Gilded Age”) was pulled from the NY Times website, I was dismayed but not completely surprised.
In a bizarre follow up to the removal, Martins has since collaborated with Joerg Colberg and composed a response to the accusations of image manipulation. I have to be honest and say that it’s perhaps the most overbearingly pretentious artists statement I have ever had the misfortune to read, and it completely fails to answer the issue at hand – why did he lie about using digital manipulation in his work?
It’s a shame really – if Martins had been open about his methodology from day one (or simply not boasted that he didn’t need to digitally manipulate his photographs) then I would still like his work, which is obviously beautiful; but why would he openly lie to his audience? It was inevitable that one day he would get found out. As a viewer and previously an admirer, I can’t help but feel cheated.
Finally, now that Martins has been exposed as a liar, why would he then continue to treat us like idiots by offering a load of pompous drivel instead of a frank and honest explanation? I find the whole sequence of events baffling, particularly as it could have been so easily avoided.
Edgar – some advice – find someone else to handle your PR.