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Meet Erica Kelly Martin

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erica Kelly Martin.

Erica, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I am a Los Angeles based artist, photographer, and photographic printer, whose work centers on recurring themes of identity, transformation, and the paradox of human existence, condensed in a moment. I photograph people, often in their natural surroundings, depicting their rituals and the manifestations of their interior lives, as well as landscapes that show the mark of their inhabitants.

My work explores the inner lives of my subjects, and how they manifest who they are, or would like to be. I am interested in themes of growing up, of putting on masks or casting them aside. I create intimate portraits, often in prosaic places. I have always been interested in photography.

I studied at Amherst College, the International Center of Photography in New York, the University of Chicago, and the Los Angeles Center of Photography. In addition to my photography work, I am a metalsmith, creating collectible pieces well as an attorney, working to protect the environment. I live and work in Los Angeles with my partner, children, and various rescue animals.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The path to where I am now in photography has been an up and down one. The obstacles have generally been self-imposed, in that I had competing demands on my time and focus. I went to graduate school, and then was working full time.

I had two children, who were both muses and distractions. It was difficult to access darkrooms, and I have always felt I needed to control the process from beginning to end. I loved large format photography, and large prints, with all the delicious detail, but with the other demands on my time and, let’s face it, finances, I felt stymied. Eventually, the digital photography world blossomed, and I was able to learn that craft.

I am old enough to have grown up without any computers, so it was a very steep learning curve. I’d think, I want to make things look like this, and then try to reverse engineer the process in photoshop while learning by trial and error. I still miss the physicality of the darkroom, rolling film into reels by feel in the dark, standing over the developer tray watching a magic image swim into view, even the smell of the chemicals. But the digital world opens up so many possibilities!

In particular, a breakthrough for me was when I was able to master digital printing, with all the developments that have continued in that realm. I switched to medium format digital, which combined with printing my own images, got me to the place I had wanted, and I feel that the quality of my work now matches what I see in my mind. Of course, there is always luck, whether photo gods are smiling on any given day, and one gets a flash of the creative, but now the tools are there for me.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I am a storyteller, I am a solo photographer, who photographs lines of inquiry that interest me. Questions of identity, of transformation, of how one relates to the world, of community or isolation, of politics large and small, how we communicate with one another, all inform my work.

I think of myself primarily as a portrait photographer, but vernacular landscapes have also shown up in my work, as well as recreations of scenes seen in my head. My series Road Trip, regarding the American West, was just shown in Milan, at the Milan Image Art Fair (MIA) and Photo Independent, and has been shown in Paris and Los Angeles.

This ongoing series reflects the crossroads at which we find ourselves in America, as well as my personal history growing up in the west.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
My mother gave me her old Kodak Brownie square camera when I was around ten. I still have it. I would “run away” from home to Hollywood Boulevard, which was only two blocks from our house, and wander the streets shooting what caught my eye. The boulevard was our main street back then.

There were toy shops, pizza parlors, movie theaters, and book stores. The shop owners all knew me and would call my parents to let them know where I was. So I was safe even though Hollywood in those days was pretty grimy, and I felt at home talking with people from all over, from homeless and runaways to tourists from other countries.

The images in my series Road Trip reflect the look and feelings of those long ago snapshots.

Contact Info:

  • Website: ericakellymartin.com
  • Email: LAbokeh@gmail.com
  • Instagram: #ericakellymartin
  • Facebook: Erica Kelly Martin Photography

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