Hosta Flower and Leaves
Russ Martin was born in 1949 and grew up in the central New York village of Clinton, the son of a part-time professional photographer. In high school he decided to pursue a photography career of his own, and went on to earn both Bachelor's and Master's degrees in fine art photography with honors. During this time, he was exposed to art history, which had a strong influence on his work.
In graduate school, where he earned his MFA degree in 1974, his thesis was completed in color when few were using this medium. It bridged photography with painting and was the inverse of Van Deren Coke's thesis, "The Painter's Use of the Photograph".
From 1978-1980, his work was represented exclusively by the Alonzo Gallery, West 57th St., New York City. Recently, imagery from this period, along with current work, was published in an editor's spotlight in the second issue of the new magazine "Color". When the Alonzo Gallery closed in 1980, Martin was left without representation and life took him in other directions. Because he loved photography, and wanted to share his knowledge and enthusiasm, he pursued a teaching career, teaching part-time in five colleges, and for 25 years in high schools. He has now retired from academia.
"When the Alonzo Gallery closed, my time and attention was diverted away from creating photographs into a myriad of other pursuits. Besides, I had moved to the country and the possibilities of becoming a fine art photographer seemed remote", he said. For 25 years, he only occasionally made fine art photographs, though it was always on his mind. Then, in 2005 and nearing retirement, he entered B&W magazine's portfolio contest with his "Flowing Water" portfolio, created 30 years prior and won a "Spotlight Feature", in the September 2006 issue. This was the stimulus for his return to creative photography. Since 2006, he has tirelessly created new images, the most recent being "The Hosta Project".
Recently, the "Hosta Project" was awarded first place in the nature category in the Prix de la Photographie, Paris, and first place in the Lucie Awards. Individual images have been finalists for three years in a row in Smithsonian Magazine's photography contest, included in the "Art of Photography" show in San Diego, and the Fraser Gallery's International Exhibition. A series of six hosta images earned third place in the portfolio category of the International Garden Photographer of the Year contest in England. "Wilted Hosta and Oak Leaves" was honored with the Gold Award in Black and White Magazine's single Image contest in 2009. "The Flowing Water" portfolio won a prestigious spotlight feature in "Black & White" magazine in 2006. Martin's work was also honored in an eight-page feature in "Silvershotz" in 2008. "Color" magazine published his post-modern wall compositions and torn poster images in an editor's spotlight in its second issue in April 2009.
Wilted Hosta and Oak Leaves
Russ Martin's flora images transport the viewer to a quiet world of leaves and flowers, while simultaneously stimulating the senses. Through the use of both infrared and visible light, he crafts his unique visions. Though seemingly linked to the traditions established by Weston, Adams, and others, Martin's statements are surprisingly fresh and contemporary. They showed beauty where it is expected, he shows us beauty where we least expect. In his series of pictures of wilted leaves of the common hosta plant, color's are bright and saturated. We subconsciously realize beauty is everywhere, sometimes where we least expect. Later, according to Martin, "we may find ourselves perusing our own environments for similar things". In this sense, Martin's images do us a service.
However, his work does not stop with subjects of beauty. He reveals much more. There are images where he plays with design. He uses the lines of the leaves as a background for the white hosta flower, showing us design is everywhere. In others, chiaroscuro increases our perception of shapes and textures. None of this would be accomplished though without impeccable technique. In this respect, Martin does not disappoint. Everything is as it should be with our senses left to delight in his visions. As our world becomes increasingly urbanized and the natural environment increasingly degraded for man's purposes, such imagery becomes proportionately more relevant.