Randy Martin chases adventures and captures the moments in between. Beautiful scenery, surrounded with great people, pursuing your passion -- what could be better than that? We recently got in touch with Randy and talked to him about his work, his travels, and other things. Spoiler alert: we couldn't be gladder to have him in the Magazine.
Hi, Randy! Welcome to the Lomography Online Magazine. Please, introduce yourself.
Currently in Gabon Africa, calling Reno Nevada home. I document my travels with a Yashica T5, expired film, and a Fujifilm X-Pro1.
How did you start your journey with photography?
Growing up in Chicago, skateboarding was life all throughout my teenage years. My friends and I would all take turns filming each other with whatever random video camera one of us was able to sneak away from our parents for the day. At some point, I injured my ankle really badly and couldn’t skate at all for a few months. I took on full-time video duty and ended up getting pretty into it, filming and editing multiple videos for a bunch of different shops around the city. Senior year of high school I had to pick an elective to graduate, and B+W photography caught my eye. The moment I stepped into that red-lit darkroom and saw my first image slowly appearing in the developing tray it was all over for me. It’s cliche to say, but it was magic. Real magic for me. It was extremely fun and exciting and new. After all my years behind a video camera, it felt familiar in a way too. I was hooked. Have been ever since.
How would you define photography?
I don’t think my idea or understanding of what photography is or isn’t is particularly interesting. I’d probably copy and paste the definition from Merriam-Webster here if I wasn’t on a flight to Africa with no service or wi-fi right now.
In your opinion, what makes a good photograph?
I think composition and light are what first caught my attention. When I see an image and think ‘damn that’s great’ both of those elements are usually really strong. If someone nails those, subject matter, clarity, grain, they can all go out the window for me and still leave a lasting impact.
What’s your favorite thing about photography?
Documentation has pretty much always been my main draw to an interest in photography. Looking back through old images and remembering the insane amounts of fun I’ve had with friends all over the world is one of my favorite things to do with downtime.
What’s your favorite subject?
My friends. Nature. Big landscapes and solitude.
In your opinion, what makes film stand out?
There’s something more tangible feeling about an image made with film. Digital photography can often be a bit too perfect whereas a film image will likely turn out a little fucked up one way or another. I like that about it. It just feels a little bit more like real life.
What are the things that influence or inspire your style/images?
The majority of my work is created during impromptu road trips with friends. So some big factors that influence what I do are simple questions of who has a car, time off work, and the money to actually get up and go do something fun. Beyond that, pretty much any place outdoors away from crowds will get me excited enough to pull a camera out and start shooting.
Which artist (photographer or not) had the most significant effect on your style/work as a photographer?
’ve never studied the history of photography or art in general, so when I started shooting I was mostly looking at other people’s work online who were doing stuff with film that I thought was really great. Jackie Lee Young @jackieleeyoung, Keith Davis Young @keithdavisyoung, Beth Borwell @bobbybeebop, Luke Byrne @coooolhandluke, Marlon Geller @theunspeakablethings were all pretty inspirational in the early days.
If you could have a dream collaboration with an artist/photographer/painter etc, who would it be?
Ten years ago or so I started a project with a close friend of mine named Kim Giannone. It was pretty ambitious but we were in our early twenties and figured what the hell. We were both excited, started working on it constantly, and titled it 50 states in 52 weeks. It was before David Lynch’s Interview Project, but it was more or less the same idea of traveling across the U.S. over the course of one year, visiting all 50 states, and meeting everyday people along the way. We interviewed them and shot portraits on a medium format Hasselblad. We started it in Texas, but the whole thing dissolved when travel opportunities came up for both of us and we went our own ways for a while. I’d love to make that trip happen though at some point. Let's do it, Kim!
How do you stay creative?
Traveling helps. It’s easy to get excited when new places and people are a constant part of life. Also, working for up and coming businesses and trying to do a good job that fits their aesthetic is always fun. It’s a little bit different than just going out and shooting for yourself, so that keeps things fresh and interesting too.
Your travel shots are inspiring. What’s your favorite thing about hitting the road and photographing people and places that catch your attention?
I don’t do very well sitting in one place for too long. I wish it wasn’t true, but I have a hard time just sitting down, relaxing and letting the brain rest. Being on the road, visiting new places and meeting new people actually helps with that. It puts me at ease and feels comfortable. Some people meditate, I ride from Los Angeles to the Arctic Circle on a motorcycle with a camera velcroed to my gas tank.
What’s the most memorable thing/place that you encountered?
Too many for this interview. One adventure I’ll never forget though was a few years back on the big island of Hawaii with two of my closest buds. We were all road tripping around the island - swimming with sea turtles, camping on the beach, sneaking into fancy resorts to swim in their pools, drinking too much Bud Lite and cruising coastal highways with all the windows down. So one day we went to explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It was an okay place, not the most exciting park I’d ever been to but not boring either. After setting up camp for the night though we ran around on pink and purple lava fields with the sun setting off in the distance over smoldering mounds, then decided to go check out the main crater where we were told you could sometimes see smoke floating up into the night sky. It was pitch black as we started out the drive. A$AP Rocky was blaring out the speakers and all we could see was the narrow black road in front of us.
The closer we drove the more vibrant the sky got - to the point that we could see the silhouette of every tree in front of us backed by a bright orange glow. We parked, then hiked to a lookout a few hundred feet from the crater. The entire landscape was illuminated. Jagged solidified magma fields as far as you could see surrounded a massive hole in the ground filled with liquid lava. We sat down on the ground and passed a tin can of whiskey while staring out into this living, breathing thing the way I’ve done so many times around a campfire. I don’t know if it was the fact that I’d never seen something like this before, the audible bubbling, the giant plumes of smoke wafting up into the black sky while being surrounded by my favorite people or just the sheer scale of the scene, but it’s one of a very few times that nature has made me shed a tear. It was a damn good night.
What are your travel essentials?
Lots of socks. Yashica T5, film, tent, sleeping bag, good music on the iPhone.
What is your dream destination?
Iceland in the summertime. I was lucky enough to spend a few weeks road tripping the country this past spring, and I can not wait to go back next year when everything is thawed out and covered in glowing green moss. So much of the country was inaccessible by any type of vehicle while I was there so I can’t wait to explore the interior and swim in a million more hot springs.
What do you think is more important -- passion or profession? Talent or skill?
I think a combination of all of these is ideal for whatever it is you’re trying to do. The passion gets you going. The skill needs to be honed in on and developed. Natural talent helps so long as learning your craft and working at it, making it your own is part of the plan as well. Then tie it all together, turning it into a profession, why not? That’s the path that works best for me anyway.
How would you like others to see your work? What do you want them to feel or experience when they look at your photographs?
I don’t think about this very much, to be honest. The photographs that I make are first and foremost for me. The reason that I started shooting and continue to do so is to capture some of the best times of my life that I’ve had with the people I love, but I'm also so happy and honored that people see what I do and are inspired by it.
I guess if there was a takeaway from looking back at my work though, it’s that so many of the places I’ve photographed have already been changed so much. That the world is a massive and varied place, but it’s fragile. It’s dying, largely because of myself and the other 7 billion people on the planet. It’s an easy thing to not notice day to day but we all ought to be a bit more aware of our impact and take some responsibility for our time here to keep this place beautiful because its the only place we’ve got.
If you could replace photography with one thing, what would it be?
I sure would love to learn every language that exists. Being in a new country where you can actually communicate with locals is such a game changer in terms of authenticity and richness of an experience. I’ve more or less got Spanish down at this point, but without photography I think I’d like to dedicate all the time I spend shooting, editing, answering interview questions like this to learning Mandarin, French, Hindi, Icelandic, Arabic, German, and the other bajillion other languages out there.
How does a perfect day look like for Randy P. Martin?
Up early after a long sleep, music and iced coffee in the kitchen while making a big breakfast, an hour or so in the garden tending to all my plants, and then spend the rest of the day outside hiking to swimming holes and sleeping out under the stars around a campfire having a few beers with the homies.
What would you be if you weren’t a photographer?
Maybe a trail guide. Maybe a chef. I’m pretty flexible so long as I’ve got the essentials and am making some money to put away for travel.
Which do you like better - daylight or nighttime?
A year or so ago I’d have said night time. Mainly because I have insomnia and am up all night most of the time anyway. But lately, I love starting my day with the sun and being productive in the early morning. I like to check on my projects around the house - how’s my kombucha doing today? What do my arugula and squash look like after a nice cool night away from the intense Nevada sun? I run through my to-do list, write some emails, post to social media, and then make another to do list for the day.
How do you think people should handle failure and success?
Over the years I’ve come to a realization and a peace that everyone is gonna do their own thing in life. I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t try to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do, how they should act or not act. We’re all just doing our best out here, and hopefully, we figure out how to make things better along the way.
Any last words for our readers?
How do we make shooting film not empty out our pockets these days? The film itself, processing, printing fees, they’re out of hand, no? Anyone out there with recommendations get in touch!