The Athens, Georgia mechanic you see in this photograph has no idea who Pina Bausch is. Or that dancers everywhere will see an unconscious grace in the gesture he chose to express in front of the camera. But the man who made this photograph knows. I met Carl Martin last month on a jaunt to Atlanta to accompany Gary to a photography portfolio review. And since Gary didn’t really need a Vanna White to turn the pages of his book for reviewers to inspect, I had the chance to wander through the displays of work and meet the other selected photographers.
Carl told me that he takes inspiration wherever he finds it, and lately he’s been captivated by the same German choreographer I’ve been blogging about. Carl is a former architect from New York — not a dancer — and the Wim Wenders movie “Pina” was just a starting point for him. What he’s trying to capture is the intrinsic value and joy of what he calls public gesture. Pina spent years with her dancers, giving them emotional and descriptive cues and then developing the movements her words inspired. Carl doesn’t get as much time with his subjects – mostly working men from around the Athens area, where he lives now, who agree to help him. He lets his subjects come up with their own gesture, and then he stages them against an architecturally interesting background in natural light. The poetry is in the simplicity of the composition and sometimes its contrasts. Not surprisingly, Carl says he gets much bigger, more powerful “gestures” from total strangers than from the friends he’s tried to Shanghai into posing. He doesn’t explain who Pina Bausch is or why he celebrates her in the movements of mechanics, truck drivers or hospital orderlies. He figures their gestures tell the story anyway.
You can check out more about Carl Martin at www.carlmartinart.com – or if you happen to pass through Athens just strike a pose.