Gene Martin’s photography possibly represents some of the finest examples of rock star portraits ever. His style is unique and stands out in the myriad of pictures available online.
Gene started out as a guitar player so his passion for music was true, deep an ever-lasting. This also gave him that special connection with musicians which went beyond just the lens. When he turned to photography he knew how to capture the true essence of the subject. He was creative with props and he was a master of lighting technique.
Although in most recent years he started shooting in digital, he was a true believer and supporter of film and he maintained that “go for THE shot” attitude (as opposed to the shoot-a-million-RAW-pictures-and-then-spend-a-week-Photoshopping attitude). I have seen Gene do things that I didn’t even know could be done without a computer… Shots that look like the result of some skilled Photoshop wizard, Gene achieved without the use of any software, with techniques and experimentation that go beyond my bare understanding of photography (for some examples check out the shots of Joe Chambers, Pat Metheny, McCoy Tyner, Ray Mantilla, Al Di Meola etc etc). Gene Martin was a true artist of photography.
I have been interested in photography for a long time. I picked it up as a hobby many years ago and then dropped it when the film development made it unfeasible to pursue such a costly hobby. Some years ago I got back into it again and have been enjoying it and doing more of it. With my girlfriend being in the photography business and having had a few of my own shots published in magazines and online, I even flirted with the idea of pursuing photography more seriously.
Gene had been around the recording studio several times. I first met him when he was shooting some of the Les Paul sessions but I distinctively remember him being in our studio at least two more times to shoot some major jazz artists I was recording. It is because of how inspired by his work, attitude and knowledge I was, that on one of those sessions I asked him if I could assist him on one of his next shoots, just so I could pick up some tricks of the trade and get better at my photography hobby. I offered to do it for free of course, I just wanted to learn a little bit from a professional like him. He said he’d keep it in mind and I for sure thought that I’d never hear from him again.
Not only did I hear from him one or two weeks later but he actually even paid me for the assisting job AND split the tip he got from his client 50/50 with me, which was completely unexpected and unheard of! I was really impressed by his character, his personality, his spirits and of course his work.
The ride to the shoot was about an hour so we had the opportunity to get to know each other a little better. We talked shop (cameras, lenses etc) but we also went into our backgrounds and of course we extensively talked about music. He told me about his guitars, his passion for the instrument, his past as a professional musician for 15 years and the many turmoils of his life. He also told me about how much Charles Carlini and Bob Cutarella had done to revive his career. He felt indebted to them and told me that some of his greatest shots had been a result of the acquaintance with Charles and Bob. Gene was secure and confident but he was also modest and gave credit were credit was due. Gene Martin was a fascinating person and a true gentleman.
When I got back from Europe this last December, I was terribly saddened by the news that Gene had passed away. Charles Carlini broke the news to me during the Ennio Morricone sessions and I couldn’t believe that a person as young, talented and kind as Gene was no longer with us. The world suffered a terrible loss! The people that knew him personally were completely surprised and devastated by the news. However it also makes me sad to think that not enough of his peers realized what a great photographer passed away. Gene’s career was definitely going through a climb. His popularity had been peeking and his photography was finally gaining the recognition and Awards that it deserved.
Luckily our common friend Charles Carlini has put together a tribute site that will make the spirit and the photography of Gene Martin live on forever: www.genemartinfoto.com
Check out the website to see some of the biggest rock, pop, blues and jazz stars of our times through the eyes and the lens of Gene Martin.
More links about Gene for you to check out:
Rest In Peace…