Hot Shot: Cade Martin

YOU MIGHT FEEL LIKE YOU’RE watching a cinematic production when you see Cade Martin‘s work. And with good reason. The award-winning photographer says the cinema inspires his thinking—from potential locations and staging to how light falls through a window or is used as a theme.

“I would like to think that all of my projects are a continuation of my thinking,” he says.

“I try to approach work cinematically and create a sense of narrative with each of the images. A lot of my work plays off the location, with a sense of scale and depth and a lot of available light.”

An avid moviegoer since childhood, Cade says images from films stock what he calls his “visual databank,” and that includes a wide range of influences—anyone from Alfred Hitchcock and Roger Deakins to Gregg Toland and Janusz Kaminski. He draws upon that for a distinctive style that edges on fantasy, if not mystery.

What would he reproduce? The magic hour wonderland created by Terrence Malik in Days of Heaven.

“He waited two minutes before the sun goes down and shot everything at the magic hour with dirt floating around and light coming through. That’s something you click into your memory bank and bring into your perspective.

“It’s a dream of mine to have that sense of cinema in each frame—that it’s not just a standalone. I see these scenes that are a simple, clean, minimalist approach and gorgeous. I salivate and wonder when can I do this—and it might be in two weeks or 10 years down the road.”

Cade, who does much of his own location sourcing, says he gets ideas from set staging and even production methods, which he uses as a sort of mood board with clients to facilitate ideation.

“It really helps when you have to do something stylized and conceptual.”

For his work with the Washington Ballet, Cade wanted to create a sense of narrative rather than an elegant still life.

“The ballet, in particular, gave me the opportunity to work with a narrative, a story. Dancers are amazing athletes and can do almost anything your imagination can dream up.”

The challenge? He knew where he wanted to compose the image, but didn’t know how.

“I knew the exact spot I wanted them, but didn’t know all the moves and tricks they could pull off in that spot, so I worked with a choreographer to find out which moves they could do to fill that space.”

But more than that, he says, “You want the talent to get in there and play a role. I would hope that each of these images look like a movie still—each one having a sense of story. And you look at that at frame and envision that the story goes on, that this is just a moment that’s captured.”

The ballet project, in collaboration with Design Army, is now published in Wonderland, a commemorative book of lush images.

Four-year-old Cash contributed a portrait of his dad.

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