We had the good fortune of connecting with Laath Martin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laath, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
Art has always been an outlet for me to make sense of the world. It started with me as a child sitting by my bedroom window with sheets of notebook paper, drawing my favorite airplanes I longed to use for my escape from home. And over the years, this concept of art as escape continued in me. It wasn’t until I started using a camera at college in North Carolina that I realized art, especially photography, was a way of connecting as well. Now, I’m fortunate enough to use my camera to tell intimate stories of the people around me who are much more like me than I realized – people who are chasing memories and forming new ones, sometimes shaped by forces we can’t always control, like a troubled home for that boy sitting by his bedroom window.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Currently, my work may not be what you expect. When the pandemic hit, I think we all took a major blow to our normal lives, and it was no different for me. It caused me to somewhat shift my focus, so currently I’m working in COVID response in multiple roles, including public information, photography and design, and various programs to try and help keep the public safe and informed. This has been incredibly eye-opening and I feel honored to be a part of a team so dedicated to helping others in such an unprecedented time. Perhaps that is something that sets me apart – my ability to adapt. Before all this, if I wasn’t photographing and working on stories, you would find me teaching. A passion of mine is helping to shrink the digital divide in a world where digital literacy is so increasingly important.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
LA has so much to offer, it’s hard to know where to start! I definitely would take my friends to Griffith Observatory/Park. It was one of my first LA spots and there’s a certain magic to it that has kept it one of my favorites. I think first-timers should definitely experience Santa Monica Pier, Warner Bros. Studio, and LACMA. And when they’re hungry, while I have my favorites (ahem, Chengdu Taste), it’s fun to just search for nearby restaurants and food trucks and pick one of many amazing options here. That’s kind of the beauty of this city – you can always find something new. I also have a soft spot for Long Beach, where I lived for a couple years. I used to sit on the beach in the early mornings and read a book before hitting up Coffee Cup Cafe for one of the best breakfasts ever.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Without a doubt, my biggest shout-out goes to my amazing girlfriend, Nazee. She figures out a new way to impress and inspire me every day and is always there with love, support, and laughter. Seriously, she’s the best. To my friends Travis, Mikey, Michael, Krista, and Tara – they truly are my family and mean more to me than anything else. Shout out to David and Tri, two amazing friends who have helped LA feel like home. To my mentors Sarah Martin (who taught me to embrace my weird), Leah Sobsey, Chris Cassidy, and Armondo Collins – they are the reason I became a photographer and instructor. To the rest of my family all over the country, I miss you.
Image of Laath Martin by Nazee Abbassi All other images by Laath Martin