We had the good fortune of connecting with Martin Cox and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Martin, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
Hello, well I am an artist working primarily in photography. I grew up in a port city in the UK, which was all about links with other lands and I picked up on that as a boy. Seeing huge ships leaving with passengers and cargo for far off places intrigued me about what lay beyond the shores of Britain. My Father had loved photography before I came along and when I was about 11 or 12 and he loaned me his camera with slide film with the instruction that I could take only 3 pictures. I’d head to the docks on my bike and spend hours framing views trying to decide which composition, or light was the best. It taught me patience and looking, and pre-editing. He later gave me my first camera, a Nikon, a brand I still use today. Another huge influence was the darkroom tech at Winchester School of Art who taught me traditional wet darkroom techniques of developing film and printing. I thought I was going to study painting at art school but that all changed once I learned how to print my own photographs. Later, in my twenties in London, I was granted a solo photography exhibition in the US that changed everything, within a year I was living in San Francisco. I was ever more drawn in to investigate the landscape as my subject, fascinated by the emptiness, desolation and mystery of it, I found my way to Los Angeles which is still my home. I make frequent treks to obscure parts of the Colorado and Mojave deserts for more photography investigations. The geological, cultural and economic fault lines intrigued me and led to exploring another desert, a cold desert, and I now spend part of the year in Iceland, shooting rugged otherworldly landscapes.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Sure, as I said I love to look at landscapes. Not for the prettiness, but for the story within it. There is always a story, why does it look like it does, what went on in this place. In some projects I view landscape like a crime scene, with clues to past transgressions and revealing influences on how it came to be. I’m also drawn at to how time is recorded within the landscape, like a core sample in a way, time is condensed into a single image. For example I love to shoot in rugged geologically active places, like the deserts, so much is revealed in a landscape that is not covered in trees, the rocks and mountains tell a story, as do industry and agriculture, trails, roads, rail lines, rivers. There is so much mystery and beauty along with history to see and to fathom. I have shown my images in galleries and museums, and they have been bought and cherished by collectors in Europe and the US. In the grim reality of 2020 exhibitions have been cancelled, however some new activities are starting to show. 3D galleries, pop up shows with appointments, and groups of photographers joining to support one another and a surge in online art sales is encouraging. In Covid I cannot travel. I would have been to Iceland twice in 2020, and probably to the UK too. Missing the ability to immerse myself in new landscapes I have been diving in to uncharted work at home. As with most photographers we can shoot far more images than we’re able to print. I have been sleuthing through works from last year’s of travel and I am launching a new series at the end of 2020 called “Terrible Beauty”. Black and white images that I captured on film, printed digitally on high quality photo papers series. I try to tap into the peace and melancholy of the rugged Icelandic fjords. I am creating a space for the viewer to rest their eyes and minds in these dizzying times to find clam in a quiet ancient space. I hope these small photos will provide a place to let the mind drift within my images and encourage a feeling of timelessness. Launching in a limited release, my new series “Terrible Beauty” will be available on December 2, 2020 on my website www.martincox.com.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Let’s see, in Covid I have not encouraged anyone to visit, and to list where I used to take people seems defeatist as we don’t know what will be open after this is all over. With that said, I would encourage people to meet me somewhere and get a bite and take a walk, have a picnic perhaps. In the 1890s, a resort built on Echo Mountain was one of the largest tourist draws in California. Thaddeus Lowe’s resort was perched at an elevation of 3,200 feet, overlooking the city of Pasadena. The resort was long ago destroyed by wildfires, leaving fascinating ruins for present day visitors to explore. It’s a 6-mile hike with 1,400 feet of elevation gain from Cobb Estate Gate at the north end of Lake Avenue in Altadena, you hike east on a paved walkway for one tenth of a mile. When the road turns north, continue straight on a dirt path following the sign for Sam Merrill Trail. After a few hundred feet, you will reach the start of the trail. Take plenty of water. To eat I might suggest a made from scratch take away deep dish pizza in Echo Park’s MASA 1800 W. Sunset Blvd, 90026 and take it to Elysian Park near Dodger Stadium where there are many outdoor tables. For a picnic we could meet at Otomisan, the last Japanese restaurant in Boyle Heights and drive across the bridge to enjoy our meal in the Los Angeles Historic State park by the chinatown metro stop, there is 32 acres of open space with walkways and architectural features, plus Downtown views. On another day I would say meet on a bench at the Avenue of the Palms in Elysian Park after buying take away curbside delivered sandwiches from Langer’s Deli on Alvarado. I used to take visitors to LACMA but it was knocked down, and the Getty was always a great day trip, but we will have to wait for galleries and museums to open again.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Sometimes the people who influence us the most are perhaps not even clearly known to us. When I attended Art School in the UK, it was not the instructors on my course but a man working to maintain the darkrooms who took an interest in my work and taught me everything I needed to know about darkroom work, it changed my life. Sadly, I cannot thank him as I don’t remember his name, when I tried to locate him through the school they had lost the records of who had worked there. A shout out to my art collectors who regularly buy my work which keeps me together in mind and body and able to move forward, supporting your local artists is so important. I would like to give a shout out to Marifrances Trivelli, Director of the LA Maritime Museum for commissioning my giant photo montage. To Sif Johannesdottir, Director of the Husavik Museum who believed in my work and offered me a solo exhibition in the museum. To artist Kristine Schomaker of ShoeBox PR for encouragement and counseling to so many artists. To Beggi (Bergsveinn Grétar Reynisson) and to Gulla (Guðlaug Guðmunda Ingibjörg Bergsveinsdóttir) for inviting me to work with them on creating an Artist Residency on their land in Iceland, and to all the volunteers on the project to refit the old farm house. And to my husband Thomas DeBoe who encourages me to keep exploring wherever I need, even if it means being out of the country.
Other: Instagram for Artists Residency @gilsfjordurarts