Renowned photographer Gene Martin, who shot 52 covers for JazzTimes between 1988 and 1998, passed away this week. Best known for his conceptual portraits of music personalities (especially jazz) and celebrities, Martin’s rapport with musicians-he was a professional guitarist for 15 years before picking up the camera-earned him the trust and respect a photographer requires to capture intimate, candid and defining moments.
Martin actually studied photography in college but opted for a career as a professional musician, though by the mid-’80s he returned to the camera, getting a job as an editorial photographer with a concentration on celebrity portraiture. Within a few years he was in high demand, especially with jazz publications, eventually shooting over 300 CD covers, posters, and numerous magazine covers (his image of Sonny Rollins appeared in Japan’s Swing Journal’s 50th anniversary issue). Martin’s photography has appeared in such hallowed publications as Time, Newsweek, Entertainment Weekly, New York Magazine, People, US and U.S. News & World Report. Besides the hundreds of musicians he captured-besides jazz legends, Martin framed Ravi Shankar, Les Paul, Eric Clapton, Buddy Guy, Cyndi Lauper, Steve Miller and Peter Frampton-the list of politicians, actors, artists, sports stars and other celebrities is astounding: Margaret Thatcher, Bill Cosby, Spike Lee, Evander Holyfield, and Tony Randall are but a few.
Concept, composition, color and technique all play a significant role in Martin’s body of work, designed to culminate in a single image that tells a story that language fails to describe. The Best of Portrait Photography: Tips & Techniques of the Pros ranks him among the finest 50 portrait photographers in the country.
Martin’s wonderful work can be seen at genemartinphotography.com.Originally Published