Martin Gremm Photography | Artist Statements

Artist Statements

Instants

Not all instants in life are created equal. Most contain mundane actions and events, but there are a few that trigger powerful questions in those who witness them. Questions urgent enough that people stop to find answers. Questions like, How did this happen? What is going on? Did I cause this? Should I do something?

Many powerful Instants will be accidents and similar life-threatening events. This body of work has nothing to say about those, because such Instants usually force the protagonists into certain narrowly defined actions. Instead, this portfolio explores situations where the range of possible responses is much more fluid and the danger, if it is present at all, is emotional rather than physical.

Rather than trying to photograph naturally occurring decisive moments that capture the viewers' attention, I follow my scientific training by creating them under controlled circumstances. Every image in this series is not only carefully planned, but also carefully pared down to the essential components.  They explore how much needs to be shown explicitly and how much can be implied, which clues are essential and which are merely distractions, and how much of the action can occur outside of the frame.

My work is not science. It is about discovering what awakens a viewer's curiosity. It is about leaving out what is not essential. It is about having a little bit of fun. But most of all it is about asking you to do all the hard work of imaging the before and after surrounding the Instant I created for you.

 

Surveillance

We are under surveillance wherever we go and whatever we do. Cameras record our actions in public and sometimes also in private places. Our cell phones disclose our location, our browsing habits, and who we communicate with. Drones offer a cheap and easy way to record people in their back yards, in the neighborhood park, on a jogging trail, and very nearly everywhere else.

In addition, much of the information captured by blanket surveillance remains available indefinitely, which shifts power to those with access to the data. The information can be used to identify terrorists such as the Boston Marathon Bombers, but it can also be used to coerce us or to stifle dissent.

This project consists of eight large grids that show surveillance equipment in the lighter squares, and my interpretation of what it captures in the remaining squares. The prints are large (36x36in or 44x44in) and intentionally dense in information to represent how all encompassing and pervasive surveillance has become.

The individual squares show the variety of mostly private events and activities that are swept up in the dragnet of surveillance. The viewer will discover scenes that could be from their own lives and realize that blanket surveillance is not an abstract concept, but something that affects all of us.

This is the purpose of this project: to transform blanket surveillance from an abstraction to a personal experience in order to encourage debate over the balance between privacy and the benefits of surveillance.

Five of the grids focus on security cameras in contexts ranging from an intersection in Houston, Texas that is being watched by 27 cameras to industrial facilities. One grid focuses on cell phones as tracking devices; one collects footage from open live webcams to represent freely shared surveillance; and one collects footage I recorded wit a surveillance drone I bought for this purpose.

 

Architecture

I like to think of my work as variations on a theme created by the architect. My images are created in camera with nothing added or subtracted in post processing. The resulting image is anchored in the characteristics of the building, but my job is only done when that image is a significant departure from simply describing the architect's work.

Some of the images in this portfolio simply leave out the Exit signs, fire escapes, elevators, and other distractions that come with inhabitable structures to focus on the characteristics of certain design elements. Others rely on framing to create juxtapositions, contrasts, even conflicts between various parts of the building and its surroundings. Both types of images reinterpret the building in terms of geometric shapes by leaving out most of the physical structure and adding a perspective that the architect may not have envisioned.