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Award-winning potographer Cade Martin tells Capitol Communicator that  the pandemic "magnified and brought into sharp focus what has always been true about this profession – it’s always changing.

Making Work, Work

by | Mar 24, 2021

By Cade Martin

At-home haircut, a shave, pants that button, it’s like the first day of a new job every time. And it kind of is. Refreshed after the sudden and strange halt of life and work as I knew it, and focused on how to make photographs in an ever-shifting now, I jumped in to make work, work. 

As famed British novelist Edward Bulwer Lytton (or was it Bruce Lee?) once said, “patience is not passive; on the contrary, it is concentrated strength.”

I’ve always considered myself to be a patient person. But the collective waiting that made up a bulk of 2020 was a test of that notion. But even those uncertain months were not passive, my waiting was active– I did the doable. Early on I shifted focus.

As a lot of you know and have maybe even participated in – for a few years now, I have been working on a portrait project of creatives and communicators in the Mid-Atlantic region for Capitol Communicator. I have taken the opportunity to circle back to ask what those creatives have been doing during that ever-shifting now. During their times of waiting, how they have felt, how they sparked creativity in our uncertain reality – how they have made work, work. This project took shape as The Creative Now series, a shared experience of adjusting and redefining. 

I teamed up with the Six Foot Social Club to produce t-shirts to raise money in support of a local business in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. All proceeds went to Halcyon Vintage.

Stay Safe, Stay Creative, Have Fun – LIVE Stream!

Throughout COVID, my team and I have been locked into best practices with on-set safety protocols, every project and evolving information warrants some adjustments, especially when it comes to communicating and sharing information with the clients. Here’s one example of flexibility in action.

Our need to communicate important things doesn’t disappear in a pandemic. With sustained attention to safety protocols we created this behind the scenes video production – I do video too! – with a handful of people on set and a remote feed. With a small crew and a small footprint – we monitored temperatures, everyone wore masks, kept physical distance, with the smell of hand sanitizer always in the air. 

Here we were in a studio with a set that did not move, so the live-streaming / monitor set-up could remain live throughout the day. Thousands of miles away in Arizona, the art director joined in and collaborated with us and the on-set team via a live-streaming feed.  

For the setup, we had two monitors facing each other – one monitor showed the live feed from the camera and the other monitor was the client on Zoom so they could watch the feed coming in from camera. A third monitor was facing us, the team, so the client could have a second Zoom window and he could see and converse with us as well as having the ability to toggle Zoom windows from us to reviewing the images as they appeared via live feed. Max Headroom, anybody?

The learning curve was steep and quick (and the goalposts moved all the time), but there was no time to mope or resist it. It was about responding and pivoting, and we continued to do great work and keep everyone safe. 

I also offered virtual portrait sessions from my studio, bringing people from around the world into the studio through the cameras of their computers and phones while they remained safely at home. Some of those sessions were for individuals or families, but that method also worked for some clients including a campaign for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

I guess in a lot of ways the pandemic has just magnified and brought into sharp focus what has always been true about this profession – it’s always changing. As a photographer, I have evolved with changing technologies and changing expectations.

With boundaries on deliverables constantly stretched and blurred between still and motion, and with less and less import placed on physical proximity, I have focused too, on what it is that stays consistent for me – storytelling. Change is the only constant, but no matter how, no matter where, I am locked into how to tell a story and reveal characters in my work. And we learned big life lessons during the pandemic:  We are working safely. We are working small, but with big impact. We are making work, work. 

Like most people, I found and faced uncertainty and barriers during 2020, but also slivers of inspiration and even small silver linings. I have certainly enjoyed extra time with my family, but I found that I gained that quarantine 10. “How did this happen!?” A year later, I am working with an eye on a light getting closer and brighter at the end of that tunnel. Thank you to my team, my clients – and thank you, Peloton. 

About the Author

Cade Martin

The only child of a university art professor and freethinker mother, Cade Martin grew up surrounded by shapes and images. His love of art grew out of summer vacations filled with trips to galleries, museums and art studios. At home he often found himself around the dinner table with an eclectic cast of characters – sculptors, writers and painters. They paraded through his childhood, shaping his art foundation and forming his appreciation for the candid beauty found in people from all walks of life. Cade’s been chasing characters ever since. He seeks out their stories-told through the architecture of their faces or the costumes they wear-whether he’s on a commercial production or setting up an Avedon-like photo booth at Comic Con. They are the heroes in his pictures. His thirst for capturing adventures took its hold while shooting stills on movie sets and then as a photographer for National Geographic covering the railways of India. And it is that sense of adventure that Cade brings to his productions elevating the ordinary to the extraordinary with a cinematic touch. It’s not just a picture. He’s committed to the experience, building beautiful environments and, sometimes for his portraits, simply building trust. A talented storyteller, Cade splits his time between the East and West Coasts creating images for editorial, advertising, fashion, and lifestyle clients


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