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Paul Martin

(1864—1944) photographer


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(1864–1944), French photographer resident in England. The son of a small-scale manufacturer, Martin accompanied his family to England in 1872, eventually became a commercial wood engraver, and took up amateur photography in the early 1880s. In 1888 he co-founded the West Surrey Photographic Society. His outstanding achievement was a series of candid pictures made 1892–8 using a modified Facile hand camera, taking a magazine of twelve quarter plates, that could be disguised as a parcel. Martin's subjects included street scenes near his London workplace, children and courting couples, and holidaymakers relaxing at English and continental seaside resorts and pleasure spots like Hampstead Heath. Captured unobtrusively by a shy photographer, they have a freshness and immediacy lacking from the contemporary salon pictorialism in which Martin, perhaps through lack of funds, was only a fringe participant. (Prior to exhibiting them as lantern slides, Martin blacked out the backgrounds of many of his snapshots, so that the main figures resembled cut-outs, a practice that differentiated him significantly from milieu-conscious contemporary documentarists like Lewis Hine, Jacob Riis, or Alice Austen). He experimented continually, and in 1896 received the Royal Photographic Society's Gold Medal for a series of pioneering night photographs entitled London by Gaslight, which drew praise from Alfred Stieglitz. Between 1899 and 1926 Martin ran a mixed photographic business. His autobiography, Victorian Snapshots, appeared in 1939.

From The Oxford Companion to the Photograph in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Photography and Photographs.


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