A look inside with Pat Martin, Taylor Wessing Portrait Prize winner

Photo by Jorge Herrera

For Pat Martin, the photo is the place where a subject is made real. Real not just in the visual sense, but in our memories, too. The Los Angeles-born photographer was selected as the 2019 National Portrait Gallery Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize winner for his arresting, deeply personal portraits of his late mother, Gail. A selection of Martin’s portraits were on view at the Lightbox Gallery at Ace Hotel London Shoreditch, courtesy of the artist. Here, Martin lists off some of his favorite things — his first pair of Levi’s, a Plaubel Makina, singing Lou Reed in the shower and the best piece of advice he never took.


Gail and Beaux; Mom (our last one)
from the series Goldie (Mother) by Pat Martin

A bit about Pat Martin:

Pat Martin is an American photographer from Los Angeles, California. Martin uses photography to connect with personal memories, while also working to understand his own relationship with time. He sees the present as an opportunity to build upon an empty family album, while also finding new connections through portraiture. Martin’s winning works intimately document his late mother, a first generation Jewish-American. Martin says, “For most of my life, I misunderstood my mother and witnessed how the world misunderstood her. Photographing her became a way of looking into a mirror and finding details never noticed. There were always new ones to discover and something new to hide.”

The judges were unanimous in their depth of engagement with the two winning portraits which are, in turn, sensitive, tough and even humorous. The photographer has captured something of the struggle and pride of his mother which they felt speaks to the fragility of human experience and the power of the photographic portrait to express loss and evoke memory. The photographer’s assured use of light and a confidence in his compositional approach to the figure was greatly admired. Three further portraits from the series have been included in the display at the judges’ discretion to show the complexity of feeling expressed in Martin’s work. 

The prize-winning photographs were chosen from 3,700 submissions entered by 1,611 photographers from 70 different countries. 

Favorite three novels that changed your mind?

Kids by Patti Smith
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron (self-help book for creativity but no doubt it has something for everyone).

Favorite walks at sunset near your studio/office/etc.?

Hiking up to the Griffith Observatory or Barnsdall Art Park are pretty routine. When I can make it west to the beach, anywhere along the water is always preferred.

Favorite three songs to sing in the shower?

“Perfect Day” by Lou Reed
“Wave Goodbye” by Soft Cell
“Undone” by Duran Duran

Top travel essentials when it’s pleasure not business?

Plaubel Makina, swimsuit and my partner in crime, Sarah.

Favorite piece of advice that you didn’t take?

Stop shooting film.

Favorite three galleries outside of your home country?

London’s National Portrait Gallery
La Casa Azul in Mexico City
Camera Work in Berlin

Favorite three YouTube channels?

TEDx Talks
The Comedy Store
Bon Appetit

Favorite three recipes you always go back to?

Lemon cacio e pepe
Spicy baked potatoes
Broccolini with lemon

Favorite three albums from your teenage years?

Amnesiac by Radiohead
Unknown Pleasures by Joy Division
The Man Who Sold The World by David Bowie

Favorite three food joints you love that you shouldn’t? 

Tito’s Tacos
Fisherman’s Outlet
Anything with a drive-thru at midnight

First three stops on a road trip with your closest friends?

Gas Station
In-N-Out
Antique Shops

Three oldest pieces of clothing you own?

My first pair of Levi’s (saved by mother)
Brown suede Schott jacket from high school
Harley Davidson shirt with eagle and flames