Chris Martin, or CMART as a lot of us lovingly know him, is a seriously hard-working, talented skater and photographer living in Brooklyn, New York. Originally from Maine, he’s traveled the world with the Natural Koncept crew and has a knack for capturing raw street life, not just the skate stuff. Living in the epicenter for art and fashion that is NYC, Chris shoots lifestyle, fashion, models, and just had his first solo show at the SoHo Arts Club. I stay at his Williamsburg apartment almost everytime I’m in NYC and his work ethic, enthusiasm, and ever-growing body of work is always inspiring. Thanks for everything homie, I’m stoked to see this Proof Sheet!—Blair Alley
How long have you been shooting skating and what got you into it?
I’ve been shooting skateboarding since I started skating back in high school (2000/01). Our photography teacher got a 35mm fish-eye and I started playing around with it using black and white film. My first shots were of my friends back home. I got a couple good shots and from then on I was hooked. If I wasn’t skating, I was shooting my friends skating. It seemed like skateboarding and photography were linked together as far as I was concerned. They were both creative outlets, and processing your film is almost as exciting as landing a new trick. I got seriously into it right before I got asked to go shoot photos for a Natural Koncept tour in 2007. That was a dream come true.
Is there one photograph or photographer that inspired you to take up photography?
My dad was a photographer and he’s the one that got me into it. He gave me my first camera and taught me how to read the light and how to use the manual settings. He wasn’t a fan of the automatic setting that’s for sure. But it was nice to bond with him over pictures. He took a lot of photographs of my family and me when we were young and he would explain to me what settings he used and how to analyze pictures so you could come up with the same result for yourself. As far as skate photographers go, I think Skin always inspired me by his work. His minimal use of flash and his focus on composition was something I really enjoyed and still do to this day. Other favorites include C.R. Stecyk, Glen Friedman, Mike Blabac, Gabe Morford, and Blair Alley.
What’s the best and worst advice you’ve been given on photography?
The best advice I got is, “Shoot things the way you want and you will develop your own style.” the worst advice was, “Don’t worry dude everything happens for a reason,” When my whole kit got jacked a little bit ago.
Do you have a favorite photo of your own?
I really like one of my most recent photographs of Spiro Razis doing the fakie rock at the World Trade Center. There is a police booth right there and because so many people kept crossing the street the officer couldn’t see Spiro trying the trick. I just like his style in the picture, the contrast of blue and black and the fact this spot is a total bust.
What’s the most interesting story behind one of your photos?
The one of Brandon Bonner doing that lien air in the Black Bear Bowl in Brooklyn is pretty rad. I had been throwing up all day and had a fever of 102. JZ (Josh Zickert) hit me up and was like, “We need to shoot some pics for Arizona Iced Tea before Brandon goes back to VA.” I completely bailed out on Agenda all day and was super bummed I couldn’t get there, but I knew they would be skating at night and maybe I could meet up. So they ended up coming to my house to motivate me and try to get me to shoot for an hour or so down the street at BBB. I wasn’t feeling it at all but I said, “Fuck it lets go, as long as I don’t throw up on the ramp I’ll try and handle it.” I had a car at the time so we could escape the 20 degree temps and hopefully be in and out. When we got there Mark Gonzalez was there with some other pros and I was blown away. Brandon got into the bowl and just started shredding with Mark. I don’t even think Brandon recognized him at all at the time. They were both killing the bowl and pushing each other so hard. They were yelling and screaming saying dumb shit the whole session. We got a couple shots and I even got to shoot a pic of Gonz. In this picture you can see Mark through the fence in the corner. He was riding a 9-inch board with huge trucks, it was epic. I felt a lot better after that. It’s crazy what adrenaline and a fun session with your friends can do when you feel terrible.
What advice would you give to up and coming skate photogs?
Shoot film first. Learn analog, it will help you master your craft and make you appreciate shooting digitally a lot more. Submit your stuff to Step Dad Mag and I’ll try and run it!
What’s different about shooting in NYC?
If you don’t have a car, you’re packing super light because you can only carry so much when you’re traveling around by board. Which sometimes sucks, but it helps you to be more creative with light and using your camera to push and pull your exposure depending on what kind of day it is. Another difference is the amount of people that come here to visit and skate. When people only have a couple days in the city, skaters are super motivated to get out and explore with you.
What draws you to shoot all the non-skate stuff? Portraits, candid shots, lifestyle, etc.
I love photography. I love to shoot. If I see something that catches my eye, I’m going to take out my camera or even my cell phone to document it. When I don’t shoot skating it helps me because I can give my eye a break. I feel as though when I was only shooting skating a lot of my work looked the same. I think that it’s important to branch out as much as possible to keep things exciting and fresh.
Do you prefer digital or film?
I prefer film. The grain, the look and the colors are all better. If I could afford it I would shoot color transparency film all day long. But it’s pricey and super time consuming to develop and scan. Though I still shoot film, I do it more for personal work. I’m currently freelancing so I’m on a tight budget these days. One year when I was in school I spent over seven thousand dollars on film and developing—NYC is expensive.
What’s in your camera bag?
Canon 5D3, Canon 24-70 2.8, Canon 50mm 1.8, Canon 85mm 1.8, Fisheye 2.8, Canon 580ex, Lumedyne strobes, Rz67 with a couple lenses.