Hobo Magazine: Shannan Click, Photo: Dan Martensen
The Coveted: Do you remember the first photo you took? Your first camera?
Was it love or apathy?
Dan Martensen: Yes, actually I do. Ha, speaking of nature, I was on a camping trip with my dad. I think he gave me the camera to keep me busy while he did all the work getting the barbecue or the tent ready or something. I must’ve been about 12. We were right by a lake I was wandering around and took a picture of the sunset under a tree with the water bouncing flare into the camera and light into the leaves of the trees. I still kind of shoot pictures like this, I remember looking in the camera and wanting to shoot everything. I think I shot through most or all of our film on that trip. Instead of having traditional pictures of me catching a big fish or portraits of my dad and I by a campfire, we had a lot of pictures of rocks and bugs and stuff. I still have that camera, I don’t shoot with it anymore because I’ve abused it so much since, but I’d say it was love from that day on.
The Coveted: I get the impression that you have done a lot of traveling in the States…. your America series, and the Yurman Down-Country Rally… where is the most interesting, or uninteresting spot in America? Why does it inspire you?
Dan Martensen: Yea, funny thing though, I’ve been in probably 40 states, but never made the trip across country in one drive. My favorite thing to do is shoot on my own, document life, a place, or a person. Not fashion at all. When I find a place un-shot, a candid moment with someone, or a voyeuristic one, a piece of time or a setting, I try and snatch it up, as if it were virgin in some way. It seems almost impossible at this point, but I think this is why shooting America has been so exciting for me. Photographers like William Eggelston, Richard Avedon, Robert Frank, Irving Penn, I mean, the list goes on and on, they’re like pioneers to me, they all shot America and defined it. Its like I showed up to San Francisco for the gold rush about 30 years late, but I am still looking for gold dust in the gravel.
What inspires me to shoot America? I have a hard time answering that… It’s weird, because I am one of millions of Americans trying to figure out how to remain patriotic in such a fucked up place. I mean, my generation is really lost. I think the reason I shoot America the way I do is to try and identify what it is I still understand about this country, like a sort of misguided nostalgia. Coming from New York it is easy to feel like a foreigner in America, and the only parts that I have any real sympathy for are the places that seem to have fallen apart… Oklahoma was so poor and beaten down. Really gritty, real people, I had a lot of love for them. The old Vegas strip, 3 or 4 miles off the main strip that we see on TV, it’s a relic of what Vegas used be, rundown and shitty, yet there are still lives and buildings left over, old time hustlers and hookers, 50 year old hookers!! I mean, c’mon, if that’s not inspiring…
The Coveted:: Is Graceland really worth the trip to Memphis?
Dan Martensen: Um, YES. And stick around for the barbeque.