We had the good fortune of connecting with Amy Martin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amy, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Incidentally, I feel that my artistic and creative career pursued me, tirelessly at times, before I could pursue it fully. In college I concentrated on a science degree with plans to go to medical school. I worked as an emergency medical technician (EMT) in the high mountains in the winter and in the Grand Canyon in the summer, and then joined the Peace Corps for two years. Everywhere that I went, whether for my job or personal time, the landscapes that I traveled on and the people that I met emanated so much depth, light and mystery that I carried my camera with me to try to capture just the smallest amount of their beauty. Even as I pursued other work, my love of visual art would distract me and fill my daydreams. It was always there, demanding more attention than I was giving it and reminding me of what I truly loved and valued. During this time I was slowly realizing the power of visual storytelling. I saw how photography was raising awareness and funds of for conservation and humanitarian organizations that I was working with. After photography stuck with me on the sidelines for so long, I finally felt empowered that I could work to create a more conscious, compassionate world through art. I learned that thoughtful and intentional storytelling can share truths with a wide audience, informing the public, bringing issues to light, and cultivating understanding across physical and social barriers. After years of photography as a small part of my life, I pursue it now fully as my career. It was always there, always my path, I just needed to listen and surrender.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
As a documentary photographer, I strive to increase understanding and compassion across physical and social barriers through the lens of my camera. I pair with humanitarian and conservation organizations to tell their stories to raise awareness and gather resources. I am grateful that my photography has enabled me to work on numerous local and international projects surrounding issues that I advocate for. Recently I have completed projects documenting climate change in Antarctica, conservation in and around Grand Canyon, education in East Africa, statelessness on the Dominican/Haitian border, and the experience of Latino/a farm workers on the Arizona/Mexico border. Since 2011, I have worked as a photographer for the Mariposa DR Foundation that educates and empowers adolescent girls living in extreme poverty in Dominican Republic. My journey to professional photographer was not linear. I worked first as a Park Ranger and river guide at Grand Canyon, as a Peace Corps volunteer in Dominican Republic, and a conservation biologist in the American Southwest. Through each of these experiences I saw the opportunity to share under-told stories. This propelled me forward to start documenting and sharing what I learned and saw through photography. I slowly began crafting my visual storytelling skills. There is a weighted responsibility in sharing sensitive and under-told stories. I believe that there should be space created for individuals to have an active roll in telling their own narrative, so I approach each new project collaboratively. Through the process of storytelling, I have had to stop, unlearn and relearn so much about the way I approach the world and others though this work. In each project I learn more about humanity, our Earth and myself. After years behind the lens, I am honored to have recently won international awards and grants for my work in Antarctica and Arizona, and to be selected as a ‘Champion of the Southwest’ in Outside Magazine. My photographs are also found frequently in Arizona Highways Magazine, which I am proud to contribute to as the magazine was a staple in both my grandparents and my parents homes while I was growing up. I also have come to understand the importance of visual-art literacy, and began creating and teaching Identity Through Photography workshops for children in diverse communities. Through the challenges and lessons learned, I am still honing my craft with every project, every encounter. I know that this learning process will never stop, and I am full of gratitude each day that I can continue to create images as my profession. I am honored to use my art as a small tool for social change.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I know that without the infinite support of my family, I would not be the photographer or artist that I am today. My mother was an amateur photographer. I grew up watching her capture the landscapes and botany of the southwest as well as document our family as we traveled and grew. I credit her for helping me seek out small pieces of beauty in any space. She also worked tirelessly in the appreciation of her Sonoran Desert and instilled in me the knowledge that you can protect the things that you love with small acts of advocacy (and, occasionally, defiance). My dad also shared with me his deep love of the Arizona desert where he has lived his whole life, walking and exploring the landscape with his parents, my grandparents. He is an adventurer at heart and in practice which helped me expand my view of what was possible in this life. As a new parent myself, I am gaining fresh insight into how much love, generosity and support, yet freedom, my parents shared with me and my sisters. It is an enduring and solid foundation with which I was able to build myself and my art. Specifically with my photography career, I would like to extend my gratitude to Jason Hasenbank and the Flagstaff Photography Center for their support, inspiration, encouragement and friendship when I was an emerging artist. They patiently and masterfully breathed life into my dreams.
Susan Martin, Amy Martin, Robin Martin