our new Rutgers location features photos that showcase a journey through the seasons as captured by Rutgers-Newark alum, Martin Tadashi. A prominent name on Instagram, Martin's photos know no bounds—from hyper creative portraiture to sweeping cityscapes, his photography conveys a deeper understanding of not only the camera, but the subject as well. We met with Martin to discuss the inspiration for his photos featured at hgRutgers and to understand what inspired his shift from creative writing to photography as an outlet to express himself + his vision.
hg: hi, Martin! Tell us a bit about yourself + your background:
martin: well, I was born and raised in the Philippines, am a recent graduate at Rutgers University- Newark, and I’m a Libra!
hg: originally born + raised in the Philippines, what prompted your move to New Jersey in 2005? How does the US lifestyle compare to that in the Philippines? How often do you go back to visit?
martin: my grandmother filed a petition to bring my mom and older sister to the US a long time ago. The goal then was to take care of her + to have a better college education. Oh yeah, it’s definitely contrasting! I grew up in a small neighborhood where everyone knew each other. My street was basically divided into four main families (I think), and one was us. Back then, we’d know if you weren't from our street because it was that tight of a community. Here in the US, it's a little bit more of an “on your own” type of community. It’s kind of strange, really… cause I still don’t know much about my neighbors! I haven’t gone home since moving here in 2005 because of school. But now I’m done + it’s definitely in order.
hg: you’re the featured photographer in our new #hgRutgers location! Congrats! What inspired the photos selected for this location? What do you hope people take away from these photos when they visit honeygrow?
martin: thanks! I wanted to select images that really capture the essence of what New Jersey is about: People + Nature. There is a preconceived notion that NJ is not a good place to live, or that there’s not much to do here. But honestly, I do enjoy the peace + quietness I get whenever I return from a trip to New York City. As much as I love the “Hustle & Bustle” environment a metropolis can offer, sometimes it can really drain you. It’s also sort of funny how some NYC folks get away to Lambertsville, Sussex, Princeton, Sandy Hook, Wildwood, Barnegat, and other places here + truly enjoy it, but still have some negative feelings about the Garden State! What I wanted to accomplish with this set of images is to lure them back to something more organic (I know, it sounds cliché), natural, and to. . .
". . .open their curiosity into exploring for themselves, not because someone told them to."
hg: you specialize in portraiture, most of which is combined with a complex backdrop. What helps craft the perfect portrait? How do you try to convey emotion + energy through your images?
martin: I know that all portraits are heavily concentrated in the subject and basically fill the entire frame, but I do love a good backdrop! I was taught at an early age to be patient when taking photographs; I used my late grandfather’s film camera back when I would explore my streets but still now, even if I use my DSLR, I treat it as if I only have 50 frames to take. I always think about framing, then depth + then I capture.
hg: who or what inspires your imagery? What photographers do you turn to for inspiration or motivation?
martin: how I see my portraits is based on my own feelings towards solitude. Kind of like a mixture of Alfred Hitchcock and Ovid; they tend to isolate their characters in most of their narratives but obviously most of their work tends to be darker. I make sure that not one inch of my compositions are wasted + I always think about a quick story before I take my shot.
hg: you’re a Rutgers graduate—what lessons or takeaways from your time at Rutgers stand out most?
martin: definitely open-mindedness! My campus in Newark is one of, if not the most diverse campuses in the nation, and I’ve gotten the privilege of meeting many people from around the country (as well as a few transfer students!) + really learning their culture. If you fear traveling but want exposure in diversity, come to Rutgers Newark!
hg: you graduated with a BA in English with a minor in Creative Writing: Poetry and you held the position as Editor in Chief for the Scarlet Magazine (Rutgers-Newark’s first magazine publication). What inspired you to pursue photography in lieu of journalism? How (if at all) do the Creative Writing + Poetry areas of study translate into your photography?
martin: when I was editor of Scarlet Magazine I directed our first fashion shoot on a cold February weekend. I feel strongly towards visual arts. I felt that my writing was on par, but wasn’t something even I would look twice at in awe! Because of that insecurity, I’ve decided to combine the two and really marry both mediums in creating images I love. Having that writing background gives me an advantage, because I always ask myself questions like: “Who is in the frame? What is the subject doing/not doing? Why is the subject in a specific position? What is your story?”, to make sure I have some back story that enhances my images.
hg: what advice would you pass along to a current Rutgers student to help them through their time at the university? Is there any guidance which aided you on your journey?
martin: as much as I had my fair share of being in a fraternity, other social clubs, parties, and cram sessions, the only advice I can give current students is to keep communication open with family, whether immediate or extended. I am very proud of my support system: my mom, dad + especially my older sister. Without their patience, strict parenting skills, and their ever-lasting guilt-trips (laughs), I don’t think I would be where I am.
"Family first, school second, the rest will fall into place."
hg: you’ve done work for clients such as Stella Artois, Grey Goose + Bonobos. Are there any particular projects which standout in your resume (either by being a unique opportunity or just generally a fun project to work on)? Why?
martin: definitely my project with Grey Goose in Julliac- Le- Coq, France. Listen, I’d never set foot in Europe before and when a good friend of mine referred their agency to me, I was floored! Usually, when I get booked for projects, I get to stay at a hotel outside of a venue, and then I would go the day of the event. Not only did they go out of their way to send me there, they really made sure we (myself + the folks I went with) had a great time. I think it was an example of doing what I love, while still creating quality work. It really goes hand-in-hand.
hg: do you have a dream location that you’d like to shoot one day? Why?
martin: oh, man… I really don’t know! Anywhere in Europe would be a delight! I mean, my goal is to be a top editorial photographer, so I have to take it one day at a time. I know I can compete, even though I am self-taught and don’t have many technical resources right this second. But, I crave travel! But if you really insist, I would definitely go to Vienna. Why? Because I don’t know much about the country and going back to the “solitude” thing I’m going for, I’m sure I’ll have a blast exploring there.
hg: is there a particular individual whose portrait you’d like to capture? Why?
martin: Meryl Streep. No explanation needed. (laughs)
hg: how can we follow along on your adventures + see updates on new projects?