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  Paul Martin, photographer

One of the world's first photojournalists, Paul Martin was born on April 16, 1864 in Herbeuville, France. Five years' later, his family moved to Paris where they were subjected to the horrors associated with the Franco-Prussian War and the radical Paris Commune socialist movement in 1870-1871. His family later relocated to London, which would become Paul Martin's lifelong home. His interest in drawing led him to become a Fleet Street wood engraving apprentice in 1880, and he turned professional three years' later.

Mr. Martin initially became acquainted with photography during his apprenticeship, and bought his first dry-plate camera in 1884. He educated himself on various techniques described in industry journals and received further instruction from local amateur photography groups. He developed his own unique style of composites and vignettes, and a preference for night photography. His photographs of London street life are thought to be the first candid snapshots of their kind. Mr. Martin maintained that his limited financial resources dictated his choice of street photography, but his images reveal a genuine affinity for his working-class subjects. His camera of choice was the Fallowfield Facile, a small dry-plate camera that could take up to 12 exposures and could be easily disguised in a box or bag. During the 1890s, Mr. Martin's street photographs received several exhibition awards, although some of his early works were criticized for being devoid of atmosphere and appearing "too map-like." In 1895 and 1896, his "London by Gaslight" series of photographs earned him a gold metal at the 1896 exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society. American Pictorialist photographer Alfred Stieglitz later credited Mr. Martin with inspiring him to produce his famous Manhattan night views.

Mr. Martin's newfound fame resulted in an offer from George Davison to joine the photography staff of the Eastman Kodak UK division, a position he turned down in favor of opening his own studio with Henry Gordon Dorrett, which operated under the names of Dorrett & Martin and Athol Studios. One of the earliest press photography firms, they also introduced portrait applications such as photo-buttons and various novelty items for the amateur photographer. While the business enjoyed commercial success, Mr. Martin never again regained his influential photographic standing. Dorrett & Martin closed in 1926, and Mr. Martin spent many of his post-retirement years on the lecture circuit discussing his street photography. His autobiography, Victorian Snapshots, published in 1939, was aimed at introducing his work to a new generation of realist photographers. Paul Martin died in London of natural causes on July 7, 1944. Mr. Martin would be pleased to know that his street images have become popular attractions at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford, England; as part of the Gernsheim Collection at the University of Texas in Austin; and in the the collection at the Fine Arts Library of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.

2002 Black & White Photography, No. X (East Sussex, UK: Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd.), pp. 94-95.

2014 Bodybuilders and Angels: The Pictures That Changed Photography – Part Two (URL:

1986 A Concise History of Photography by Helmut Gernsheim (New York: Dover Publications, Inc.), p. 69.

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 899-901.
2017 History of Photography (URL:

2006 Photography: A Cultural History by Mary Warner Marien (Lawrence King Publishing Ltd.), p. 202.

2017 Victorian Revellers at London's 'Appy 'Ampstead (URL:

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2018-02-28 17:25:59

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