PROFILE

Wanda Martin

Musician Lauren Auder lies on a bed, staring wistfully off-frame. Photo by Wanda Jenkins on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
"I was commissioned by a French magazine, Boycott, in 2018 – at the very last minute – to take photos of this super young, up-and-coming talent: musician, artist and model Lauren Auder. I said yes, even though I didn't know his music at the time, but he very much seemed to fit into my universe and aesthetic with his gender-bending dress sense, long hair and feminine beauty," Canon Ambassador Wanda Martin says. "Last-minute shoots are always very stressful, so I ended up taking him to my landlord's house in East London and having my fashion designer flatmate, Fabian Kis-Juhasz, style it, mixing Lauren's own clothes with his designs." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens at 40mm, 1/100 sec, f/5 and ISO2000. © Wanda Martin

Inspired by art but professing no patience to paint, Canon Ambassador Wanda Martin has created a body of work through the medium of photography that nods stylistically to her creative heroes.

Enamoured with fine art from a young age, the Hungarian portrait photographer's creative endeavours have become revered for their combination of historical and modern styles. "I am strongly inspired by the aesthetic and visual norms of Pictorialism," Wanda explains. "I'm especially fascinated by Renaissance portraiture, the avant-garde attitude of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood of the late 1840s, and the visual characteristics of the likewise rebel-at-the-time 20th century subcultures – in particular the rock 'n' roll lifestyle. They were all 'outsiders', turning their backs on their reality and establishing a new system of values for their era."

Whether she's shooting fashion models or world-famous musicians, Wanda's style is as era-defining as it is timeless. "It started subconsciously, but as I – and my work – matured, it became a deliberate approach," Wanda says.

Canon Ambassador Wanda Martin.


Location: London, UK
Specialist areas: Fashion, portraiture and music
Favourite kit:
Canon EOS-1D X Mark II
Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

Wanda, born in 1991, grew up in the quiet Hungarian countryside. She admits she was too impatient to pursue a career as an artist, but became drawn to photography. She was intent on following in the footsteps of her photographer father, who initially tried to dissuade her from the creative path. Despite his misgivings, she moved to Budapest at the age of 18 to study for a degree in history and theory of cinema, and then a qualification in fine art and conceptual photography. A three-month scholarship at the London College of Fashion gave her a taste of life in the UK, and at the age of 23 Wanda made the decision to settle in London, where she completed a master's degree in fashion photography.

Initially Wanda directed her career towards fine art photography. However, after her flatmate – a fashion designer – asked her to shoot his collection, commissions from designers in London and Budapest began to pour in. The editorial shoots that followed opened the door to the world of music photography.

Ballet dancer Sergei Polunin poses with a female model for a triptych of photos, taken by photographer Wanda Jenkins on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
"I photographed the Ukrainian ballet dancer Sergei Polunin in 2017 for the Russian SNC Magazine. He became the youngest principal in the Royal Ballet's history at the age of 19, then shocked the establishment by suddenly departing in 2012, being labelled the 'bad boy of ballet' for his exploits," explains Wanda. "I didn't know what to expect before the shoot. I was nervous, I was excited – but at the end I didn't see much of his 'bad boy'-ness. He was an hour late, but he was one of the loveliest, politest and most professional artists I've ever worked with." Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/11 and ISO2000. © Wanda Martin

Today her images have graced the magazine pages of Vogue, Wonderland, Rollacoaster, FOXES, i-D and Numéro Russia. She has worked with an impressive array of musicians – Atlantic Records and Sony Music are among her clients – and on advertising campaigns for fashion brands Marc Jacobs and Dior.

Wanda's passion for art has influenced her personal projects as well. In the standout series Painting Paraphrases, she celebrates her favourite painters with self-portraits of her styled as some of art history's most iconic women, including Vermeer's Woman Reading a Letter, Allori's Judith with the Head of Holofernes, Da Vinci's Lady with an Ermine and Rosetti's Lady Lilith. Wanda also claims to draw inspiration from 'unusual love stories and movies about weirdos', stating, "these are the main characters of my universe". Youth culture, subcultures, the notion of 'belonging versus opposing', gender and, more recently, love, are all topics Wanda has enjoyed exploring alongside her professional career.

A diptych combining a still life and a portrait of a young man, taken by photographer Wanda Martin on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II.
"Originally these two images were from separate series. The still life photograph was taken in 2011 during my first year at university in Budapest. I studied conceptual and fine art photography at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design. At the time I was interested in the nature of mortality and dying. I tried to investigate the theme through my still-life images, paraphrasing 17th-19th century paintings and turning them into their rotting versions. Later I started pairing these images with some of my portraiture work," explains Wanda. "The portrait on the right is of Matthew, a boy I met in London in 2015. I had moved to London and my conceptual photographic interest had turned towards identity, gender studies, sexuality and the questions of subcultures – the drive to oppose and at the same time the desire to belong somewhere." The still-life was taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM lens at 1/160 sec, f/16 and ISO100. The portrait of Matthew was taken on Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/22 and ISO100. © Wanda Martin

Wanda's projects have formed part of collaborative exhibitions held in Budapest, London and Luxembourg, and she is currently preparing for her first solo show. She's also breaking new ground in her career as she explores the medium of film, having shot several music videos and short films, although she humbly admits to needing to develop her narrative skills before she'll commit to something more substantial. "I'm better with visuals and transferring an atmosphere and ethereal mood than telling a specific story," she admits.

"Sometimes when I have a photoshoot, I start doing a little bit of video as well. It's always good to have some footage for a teaser of a few seconds, and also because sometimes there are scenarios when film is just a better fit. Having a DSLR camera such as the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II definitely helps, as I'm able to film anytime, anywhere, in outstanding quality."

Three young people lie on a patterned rug in a beam of sunlight. Photo by Wanda Martin on a Canon EOS Mark II.
"This photograph was part of an editorial I did just after I finished my MA at the London College of Fashion," says Wanda. "I was collaborating with a stylist student at the time, and it was supposed to be the part of a magazine she was planning to create. I don't think the magazine ever actually happened, but this is still one of my favourite images. Even though originally it was a fashion image, it still tells a story and relates to all the topics I am investigating: searching for your identity, youth culture, subcultures and gender." Taken on Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L USM lens at 24mm, 1/125 sec, f/7.1 and ISO1000. © Wanda Martin

In what way can a photographer's personality affect their photography?

"I like a friendly atmosphere on set, and because I'm good at communication I find it quite easy to make the models feel comfortable. We'll chat, get to know one another, listen to loud music – preferably rock 'n' roll – and even though it's hard work, we're still having fun, which always gives a better result in the end."

A key trait of your style comes from how you play with light – how has your technique evolved during your career?

"I used to prefer shooting on location only with natural light, but that came from insecurity. Over the years I've honed my studio lighting skills but I still prefer natural light. When natural light comes through the window, it gives a very artistic edge, much like Vermeer's work. I also like mixing natural light with little pointy lights, even in a very DIY way, with the help of a little torch or flash."

What's been the most valuable lesson you've learnt during your career?

"I am an extremely impatient person when it comes to my work, and at the same time I'm a perfectionist, which is an exhausting combination. I'm learning to appreciate where I am right now, instead of being constantly on the road, moving from one shoot to the next, without enjoying the journey itself. It does mean I've never been bored, though."

Is there a particular commission that stands out in your mind as being the most poignant or unique?

"In October 2018 I was photographing for FOXES Magazine at a festival in Joshua Tree, California, called Desert Daze. I was told I had five minutes to take backstage photos of the band Eagles of Death Metal. Five minutes became 20, and the lead singer Jesse Hughes suddenly asked, 'do you wanna see my gun?' I laughed and said, 'yeah… sure?'. So he went back to his room and came back carrying his gun. He started loading it in front of me and I kept taking photos of him. All the while he was telling me about the terror attack at their show at the Bataclan, Paris, in 2015, when almost 100 people were killed, and how he felt about it. To this day, I still think those portraits are some of my strongest."

Instagram: @wanda_martin
Facebook: Wanda Martin
Website: wanda-martin.com

One thing I know
Wanda Martin

"Being present on social media is essential: it's your online portfolio and the best platform for networking. I remember at university thinking an agent was the key to success but it's different today. Today, you have to be your own agent. Even if you have an agent, you still need to network by being active on social media. Just be enthusiastic about what you are doing and people will respond to that."

Wanda Martin's kitbag

The key kit the pros use to take their photographs

Wanda Martin's kitbag, containing Canon cameras, lenses and a Speedlite.

Cameras

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II

Sharp and precise autofocus in a compact package, and legendarily fast. The favourite camera of many professionals. "It was love at first sight," says Wanda. "It makes my life so much easier, since I like shooting on location, using natural light and you can go really high in ISO without getting the noisiness. Also it's great for filming."

Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Wanda's backup camera is a predecessor to the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, a versatile and rugged camera capable of beautiful images in any situation. "I've had it for eight years now, and I've shot most of my photographs on it so far, and we've had lots of adventures together," says Wanda. "Today I usually have it in my kitbag as a backup camera, just in case."

Lenses

Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM

The go-to zoom lens of many professional photographers, the EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM provides outstanding image quality and a fast f/2.8 aperture throughout its zoom range. "I like working fast and dynamism is a key word for me," says Wanda. "That's why I prefer using zoom lenses like this one, because it gives me more space to be spontaneous."

Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM

Adaptable to any situation and equipped with advanced image stabilisation, this lens is ideal for photographers who prefer to take just one lens on a shoot. "I love it because it's such a versatile zoom lens and it is very affordable, so it's perfect for photographers starting out," Wanda says.

Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II

This wide-aperture lens, the predecessor of the EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, is ideal for low light and artistic portraiture. "I got it years and years ago from my brother and I mainly use it for filming in low light."

Accessories

Canon Speedlite 580EX II-RT

Canon's Speedlite flashes give you control over your lighting, both on and off the camera. "I used to use it a lot, especially when shooting bands, or at night in low light," says Wanda. "I have it in my kitbag just in case – it's better to be prepared for any situation."

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