Friday, April 03, 2009

Puppetmaster: Martin Glenn

Martin Glenn is a man who knows his toys. Glenn, a photographer and avid music lover, uses figurines of his favorite rock stars (found online and at toy stores) as his subjects—a seemingly funny combination, but actually a serious endeavor that comes quite naturally to Glenn. Glenn’s last exhibit, Toying with Reality, is a collection of photos featuring his ‘icons’ against a backdrop of famous scenes and imagery. The Blackberrie had the opportunity to sit down with Martin and pick his brain…

(RN) Why toy with reality?

(MG) If you look at any of the “rag-mags” out there (US Weekly, People, etc), the paparazzi are indeed toying with reality, because what they are photographing is not reality, it’s mostly staged, just like any reality show. How come you never see pictures of cool people like Johnny Depp or Kate Winslet? Because their people don't need the pay of a tip off to photographers about what Starbucks their clients are going to that day, because they are talented and are actually busy living reality, unlike Lindsey Lohan.

(RN) What inspired you to play with dolls and cameras?

(MG) For starters, they are toys or figures, not "dolls". My mom has dolls, I have figures. HUGE difference. I took a random toy I had bought to France with me when I went to see Lance [Armstrong] win his 6th Tour in 2005. I took a few shots of it along the way, kind of a random assignment for myself. Being a big music and toy fan, I began collecting a lot of these figures the last few years. My buddy in Williamsburg had a great graffiti wall next to his building and I just thought it would be fun to shoot Biggie in front of it. That photo started the whole thing. I never had an end in sight, until friends started to see the photos hanging in my apartment and suggested I do something bigger with them.

(RN) Is each piece based on a real, existing photo?

(MG) Some like the John Lennon shot, is based on a real photo and others like Public Enemy is a take on the U2 Joshua Tree. Almost all have some sort of reference. Jimi Hendrix is from Seattle, so that's why he is in front of the Space Needle. Motley Crue used to party at the Rainbow Room on the sunset strip in LA a lot, so they are in front of the sign. Metallica is from SF, so I used the Golden Gate Bridge as a backdrop.

(RN) Which is your favorite or was the hardest to produce?

(MG) The fun thing about the project was all the stories behind each photograph - none were necessarily hard. I can tell a five minute story about each photograph and how it came about, who was there, where I shot it, what time of day it was. Jimmy Page, 5:30am in Arkansas outside of the haunted Crescent Hotel. The Beatles in Anguilla. Kurt Cobain in front of the house where he killed himself. Public Enemy in Joshua Tree National Park in CA. The Biggie shot is probably my favorite, just because he started the whole thing.

(RN) What are your future plans?

(MG) There is ALWAYS a future plan - if you don't have one, then you better get busy living. I have a few more ideas that I plan to execute in the next year for sure, but you'll just have to come and see when it’s ready.

(RN) Just for kicks- NY is NY because....?

(MG) It's the BIG TIME. I tell anyone that just moves here that line, "Welcome to the Big Time.” This city gives you a confidence and an inspiration that I don't think anywhere else can. Nowhere in the world intimidates me now and that’s an indescribable feeling - only one you can get by living here and being a New Yorker.

(RN) What band could write the soundtrack to your life?

(MG) Hands down it’s the four fellas from Dublin, Ireland. U2. They've been with me throughout, they've changed sounds and direction when I've changed, and that’s a true soundtrack to a life. I value their lifelong commitment to each other, as I'm that way with my friends.

Final Word: Check out more of Martin’s work at

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