Cade Martin Honors Comic Book Characters One Portrait at a Time

“The characters in comics and movies and fantasy have taken me everywhere – different countries, different worlds – in search of superheroes, secret identities, romance, war, and evil lairs – and who doesn’t love an evil lair?”

Cade Martin

To say that Cade Martin has a big imagination is an understatement. Growing up an only child and raised by artists and creative thinkers, Cade created imaginary worlds in his head and turned to films and comics for inspiration. Cade embarked on a personal project of bringing comics to life, shooting portraits of those attending Comic-Con. Here, he shares his experience documenting this pop culture phenomenon.

What is it about Comics that you love and continue to seek for inspiration?

The colors, sights, and sounds that I get from reading comics is what I love – nothing is too outlandish, and anything is possible. The lack of boundaries continues to be very inspirational.

How did this project come about?

I’ve been reading and collecting comics as well as going to comic book conventions since I was a little boy. Comics are a big part of who I am. 

I’d envisioned a superhero project for a while now and the how or where escaped me. A few years ago, I was hired for an editorial project to create portraits at a Civil War reenactment. We set up a photo studio off to the side of a battlefield to strip these re-enactors of their environment. I had an aha moment and thought about Comic-Con – why don’t I do this there?

What did you want to accomplish by setting up at Comic-Con? Were you looking to bring comics to life? How would you do that?

Instead of bringing comics to life, I intended to bring characters to life. The intent was to form a creative partnership with those whose image I was capturing. I see this as performance art, and it has it all – creativity, execution, passion, commitment, celebration, voyeurism, exhibitionism, and sex. It has been an honor to capture how people bring their favorite characters and vivid imagery to life.

Did you have characters you were seeking out? How did you choose the people you documented?

My approach for Comic-Con and others since has been to set up a photo booth and embed myself in the environment. I’ve rented a space for a couple of years now at different conventions and built a “studio.” Once set up, I approach people walking around that are interesting to me. It was a visual feast, a scavenger hunt of sorts. In choosing who to approach, I looked at how they carried themselves, what they were doing to live the character. I didn’t want them to pose either. I just wanted them to be.

Here is a BTS peek into how this works:

Follow Cade on Instagram to see more imagery, the result of chasing characters and stories, and finding beauty in the unfamiliar.

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