Cade Martin and Kicking the Tires on a New Portfolio Experience

At Heather Elder Represents, we are devoted to thinking about ways to best be of service to our community. Since the beginning, we’ve considered how we can help move the photography and video industry and the individuals within it — forward.

In short, we’re always striving to help make our clients’ lives easier. This belief in being of service in an ever-changing industry, is at the core of our stories that champion and cheerlead those with whom we work. 

Innovation Is the Key to Relevance

When it came time to ask our artists for refreshed portfolios, our team began discussing wanting these next iterations to push past the limitations of the books of our past. We knew that telling the story of a photographer and his/her talent and capabilities has become a lot more complicated than could fit into a traditional printed portfolio. Now, with requests that photographers deliver image libraries, create integrated campaigns with stills and video, and because many of those we represent are also directing, we knew the time was right to reimagine them.

We also considered that today’s art producers and clients are busier than ever, and portfolio shows and meetings are few and far between. Why not also take this opportunity to create a book that would include links leading the viewer to the stories intertwined around the work.

Moving on From a Traditional Portfolio

Not long ago, we tried sharing these more robust stories using iPads to complement the portfolios. We noticed it was a distraction, taking the viewer away from the portfolio. This approach wasn’t as effective as we wanted it to be.  

We discussed that there are a handful of projects that define an artist best — projects that go a long way towards showcasing another talent, capability, vision, or asset. While we still wanted to present a beautiful flow of imagery, we also began identifying what we felt were each artist’s most storied projects.

And just like that, we were off, challenging ourselves to chart a course for how to interpret these ambitions and metamorphose them into reality.

Key Considerations for a New Portfolio Experience

Cade Martin was one of the first ones in the family to fully tackle this big of a portfolio evolution challenge. The pandemic hit, and to meet the moment, we pivoted to starting first with a digital book. We imagined that an art producer could more quickly and easily navigate this version similar to a map — on the surface, it would take them from point A to B, or they could take some fun detours along the way.

We then identified the best themes and projects that best told Cade’s story. Our first stop was identifying the heart and soul of Cade’s brand — the stories around the key moments in his life that have shaped his beliefs and values — and ultimately, his photography. Each word in the statement reveals what is so uniquely Cade that no other photographer can say. What experiences does he draw from to tell someone else’s stories — that he can bring to each production — that will create the magic needed to create the images a client seeks? 

A Photographer’s Brand Values and Stories Are Their Fingerprints

For Cade, his vision is one through imagination. No other photographer has had the same life experiences as Cade; no other photographer can create through imagination in the same way. Cade’s brand values become his fingerprint, something ownable by only Cade.

By sharing from this Vision, we can share his stories of growing up as an only child surrounded by an eclectic cast of characters. His days spent inventing worlds in his head and daydreaming can all be seen in his collaborations with clients such as Savannah Tourism, Tazo Tea for Starbucks, Timbertech, and his iconic Washington Ballet project.

We pulled from his Character Not Characters and #InspiredbyCinema projects to share the stories of how film and comics of his youth have now taken him everywhere, and the lack of boundaries in these genres are still his ongoing inspirations.

Projects like Character Not Characters, portraits from his time setting up a photo booth inside of Comic-Con, his rooftop series of an LA group of Lucha Libre wrestlers, and his intimate portrait series entitled Over War — an emotional photo essay telling the stories of a group of F-105 pilots who flew during Operation Rolling Thunder — all work influenced by his fascination with the unconventional groups of people he meets along the way.

In #SurpriseMeCade, we wanted to share that Cade is always ready to follow a spark to get a story.  From getting his start jumping trains in India for National Geographic, where he met his wife, to where he first learned to be comfortable with the unknown. Without this thirst for adventure, Cade would have never found himself the creator of four Hip-Hop-honoring stamps for the USPS. He would never have leaped at the chance to collaborate with multidisciplinary artist Vincent Serritella to create a limited edition of contemporary art — ten large format prints soon to be sold to a collector in New Orleans. 

Wherever we could, we included links from Cade’s deep well of BTS content — a treasure trove that ranges from his entertaining At Work videos to thoughtful essays.

Ultimately, we questioned all sorts of norms, and here we are today, ready to introduce you to #SurpriseMeCade, Book 1. See his virtual portfolio here.

Here are a few soundbites from us on why we think portfolios are still relevant, of what each of us learned, and lastly what we hope someone viewing will take away from their experience.

Starting first with Cade: 

WHY DO YOU BELIEVE ARTIST PORTFOLIOS ARE STILL RELEVANT?

Portfolios will always be important. Not only are portfolios a way to showcase images and capabilities, but they also provide a window into how an artist presents themselves — what they see as important —is just as telling as a body of work.

Regardless of the portfolio platform, the portfolio is an essential tool, and I find that the thought processes that go into the execution – the design, rhythm of the images, use of color or not, and so on, are not only challenging and fun, but they also matter to the creatives who view them.

WHAT DID I LEARN ABOUT MYSELF DURING THIS PROCESS?

It is always tough for me to talk about myself, but at the same time, I am proud of my work and what I have accomplished so far in my career. I have learned that the stories that go along with the images are just as valuable; they are an equal part of the whole story for me. I enjoy the picture making, but as I look back at my work, I have come to realize that the camera has been the vehicle to have these life experiences, fostering camaraderie and so many novel, amazing interactions.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE AWAY FROM VIEWING THE PORTFOLIO?

I come to photography from a love of cinema and comics, of all the ways one can capture characters. I’ve always been interested in storytelling. This portfolio is a little story about myself and some things I have been fortunate enough to work and discover.

Right now, people have both more and less time all at once. We’re all sharing a unique collective moment in time. I’m hoping that this new portfolio allows people a little escape, the opportunity to learn about me, a particular image or project if it strikes them. It would be wonderful if this portfolio experience could break through distance. I hope it can get into the ballpark of sitting across the table from each other, having a nice conversation, and naturally dipping in and out of different topics.

Special Projects Producer, Kate Chase:

WHY DO YOU BELIEVE ARTIST PORTFOLIOS ARE STILL RELEVANT?

As someone who has spent more years than I care to count helping develop and present a wide variety of portfolios — first for retouchers and later for photographers; I know how much thought goes into producing one. As an artist rep, I couldn’t have been prouder to have presented them. I also saw that the books that garnered the most attention, and sparked the most conversations, were the ones that incorporated before and afters. When done well, these examples helped the client see the possibilities with image-making and allowed me to answer questions and share my insights into the making-of and anecdotes about who the artist was and how they worked.

Then as now, I wholeheartedly believe portfolios are still vital. They are still one of the best tools in an image-makers toolbox that will spark bigger conversations and help the viewer glean more about how a creative not only thinks, but works.

WHAT DID I LEARN ABOUT MYSELF THROUGH THIS PROCESS?

Today, when I think back, I am reminded of how much I love working with this group. All of us are committed to challenging the status quo, all working towards realizing a book that none of us had ever done before.   

And somewhere along the way, it was reinforced that it’s much better when you’re attempting to do things not done before and that if you’re lucky, you find yourself embedded with a team of people who understand being comfortable with the uncomfortable. In the end, this book is a reflection of our group’s commitment to this understanding.

As for Cade, he continues to inspire us with his belief that “if you never move beyond your comfort zone and never scratch that itch, you will never find the beauty that lies in the unfamiliar.”

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE AWAY AFTER VIEWING THE PORTFOLIO?

For me, I am hopeful people who view the book will appreciate it for more than the imageries’ aesthetic qualities and will find a few more minutes to enjoy the insightful stories that we’ve linked-to around them. Having seen how helpful BTS stories are for people, I hope that the way in which we’ve included them here, they will help entertain and educate the viewer around the fuller context surrounding the work. 

This portfolio is a one-stop shop book that intermingles many of Cade’s BTS stories that we have used over the years to help take people deeper into his photography. I am hopeful that these richly layered stories will help others also understand all that can be made possible by working with Cade.   

Joseph Gilbert:  Creative director, designer and illustrator; and who like us, believes in doing something new all the time:

WHY DO YOU BELIEVE ARTIST PORTFOLIOS ARE STILL RELEVANT?

To me, portfolios are relevant for a few reasons:

An effective portfolio presents a concise and informed curation of the creator’s vision. It embodies a thoughtful compendium of elements offering their perspective, creative decision-making, and personal tastes.

The process of developing a portfolio is an invaluable and mutually beneficial experience as well. It forces a creative to truly identify their voice, vision, and have a heart-to-heart with him/herself about why they make the images they make and tell the stories they tell. In some ways, a portfolio becomes their business plan — a visual business plan and a barometer to identify where they have been and where they are going. Sometimes the process hurts, but from it I believe comes a more in-tune and connected image-maker.

Lastly, the completed collection of images tells us a story, their story, and the story they tell on others’ behalf. And I will always fall for a good story.

WHAT DID I LEARN ABOUT MYSELF THROUGH THIS PROCESS?

Distilling a group’s collective insights, ideas, and opinions into a concise, value-added, and interesting presentation is one thing. Going on that journey with other talented individuals, all with unique points of view, and invaluable insights gleaned from years of experience, creates an enjoyable experience to be a part of for me. I frequently collaborate with other creatives, and this process has confirmed how much I enjoy those specific collaborations and interactions. The process reminds me that there is always a bit further that I can go, a few more ideas to explore, and lots of listening to make sure I always hear the most important and relevant details, wants, and desires. Creative collaborations at top-tier levels are very fulfilling to me.

The process also validates who I want to surround myself with, and with whom I would gladly work through the challenges.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE AWAY AFTER VIEWING THE PORTFOLIO?

If, after viewing Cade’s portfolio, someone walks away having a very good understanding of his vision, imagination, approach to the work, visual problem solving, technical execution, and a grasp of his quite delightful personality, I would be thrilled. If they want to pick up the phone to learn more, then I’d be ecstatic. Part of my approach is based on the premise of “would I want to stand on a set, in semi-darkness for hours on end with this person?” Undoubtedly, I would gladly do that with Cade, for the sake of how effortless I feel the day would be and because I would want to hear how the story “over two beers one night” ends.

Rep, Heather Elder

WHY DO YOU BELIEVE ARTIST PORTFOLIOS ARE STILL RELEVANT?

There is no better way for a photographer or agent to tell the stories that provide a deeper understanding of the artist, their motivations, and their inspirations than a portfolio. It is a chance for the viewer to understand what the artist would bring to a shoot and what sort of creative environment they would create (on and off set). A portfolio invites viewers to imagine what it would be like to work with the artist — which is very relevant.

WHAT DID I LEARN ABOUT MYSELF DURING THIS PROCESS?

I am a big believer in thinking ahead, moving forward, and staying relevant. This means not being afraid to evolve and surrounding myself with people who feel the same way. Heather Elder Represents is a home for those who believe in the gift of crafting moments, telling stories, and who do it for a living. This process is a reminder that creators and collaborators surround us. We collectively understand that no one succeeds alone, that the right blend of skills and talent is vital to the creative journey — that we are better together.

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE AWAY AFTER VIEWING THE PORTFOLIO?

I want people to walk away with a sense of who Cade is and how that influences what he can create. I want people to easily see where Cade’s Vision Through Imagination comes from and leave them wanting to share that vision with their team and clients. After viewing the portfolio, it should be easy to know how Cade differs from other photographers in his category and how he would bring a part of himself to every concept.

CLOSING THOUGHT:

In this world of constant evolution, we’ve created a new portfolio experience — the next generation of showcasing who our artists are, what they believe, how they work, and what they create. We hope you take this new experience out for a spin — click, view, read, listen, and discover — then tell us about your journey.

2 thoughts on “Cade Martin and Kicking the Tires on a New Portfolio Experience

  1. Cade Martin’s digital Portfolio experience is fabulous! Bravo to all who teamed up to make it happen, Cade’s work is epic, rich storytelling at his unique best, the fun background stories in his words are inviting and add so much depth to each project featured. I loved it! So great to have the stills, videos, stories and links to see more all in one beautifully designed ‘book’. Thanks for this excellent article Heather!

    • Thank you Stephanie. It was a team effort and we are all so proud. The response has been so exciting and we really appreciate you letting us know how much you like it! Our industry has changed to much and it is more important than ever to change with it!

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