Edgar Martins was born in Évora (Portugal, 1977) but grew up in China. In 1996 he moved to the UK, where he completed a BA in Photography at the London Institute (University of the Arts), an MA in Photography Fine Art at the Royal College of Art (London) as well as a PHD in documentary Photography, Semiotics and Psychoanalysis (University of South Wales).
His work is represented internationally in several high-profile collections, such as those of the V&A (London), National Media Museum (Bradford, UK), RIBA (London), the Dallas Museum of Art (USA); Museu Calouste Gulbenkian/Modern Art Centre (Lisbon), MAAT / EDP (Lisbon), Fondation Carmignac (Paris), MAST (Italy), amongst many others.
His first book—Black Holes & Other Inconsistencies—was awarded the Thames & Hudson and RCA Society Book Art Prize. A selection of images from this book was also awarded The Jerwood Photography Award in 2003. Between 2002 and 2018 Martins published 15 separate monographs, which were also received with critical acclaim.
These works were exhibited internationally at institutions such as PS1 MoMA (New York), MOPA (San Diego, USA), MACRO (Rome), Laumeier Sculpture Park (St. Louis, USA), Centro Cultural de Belém (Lisbon), Centro de Arte Moderna de Bragança (Bragança, Portugal), among many others.
Edgar Martins was selected to represent Macau (China) at the 54th Venice Biennale. Edgar Martins works and lives in the UK.
SYNOPSIS OF WORK
What Photography has in Common with an Empty Vase is a multifaceted body of work developed from a collaboration with Grain Projects and HM Prison Birmingham (the largest, category B prison in the Midlands, UK), its inmates, their families as well as a myriad of other local organisations and individuals.
Using the social context of incarceration as a starting point, Martins explores the philosophical concept of absence, and addresses a broader consideration of the status of the photograph when questions of visibility, ethics, aesthetics and documentation intersect.
By productively articulating image and text, new and historical photography, evidence and fiction, Martins’ work proposes to scrutinise how one deals with the absence of a loved one, brought on by enforced separation. From an ontological perspective it seeks answers to the following questions: how does one represent a subject that eludes visualization, that is absent or hidden from view? How can documentary photography, in an era of fake news, best acknowledge the imaginative and fictional dimension of our relation to photographs?
By giving a voice to inmates and their families and addressing prison as a set of social relations rather than a mere physical space, Martins’ work proposes to rethink and counter the sort of imagery normally associated with incarceration.
The project thus wilfully circumvents images whose sole purpose, Martins argues, is to confirm the already held opinions within dominant ideology about crime & punishment: violence, drugs, criminality, race – an approach that only serves to reinforce the act of photographing and photography itself as apotropaic devices.
This work marks a significant transition in Martins’ creative trajectory, signalling a growing inclination towards a broader, more hybrid and interdisciplinary perspective of images.
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