Production Requirements For Any Successful Shoot

A Global Perspective

I am an American living in Africa. My perspectives my vary based on cultural norms but my standards of excellence are unwavering.


I will never low-ball a client and I don't bill by the hour. I see no need to be financially punished for being quick, accurate, and confident in my craft.

Love What You Do

"Fool me once, shame on..." You know the rest. I became a photographer because I have something to say.

Respect Time

Who has the time to repeat past mistakes? No one. You're busy, I'm busy. I don't expect to be paid to learn on the job.

What will we leave behind for the Children?

Like it or not our planet is getting hotter, dirtier, and drier. And it's our fault. We throw away plastic wherever we want. These items blow in the wind and float into rivers, streams, lakes and oceans. Fish and other animals eat this waste and then we eat those animals. Unless we ALL do our fair share to protect the environment, our children will inherit an abandoned world that won't be able to sustain them.

You can use the circular slider below to see a before and after image.

It's a Small World After All

My photography mentor growing up was Roy DeCarava, a fantastic photographer and product of the Harlem Renaissance. He collaborated with the poet Langston Hughes and together they produced a handsome little book called "The Sweet Flypaper of Life." My studies with him were not of a technical nature. We didn't talk about film or cameras, studio lighting or commercial work. We talked about the "what" and the "why." What it was I wanted to say, and why I felt it was necessary to say it?

Allez les Lions

I was in a bar in Almadies watching the 2018 FIFA World Cup match between Japan vs Sénégal. The crowd was raucous and the beer was flowing.


Meet the Press

Sénégal President Macky Sall and Francophonie General Secretary Mme Michaëlle Jean meeting reporters outside the IFEF Office Building.


Mermaids on the Beach

This photo from Ngor Beach in 2005 reminds me of the many varieties of clans and casts one might find in Dakar.


Many Hands Make Light Work

Working in the field as a freelancer for World Food Program has shown me how strong communities make a difference, particularly women. Visiting Kolda, Sénégal, we watched young mothers working side by side with men and women irrigating, weeding, harvesting the crops, and then bringing them to market.

WFP  Website

From Lightroom CC to the Web

I have been created a number of portfolio templates that allow me to download select files from a photoshoot and upload them to my server for immediate review. While the high-resolution files may take a day or two for delivery (depending on the client's needs), an HTML portfolio is a quick and easy solution to share content for social media. News happens quickly, we professionals have to be quicker.

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In Person

A Sample Portfolio

What gives me a global perspective is having been fortunate enough to travel. Every country, city, village and street has its own unique style and flavor. You cannot help but be motivated and influenced by what you see. So come, take a walk with me to Paris, Mexico City, New Delhi, Lisbon, London, Cape Town, Accra, Nairobi, Gothenburg, to Santorini. But not Jersey. Okay, maybe Newark.


Naxos Island, Greece

We are in the digital age and have been for some time. Every experience we have makes it to the cloud within a matter of minutes for all the world to enjoy. So, as I was walking along the beach in Naxos, I came across these two women photographing each other by the rocks in the background. Opportunity knocked. I walked up to them, with a prominent beer belly and a medium format camera over my neck and hoped they wouldn't ask security to remove this unflattering image from their sunset. I waded up to them in waist high water and introduced myself.

It turned out that they were visiting from Genoa, Italy - medical students on summer vacation before returning to their studies. What piqued my curiosity was watching them alternate between filming each other. They were making their own Sports Illustrated Swimsuit photo spread and they had the lighting all wrong. As a consummate professional it is very common for me to offer unsolicited advice to budding photographers.

Surprisingly, my presence did not put them off. I recommended they turn more in profile, allowing some key light to rake across their hair and shoulders. Their hair was very curly and unruly. I suggested they take a dip underwater and come out dripping wet. Then immediate smooth out the loose har and photograph quickly. They tried my suggestions on each other and were very pleased with the results. I decided I should show by example and photograph them together since it would be difficult for them to do it without a tripod in the water.

My son was with me and was getting impatient. He suggested we move on. I said my goodbyes and promised to email the photos to them. I thanked them for their time. Later, my son asked me if I knew those women, why would did I photograph them? And my answer, as it has always been, was for that for over forty years I have been sticking my cameras in the faces of strangers on the street in an effort to study and learn about human nature - what we want, what we love, our needs and desires. And ultimately, because I could.


Sign Language

Unless you can prove to me you are related to Henry Winkler of "The Happy Days Fonz" fame, I detest hand gestures of any kind in my photographs. This will often force me to run afoul with some Communications Directors who find it cute when little kids do it. I consider it lazy and little kids still watch television.

I can't tell you how many times people want to give me the thumbs up in a photograph, or the okay sign and then get angry with me when I ask if we could skip it. When I make portraits, I want the subjects to speak to the viewer with their facial expressions, the location, the lighting, their wardrobe, their presence. As far as I am concerned, thumbs up in an ad are not only corny but often reveal hidden signs and messages you may not be aware of.

This photograph, taken is a small southern city, was for a Community Development Program. I was traveling alone and had to cover five cities in six days - flying from Hartford to Los Angeles. I ran through the airports like OJ Simpson. The locals took me for a green, wet behind the eyes New Yorker. At the time, I was. I introduced myself, explained my need for genuine photographs of people in their natural environments and started shooting. It wasn't until much, much later, long after the publications were printed, that I gave the selected photo closer inspection.

Perhaps it was after the second time I watched "Boyz n the Hood" or Menace to Society" that I was able to make out the very clear but well-hidden Mariana/Modest/Memphis/Milwaukee Crips Gang Sign. Just fill in the "M". They entire porch, perhaps an extended family, was flashing me in broad daylight. Years later, while waiting for a red light on MLK Boulevard in Crenshaw, Los Angeles, I saw a pickup truck idle next to another car and the happy fingers dance began their menacing game. They sped off to who knows what end. So now you know why I avoid the cliché photos. It's too much Photoshop work to remove.


Be Healthy, Eat Your Honey

From 1990 - 2000 I photographed African-American and Latino biker clubs throughout the New York Tri-state area. Weekend after weekend I visited different clubs in the area, first establishing myself with the Imperials and then traveling with them to "Trophy" parties and Fish-frys at other clubhouses. To win the top prize at a trophy party you need to bring in the most members per club. And you would be fascinated to learn just how much they covet these trophies. That made me a valuable plus one.

I was well aware of Photographer Danny Lyon's "Outsiders" monograph and the power of his stirring B/W images. I wanted to do something similar, but different. "Brooklyn Kings: New York City's Black Bikers" was picked up by powerHouse Books in 2000. This was at a period in time when photographers could actually call a cutting-edge book publishing company like theirs and say, "Hey, I have something I think you'll want to see." And they would reply, "Okay, come on in for a meeting." After eight years of photographing and another year hunting down editors willing to take a chance on an unknown photographer, I happened to see Joe Rodriguez's "Eastside Stories" about Latino gangbangers in Los Angeles. PowerHouse was his publisher. I said to myself, "Well if they can have two teens on the cover drinking beer and brandishing an assault rifle, they will not bat an eye at gun-toting, strip club visiting, grandpas in Stonewall leather vests."

The title Brooklyn Kings is a play on Brooklyn being traditionally called Kings County. There isn't a biker club called Brooklyn Kings and I never joined one. I needed to remain independent and mobile. I could go on and on about my photographs of clandestine raves and seedy portraits, but I'd much rather you go and buy the book.


Smoke Weed Everyday

I met this man just outside the Spice Market in New Delhi. We were in an open warehouse with rays of light filtering in through narrow slits and doorways. The back lighting gives volume to his smoke with a gentle cross breeze cutting across his face. What struck me was the woman and child behind the man who seemed to appear in descending order of importance. Very little was said and I must have asked him to exhale enough times to necessitate lighting up another cigarette.

India struck me as a tech giant who dressed for work in pajamas and sandals. I went looking for an internet cafe once and was sent towards a decrepit shack only to find inside a computer room with all their side panels removed and a hive of workers building websites and new apps - all for one dollar per hour.

Of all the places around the world, India was the least concerned that I was a photographer or a foreigner, an immense boon for someone like me who takes pleasure in getting lost with a camera. I attribute much of this to Bollywood, India's massive motion picture industry. Very often during my stay, I would see a film crew shooting on location and a celebrity would step out of a Land Rover and greet the crowd before beginning his or her scene. Everyone assembled was an extra in the production and the excitement of seeing the back of their head in the latest Brahma or Vishnu re-enactment was payment enough.


Mariano, A Passion For Chess

For a time, my family and I lived in Peter Cooper Village which shares its property with the older Stuyvesant Town apartment blocks. And among the 104 buildings there are numerous parks for children and adults alike. There are also chess boards embedded in many of the park's tables. As a chess player, I am well aware of America's first and only world champion, the Brooklynite Bobby Fischer, who beat the Russian Grandmaster Boris Spassky in Reykjavik in 1972. A world champion player always works with what is called a "second" because you need help analyzing long and difficult positions during the adjournment of a chess game. Back in the pre-computer/Google age, chess games could continue the following day and longer if needed.

While playing Mariano one fine day in the park at Stuy-Town, an elderly man walked over to our table and after looking at our position for a few seconds nodded in disagreement. He muttered something to the effect, "I guess you don't like winning quickly," which annoyed me since he appeared old and wizened like an urban Santa Claus who smoked cigars and not what I thought a chess master would look like. Mariano, seeing how I didn't like people giving open advice during a game, politely introduced him as Grand Master William Lombardy. "He lives in the building behind us, Martin," he offered. "He's one of the old-timers like me. When I heard the name William Lombardy I was blown away because I knew, or thought I knew, his history and involvement with Bobby's Fischer's rise to fame or infamy depending on what side of the fence you support.

Both Mariano and Lombardy were longtime Stuy-Town residents spanning many decades between them. Playing chess was not only a social game, it kept them sharp and witty as old age creeped into their lives. GM Lombardy was an avid story teller, regaling us with words of wisdom and advice from what he had seen on both sides of the Iron Curtain. Traveling with Fischer to international tournaments gave him a chance to see the world. His eyes held a sparkle but also something of fatigue. I saw it also in Mariano. I couldn't help but notice the recessed bolt holes forever depressed in his temples. He had fallen and broken his neck years earlier. His recovery was slow and painful. With his strength waning, chess made him feel like a warrior again.


Death of a Day Worker,
Addis Ababa

When former Prime Minister Meles Zenawi died in 2012, the country was in shock. He had not been seen for a month since the World Economic Forum was hosted in Addis Ababa. Rumors (later proven true), spread that he was ill and getting medical treatment abroad in Belgium. The tightly controlled Ministry of Communications, think the movie "Brazil" continued to lambaste Voice of America being broadcast from the safe distance of Kenya.

During my first month Ethiopia, I met with a South African Boer who had grown up in Addis since he was seven years old. He spoke fluent Amharic, Tigrinya, Afrikaans, and English. In the coffee shop we frequented, he was the sole blond in a sea of kinky afros. He sat me down for the typical father-son talk you give your child when he becomes old enough to get a girl pregnant. "Martin, listen up. This is serious shit. Whenever anyone asks you if you like Ethiopia you must say you don't like Ethiopia, you LOVE Ethiopia." He spoke like a dying archeologist with the secret to King Tut's buried treasure. "It's hidden under the penis." "But what if I don't like Ethiopia?" I responded. "I have only just arrived. I don't know anyone." "No matter," he insisted. "You love Ethiopia, got it?"

The lesson was not lost on me and I thanked him profusely. Ethiopia received at the time a little over three billion dollars in foreign aid from America, Briton, Australia, and many other donor nations - per year. Bad news did not bode well for continued support. Human rights were ancillary concerns compared with the growth of the nation. "Hey, did you hear about the protestors killed during the peace march?" "No, I didn't read about that. But look, we have a new elevated train built by the Chinese." So, no news is the best news. While there from 2011-2013, there were reportedly 10,000 political prisoners and journalists in jail. You were more likely to be arrested for having a blog than for pickpocketing.

I am being harsh but honest and with reason. Not far from our home an Ethiopian business man was erecting a new hotel. I passed it every day as I walked to Bole. It was the rainy season and the workers, protected only in clear plastic sandals and no gloves or hardhats, were fortifying the foundation. The pit was deep, at least twenty feet deep. Water had collected at the bottom creating a pool of mud, rocks and wood. I heard wailing as I walked by. My Leica M9 was around my neck and I had a coffee in my left hand. I approached the dig and saw dozens of men frantically digging with their hands. A comrade had fallen from a spindly wooden ladder held together with nails. I saw comrade because what kind of person would put people to work under those conditions to build a hotel they will never get to enter?

The owner motioned for the police to stop me and I was quick to pull out my finally accredited Ethiopian government issued press pass; I had covered many symposiums at the Chinese built African Union. The officer, to his credit, told the owner/manager that I was licensed be film the scene. By the time I reached the bottom, precious minutes had been spent in vain. No one could hold their breath that long. The young man was dead. I filmed his recovery from the debris and walked as he was carried lifeless up the makeshift ramps leading out of the construction sites. His friends cried with their arms over their heads. It was a senseless death made all the more painful but the wanton indifference of the owner who regarded me as an insurance nuisance. I had evidence. His mother would have to be compensated.

I approached my stock news carriers and no one wanted to touch it. I called a friend at a local paper who said he would run my images. He told me it was an important story. I have never in my life passed on my original images to colleague but it was more important for me to get the story published. Well he fucked me. Either he or his editor because when the article did run on the next-to-last page, it was, to paraphrase, titled "Construction worker taken to safety by the kindness of friends and co-workers." This priest, surrounded by honor guards, also know very well what happens when people speak up against power.


Allez Les Lions

I was in a local bar in watching the 2018 FIFA World Cup match between Japan vs Sénégal. The crowd was raucous and the beer was flowing freely. outside, people were milling about the streets, watching the game from the steps of restaurants, their noses pressed against the glass. Others listened on old transistor radios. Passing cars honked their horns in solidarity. Sénégalese pride was on full display.

Katia's Bar and Restaurant, Almadies


Meet the Press

Sénégal President Macky Sall and former Francophonie General Secretary Michaëlle Jean meeting reporters outside the newly inaugurated Institut de la Francophonie pour l'Education et la Formation Office Building or IFEF. I met Mme Jean at the UN General Assembly in New York. I was assigned to be her photographer for her bilateral meetings and we had a pleasant interaction. She is a vivacious and engaging person. A year later, when it was confirmed that her entourage would be making a field visit to Dakar and surrounding regions, she requested me again.

What is most striking about the press in Sénégal is the ready access many journalists and reporters have to world leaders. President Macky Sall is standing just behind Mme Jean, listening to questions and responding in a forthright manner and calm. France's relationship with Sénégal will always be tinged by the history of colonialism. Mme Jean juggles that reality with respect and personal engagement.

Sénégal President Macky Sall and former Francophonie General Secretary Michaëlle Jean meeting reporters.


Mermaids on the Beach

This photo from Ngor Beach taken in 2005 reminds me of the many varieties of complexions one might find in Dakar. From caramel to chocolate to espresso brown, the world is a range of infinite tones. Whereas in America one drop of African blood will forever define you as "colored" in Africa you will need a lot more melanin to be considered a "brother." It is no mystery that opposites attract and many foreigners who arrive in Africa have no intention of ever leaving. There exists here a natural beauty that is not defined by angular noses or high cheek bones. If your hair isn't quite done, grab a wig. In South Africa many women avoid the whole glamour routine and just go bald, or damn near.

Language proficiency and cultural knowledge will take you further in Sénégal than just being a foreigner with money. If you speak Wolof, you have made a significant investment to speak to the indigenous people on their level. Try flying to China and expect everyone you meet to speak English for you. You'll soon find yourself up a river without a mermaid.

Mermaids on the Beach, Ngor Island, Dakar

All Photographs Are Circular. We Just Added the Square.

A small collection of Black and White images from the Eighties and Nineties.


If you can't find me, I'm probably on location!

I learn a lot about life and people when I travel. I learn new languages and customs, I try out new food, and occasionally I get lost. That's the lesson, that's my pleasure. Clients looking for stock photography can click on the dropdown menu below and get a sense of where I have been. I have hundreds of thousands of files but not all of them are digital and / or with me in Dakar.

Let's Talk

I am a native New Yorker who has been living in Dakar, Sénégal for the past five years and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, a few years before that. I don't know how much longer I will be in Africa. Traveling has become a commercial necessity. So, no matter where you are, I am just a flight away. My mantra is quite simple; anyone, anywhere, and at anytime. "Book 'em Danno."

Contact Information

Almadies, Dakar

+221 77 3902 480

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It Ain’t What You Don’t Know That Gets You Into Trouble. It’s What You Know for Sure That Just Ain’t So. (Mark Twain)

"True Dat" (Martin Dixon)

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