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Comedy, Dance and Theatre
Deserts of the Earth
by Arthur Duncan
Expert photographer Michael Martin showcased his latest collection of an extraordinary subject matter- the world.
As an “intrepid armchair explorer”, I arrived at Taunton's Brewhouse Theatre expecting an interesting lecture and slide show but found myself immersed in a fascinating tour of all the Earth's deserts, plus much more, revealed on a huge screen and with an enthralling and amusing commentary from renowned German explorer (despite his English-sounding name) Michael Martin.
This large shaggy-haired, bear of a man, shambled modestly onto the stage and apologised for his English pronounciation that subsequently engaged the ears of his large audience as effectively as his pictures held their eyes.
Beginning on snowbound Bavarian autobahns, Martin with his partner, documentary film-maker Elke Wallner, straddled a BMW motorbike, well-laden with equipment, and set off for sunnier, though not always warmer, climates. Such were the hardships and dangers they overcame, we couch-explorers might wonder why they dared.
Herr Martin is a purist, scorning the foibles of digital representations and enhancement, he wisely and simply relies on his two Leica cameras, a range of wide-angle Leica lenses, and Fuji Velvia 50 film, for its unrivalled fine grain & colour.
His skill with these cameras and his knowledge acquired during 80 expeditions produces a sensitive, yet stunning revelation of our geophysical planet and its unpretentious peoples that we, in the 'developed world', share little in common with. Martin shows how much that is our loss.
With compassionate minds, appreciative of every aspect of beauty in the diversity of nature's colours and shapes – even in the isolation of burnt-out war vehicles, abandoned evidence of human folly in the exquisite emptiness- and in the vitality of tribal peoples living on the remotest edges of sustainability; Michael Martin, together with Elke Wallner, comprise a 'new-Renaissance couple'.
The artistry in the exquisite photos is equalled by sensitivity in the visual narrative of the photo-sequences. Pictures often appear like paintings from either sixteenth century or post-modern artists; such is the breath-taking effect achieved by Martin's expertise in his medium.
The journey takes in some of the highest habitations and lowest places on Earth: 6000 metres above and 250 metres below sea level.
We were shown extraordinary geological formations and mystifying oddities on a screen large enough to take us seemingly, to the very spots.
Martin's meticulous attention to detail in every aspect of his mission made one feel as if in the party with him and Elke, who were in fact often as far from other human company as it's possible to be.
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last updated: 04/10/07