Puyallup: News

What is street photography? Local artist James Martinson showcases work at Puyallup City Hall

James Martinson stands before two of his street photography pieces from last year’s Daffodil Festival in Puyallup. The photos are on display in the city art gallery at City Hall through December.
James Martinson stands before two of his street photography pieces from last year’s Daffodil Festival in Puyallup. The photos are on display in the city art gallery at City Hall through December. allison.needles@puyallupherald.com

At Puyallup City Hall, there are two photos that depict different moments from last year’s Daffodil Parade.

In one of them, cheerleaders from Puyallup High School walk in the rain. In the other, the sun finally pokes through the clouds and shines down on the school’s flag twirlers.

The photos are the work of photographer James Martinson, the current artist showcasing his work in the city’s rotating art gallery. He spoke about the two photographs at his artist reception last week.

“If feels like sometimes people are raining on your parade,” said Martinson, 67. “But if you just wait a few moments, the sun will come out.”

The photographs are two examples of what Martinson captures for his work in street photography, which he’s been doing for about 20 years. Street photography is sometimes confused for photojournalism, he said. In photojournalism, there’s an intent to tell a specific narrative. With street photography, Martinson goes out and captures what he sees.

“Nobody’s written down any rules for street photography — we just want to take pictures,” he said.

Martinson takes a camera everywhere he goes — and he’s been to many places. While he lives on the outskirts of South Hill, Martinson’s work is from all over the world. There are photos from local cities — Puyallup, Bonney Lake and Tacoma — all the way to Lahaini, Maui in Hawaii and the Serengeti and Arusha, Tanzania in Africa.

One photograph, called “Students,” was shot in Tanzania and shows two school girls walking past a sign encouraging education.

“This one was one of my favorites,” Martinson said. “It tells a story.”

Some of those photos from Africa were favorites of viewers at Martinson’s reception, including Pat Emlet, who serves on the board of directors for Puyallup’s Arts Downtown and helped set up the gallery.

“I really enjoy it,” Emlet said about Martinson’s work. “I really like his wildlife.”

Martinson’s friend and fellow photographer Bob Klavano organized the trip to Africa with Martinson. At the reception, he saw what Martinson saw from the other side of the lens.

“Spectacular,” Klavano said, describing the photos. “It’s fun to see how he was taking them.”

Martinson got his first single-lens reflex camera in 1985, and started taking digital pictures in 1999. He worked in graphic design at an architecture firm in Seattle, where spent his lunch breaks walking the streets to capture what he saw. And while he’s now retired, he still takes pictures and works as an event photographer for Meeker Mansion. He also works at the photo salon during the Washington State Fair and has won multiple awards through the fair.

There’s just something about capturing a specific moment in time that strikes him, Martinson said.

“There’s an aspect to seeing things nobody else sees...knowing I’m the only one that sees that moment,” he said.

Martinson’s artwork is open to the public for viewing through December. The city rotates new artists every quarter. The gallery is located on the fifth floor of City Hall, 333 S Meridian, Puyallup.

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison

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