Blowing Someone Else’s Horn

© Cade Martin Photography (used with permission).

Recently I started carefully studying some of the commercial photography that I admire before writing about how I interpret the imagery. It’s been both an appreciation process and a learning process. It helps increase my visual understanding and helps me discover more about ways to make my own visuals more impactful. Recently I decided to start to share these thoughts by publishing them online at Medium. The first image I’m exploring is from Cade Martin, a photographer whose work celebrates the glory of life through a series of magical and surreal interpretations. The fantastical journey a viewer takes through his portfolio carries many twists and turns, leading from the studio to location and then beyond to worlds that can only be imagined.

I first became aware of Martin’s work after seeing the “Let’s Play” Campaign for the New York Philharmonic. It depicts a storybook forest where there stands an angelic female figure playing the French Horn. She, like an ethereal Pied Piper, conjures up rousing melodies that lure a team of Carousel horses towards her. This is an image you can almost hear as well as see. It’s on-point advertising for a business whose product is sound.

In taking a closer look at the image to understand the visual principles the artist employed to convey this story, the first stop is the main subject french-hornist Leelane Sterrett. In any scene, humans are first attracted to other humans, but Martin also uses other visual devices to ensure that we notice her first. By placing her dead-center of wide screen image and using her overall brightness in unison with dramatic tonal contrast, particularly across the reflection of the horn itself in addition to the contrast of the hair against the background as well at the sharpness around her head and the instrument, the artist draws the viewer to first settle their eyes on Sterrett.

The secondary characters, the horses, by the direction they are facing, each pointing directly towards the musician, emphasize her importance even further. Although Carousel horses are usually considered to be brightly-painted gaudy beasts, in this image, by muting those colors, they continue to support the story instead of hijacking it.

The large, wide, balanced image gives viewers room and breathing room in which to explore and the symmetry invites them to dwell in the space for longer to explore and settle here. With clear space in the foreground, we are also pulled forward into the scene and it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine that we, the audience, are perhaps riding atop one of the Merry-go-round horses towards the tuneful temptation of the NY Phil’s music.

Follow Cade Martin on Social Media here:


IG: @cademartinphoto


Twitter: @cademartin