-by John Gillis
They call themselves The Port Hoodlums. Three photographers who happen to live minutes apart from each other – Bob Martin, Romeo Martin and Steve Rankin – have come together to exhibit a stunning collection of more than 60 photographic works printed on canvas, now showing at the J. Franklin Wright Gallery in the Port Hawkesbury Civic Centre.
Shirley Hartery of the J. Franklin Wright Gallery welcomed guests and the families of the three artists during the official opening held Thursday, March 5th beginning at 7:00 p.m.
“This is the biggest crowd we’ve ever had for an opening in the seven year history of this gallery,” said Hartery before introducing the artists.
Each of the photographers are independent artists and business people who might just as soon consider themselves competition for each other. Instead, there is a wonderful spirit of friendship, mentorship and cooperation here – the three photographers have found ways to inspire, support and encourage each other.
Bob Martin explains how Maclean’s Magazine was about to hire a photographer to come all the way down from Halifax to shoot an editorial on him for a recent feature article when he pointed them in the direction of Steve Rankin instead, just minutes away.
Steve Rankin is the youngest of the three and lives in Glencoe. He’s only been shooting photographs for four years but you’d never know it.
“Steve is a self taught photographer whose love for Cape Breton has brought him back home from being away,” said Hartery. “Steve explores the landscapes of Cape Breton taking what appears to be the ordinary and turning it into the extraordinary using light and colour among other things.”
Steve has a great technical knowledge of the medium. He’s quiet and patient and you can see that reflected in his work,” said Bob Martin about his protege.
Already, Steve has built quite a following of people interested in showcasing and purchasing his work. He’s created an exquisite website to promote his work and his photographs have been featured in Celtic Life Magazine, Saltscapes, The Chronicle Herald and The Inverness Oran.
Steve’s themes include landscapes, portraits, weddings, night shots and abandoned sites and buildings.
He is a man of few words but describes himself as a photographer who is “trying to capture the beauty of Cape Breton, both the landscapes and the people, one shot at a time.”
“Photography allows me to capture the beautiful moments of Cape Breton Island and its people. I look for the light where others might find darkness. My favourite part is the moment of solitude that you can find while exploring this wonderful Island,” said Steve.
Romeo Martin is originally from Ontario and has been a photographer for some 35 years, shooting commercial works in fashion to furniture in cities from Toronto to New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Paris.
Romeo recently moved to Cape Breton with his wife who is an Antigonish native. They enjoy a spectacular view of Henry Island from their Shore Road home.
“Upon his move to Nova Scotia his priorities changed and he has shifted his focus to his artistic side. He captures the beauty and mystery in awesome everyday scenes including coastal scenes, landscapes, architecture and nature. Romeo’s work is known for its technical mastery and his ability to capture unique moments and the expression of light,” said Hartery.
Romeo says the beauty of the local landscape has shaped his most recent work. He has been a regular vendor at the Mabou Farmers Market and other local craft shows over the past couple of years. Romeo specializes in “gallery quality printing for every image whether they are destined for an art gallery or your home gallery, fine art reproductions or high-end commercial artwork.”
Port Hawkesbury native Bob Martin (no relation to Romeo) hardly needs an introduction to anyone with even a passing interest in photography in this region.
Beginning in 1979, Martin established a thriving business in photography in the town with start-up money of just $800.
His career began in the darkroom at the old Scotia Sun newspaper and it has grown exponentially from the darkroom to the digital era. Bob studied environmental science at the College of Cape Breton before getting the photography bug full-time.
Martin now makes his home in Port Hood with his wife Lynn and he continues to run his one-man photography business in his studio there, whereas he once employed five people in town.
Bob has a Masters in Photographic Arts and has been a mentor to a number of photographers in the area.
Bob credited some of his own early mentors, one who was present for the opening, Sydney photographer, Warren Gordon.
“Warren received good training from Sherman Hines and when I opened my business he gave me my first background. My other mentor was Frank Wright whom this gallery is named after,” said Martin who also credited many of his teachers and wife Lynn who were also present.
The photographers can be reached at the following numbers: Steve Rankin 902-323-1116; Romeo Martin 902-302-3686; Bob Martin 902-227-7721.
The Port Hoodlums show runs until April 30th.
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