24" x 36" silkscreened poster by Woody Welch. Limited edition of 50.
Signed and numbered by the artist. Sold unframed.
Technical Data Camera – Polaroid 600 SE
Lens – Mamiya 127mm
Film – Fujifilm FP-3000B 4x5
Settings – f45 @ 1/250
For two years, I observed Martín walk by our East Austin studio with a walking stick, a cloth bag slung across his body, and a plastic grocery bag, often full of crushed cans.
He would dumpster dive for cans, picking aluminum ones out of recycling containers and picking up cans from the side of the road. Many times I said hello to him with a smile that said, “Thank you.” The smile back was always genuine, humble, and honest. When Sean Carnegie and I set out to document East Austin with Black and White instant film, I knew Martín had to be on the top of my list for portraits that portrayed this unique time and place in Austin’s history. He was consistent with his work, so I knew I would be able to find him. But would he allow me in? You see, a lot of the way I approach portraits is to get to know the subject enough for them not to be just a subject but a person; to get them to drop their guard and “let me in” is the key to a great Wood E portrait. I found Martín on this day pulling cans out of the dumpster, ironically putting them into a brand new Whole Foods bag. Shaking my head at the juxtaposition, I approached him and asked, in broken Spanish, if I could photograph him. Without hesitation (to my surprise), he said, “Si.” I burned a couple of pieces of film without “pulling” the film apart (not checking my work technically I was taking a chance), knowing I needed to focus on these rare moments more than technical details. Let me in he did indeed! When I asked if I could just do a portrait of him, he again said, “No problem,” and allowed me to coax him into this scene where he was slightly back lit, framed perfectly by the tree with the quickly gentrifying cityscape in the background. It was a fleeting glimpse of a good man making an honest living off another’s waste in quickly changing times. I offered to buy Martín lunch that day with $20 cash. He insisted that he would not take my money, I insisted that he did.
Something happens when you are a photographer passionate about your work, and you collaborate with such a good-souled human being like this. Martín “let me in,” and I became a better man, a better human, and a better artist. This image, blown up to 30 x 40 and wrapped in a custom fabricated long-leaf pine frame, hangs prominently in my home to this day. It is one of my most treasured photos. Literally one in a million. It serves as a reminder to me that one good man can change the world no matter his ways or means with nothing more than a genuine smile and an honest day's work.