Antonio Jacob Martinez

Antonio Jacob Martinez

Acorazar y Amor (To Protect and To Love) is a series of unique ink transfer portraits of plain dressed service industry workers which visualizes the experience of what is coined as “pandemic fatigue”. On August 20, 2021, Martinez was invited by Gallery19/Pilsen Arts & Community House to photograph essential service industry workers during the Pilsen Street Arts Festival. Martinez financed this photo project with his federal stimulus check which covered the costs of travel, materials, and the $20 modeling fee for each worker who volunteered to stand in front of a camera for 5-10 minutes on a Sunday afternoon.

Subjects were encouraged to dress casually, for Martinez was less interested in depicting the pictorial tropes or visual archetype of police officer, elementary teacher, flight attendant, retail cashier, childcare provider, social worker, and other service industry professionals. The absence of employment attire and environment challenges the general assumption that humans are inseparable from their workplace environment, duties, and responsibilities. Debating and determining which occupation endured the greatest hazard during the pandemic is not the point of this series. This ongoing global pandemic, coupled with other looming, blooming, and longstanding societal conflicts, served as a catalyst to reexamine the worth of oneself and the relationships that define one’s position in life. No name badge or occupational title could defend the overwhelming and cascading impact of Covid.

As an experimental and process-based photographer, Martinez envisaged both the conceptual significance and visual impact of making portraits that involved the unconventional use of hand sanitizer for ink transfer and expressive purposes. The common visual elements emphasized in each photo include a neutral background, personal face covering, shallow field of focus, and the varied directional gaze of the subject. Martinez’s use of hand sanitizer during the image transfer process is befitting for obvious reasons related to the pandemic, but it also assists in creating a metaphor for the shared haze of uncertainty that once endures during such stressful times. The selective hand manipulation of transferable ink, coupled with the aforementioned common visual elements, allows viewers to see and to feel the concept of “pandemic fatigue” or disassociation.

Whether one understands their occupation as either a “sacrificial” or “essential” worker is one that varies according to each person’s individual experiences at their workplace. It is an uneasy question that may lead to deeper questions, greater concerns, and possible actions for improvement. Nevertheless, it is important for communities to question, recognize, and understand what it means to protect and to love during times of uncertainty and distress, for one’s awareness and attention of others determines a community’s direction while navigating together through the haze.

Antonio Jacob Martinez (b. 1979- present) earned his BFA in painting at Creighton University in 2001 and an MFA in photography at East Carolina University in 2005. Antonio has been teaching photography courses at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL since 2005. His first notable body of work, Near the Egress, grabbed the attention of Houston Fotofest 2010 reviewers such as Jim Casper of Lensculture, Robert Rauschenburg of Blue Sky Gallery, and Lisa Sutcliffe of SFMOMA, for its non-conventional use of modern tintype photography and stop-motion video. Years later, Antonio presented his cagefighting series, How to Hug and Other Sublimations of Men, to reviewers and collectors at the Houston Fotofest 2016 and PhotoNOLA 2016 portfolio review session, and, again, received praise for pushing the boundaries of post-production photographic techniques. Influenced by both, early photo Pictorialism and experimental imagemakers of the 20th century, Antonio explores the endless possibilities of expression through various blends of photographic processes and technologies, which often yield unique prints that explore themes related to vulnerability and impermanence.


LENS 2021, Perspective Gallery, Evanston, IL March 2021. (juried by J. Gibran Villalobos)

Portrait of America, Fabrik Projects Gallery, Los Angeles, Nov 23-Dec 1, 2019 (juried Deborah Willis)

Summer Blues, Good Year Center for the Arts, Charlotte, NC, July 12 –Aug 4, 201 (invited Hamilton Ward)

Contemporarte- Contemporary Photography, University of Huelta, Spain, June 2019 (juried)

Escape, Intl Photography Competition, Midwest Center for Photography, Aug 5-30, Wichita, KS (juried)

Shrode Photo 2018, Center of Cedarhurst Museum, Mt. Vernon, IL, Oct 2018 (juried Ray Marklin).

The Male Gaze & Made by Hand, Gallery of  1/1, Seattle, WA  – May - Aug 2018 (invited by Dan Shepherd).

Water 2018, PhotoPlace Gallery, Middlebury, VT, June 2018 (juried by Ann Jastrab).

When Things Are Strange, University of North Dakota, March 2017 (juried by Fran Forman).

Transzioni, Near the Egress, Bergamo, Italy, Feb-March, 2017 (invited by Irene Pancaldi).

How to Hug and Other Sublimations of Men, Clemens Fine Art Center, Paducah, KY Sept – Oct 2016 (solo)

Light Factory 8th Annuale, How to Hug and Other Sublimations of Men, Light Factory, Charlotte, NC Sept 2016 (solo)

FRESH, KlompChing Gallery, Brooklyn, NY, July-August, 2016 (juried by Darren Ching and WM Hunt).

Flesh and Bone II, Hillyer Art Space, Washington D.C., 2016 ( juried by Judy Byron).

Nature of Masculinity, Freeport Art Museum, Freeport, IL, June 2016 (invited by Chicago Curator’s Group)

Body 2016, ph21 Gallery, Budapest, Hungary, Feb, 2016 (juried by Zsolt Batorî).

Seite/Self, Darkroom Gallery, Essex , VT  January, 2016 (juried by Aline Smithson). 

Flight, PhotoPlace Gallery, Middlebury, VT, 2016 (juried by Laura Moya).

TPS Cellphone IV Exhibition,, Feb, 2016 (juried by Meri Aaron Walker).

Automic, Small Engine Gallery, Albuquerque, NM, 2016 Feb-Mar (juried Adam Finkelston)

Near the Egress, Experimental/Avantgarde Filmfest, Filmhous Cavia, Amsterdam Feb., 2016

How to Hug and Other Sublimations of Men, Creighton University, Omaha, NE Sept – Oct 2015 (solo)

Alternative Visions, DOMA Gallery, Charlotte, NC, Oct. 2011 ( curated by Gabrielle Larew) 

Projections, Near the Egress, Ballarat International Foto Biennial, Ballarat, Australia, Aug. 2011 (invited)

Visions on Film, Near the Egress, Triennale Der Photographie Hamburg, Germany, April 6, 2011 (invited)

Muybridge and His Legacy, Near the Egress, SFMOMA, March 1, (invited screening by Lisa Sutcliffe)

Eye Myth, Near the Egress, Technodrome Festival, New Dehli, Feb 26-28, 2011 (invited)

Variations - A Photography Exhibition,  Las Manos Gallery, Chicago,  Feb 2011 (invited by Tommy Reyes)

The Slideluck Potshow Paris, NtE, Le Comptoir Géneral (Canal Saint Martin) Paris, 06232010 (invited by Jim Casper)

Of Memory, Bone and Myth, University of North Dakota, March 2010  (juried)

Rehearse, Rewind, Repeat: Photo,Video and Performance, Ohio University, Jan. 2010 (Curated by Kelli Conell) 

Digital to Physical, Anderson Ranch Arts Center, January 2010 (Curated by Kirsten Gerdes)

13th Annual SECAC and MACAA Juried Exhibition, 1708 Gallery, Richmond, VA, October 2010

Near the Egress, Blue Sky Gallery, Portland, OR, August 2010 (invited by Robert Rauschenberg)

Tenderpix Experimental and Soho Shorts, Tenderpixel Gallery, London, England, July 24-31 2009 (juried) 

Optica- Festival Internacional de Videoarte, Near the Egress, Barcelona, Spain; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Gijon,

Spain; Madrid, Spain; Bilbao, Spain, Cordoba, Spain; Huarte, Spain, Paris, France (juried) 

Centre for Art Tapes, Near the Egress, Halifax, Nova Scotia, April 2009 (juried) 

Miracles, Spectacles, & Small Mistakes: Selected Work, University of North Carolina, Charlotte (solo)

4th Biennial Juried Photography Exhibition, Wellington Gray Gallery, Greenville, NC 2004 (juried by Maggie Taylor)

COLLECTIONS Arthur Roger Private Collection, Portland Art Museum Permanent Collection, LeHigh University Museum Permanent

Collection, Freeport Art Museum Permanent Collection, Gary Kolb Private Collection, Creighton University

Permanent Collection


Hand Magazine, “Ghosts of Nat’l Embers”, page 6, Issue 32, April 2021

Opposable Thumbs Podcast Interview, Ep. 63 - Scale, Sept 26 2019,

Jill Enfield’s Guide to Photographic Alternative Processes – Popular Historical and Contemporary Techniques, Focal

Press, second edition, 2020. (Various experimental photos from modern tintype selected).

Diffusion IX, 2018; The Hand Vol 1, 2015; Blue Sky Gallery 09/10, (Near the Egress)

Interview for Near the Egress, PDN, September 2010;

Freeport Museum Offers Different Takes on Masculinity, Northern Public Radio Jun 8, 2016,

Lensculture Blog, Near the Egress, June 10, 2010;

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