How I See It – Martin Andersen

Art director. Film director. Designer. Lecturer. Photographer. And even writing and recording his own music. Martin Andersen has a lot on his hands.

By: Jon Denham,   6 minutes

His career has seen him working on projects with everyone from Magnum Photos, J.K. Rowling, Discovery, Channel 4 and continuous projects in the music industry, all from his London-based studio, Andersen M (a creative partnership with sibling Line Andersen), to photographing holidaymakers, dog shows and recently turning his lens to Tottenham Hotspur Football Club supporters.

With a new book of his photography due for release in December, Martin takes us on a journey through his work and practice…

Photograph taken from Dog Shows. © Martin Andersen.

Jon Denham: You run Andersen M, a creative studio in London. A lot of the commercial work you do is in directing animation, music videos and as an art director for design, but what was your introduction to documentary photography?

Martin Andersen: When I initially set up Andersen M Studio I worked a lot by myself, designing and doing studio photography, and I was increasingly missing being around other people. Around the same time I was discovering the photographic work of Garry Winogrand, Bruce Davidson, Jeff Mermelstein and Susan Meiselas, all exceptional street photographers…

In 2004, a good friend of mine invited me along to Crufts and I took my medium format camera with me. I didn’t watch much of the actual shows, but was instead attracted to what was going on behind the scenes – The chaos, madness and surreality. Once I got back I was sort of hooked. I began researching to find other shows, both in the UK, but also abroad. It felt so liberating to not spend an entire day setting up for the ‘perfect’ shot, but instead being around something I knew nothing about – trying to capture those little surreal fun and candid moments that occur.

JD: When did you realise you could form the series Dog Shows with these photographs?

MA: I never really had a plan with the photographs for Dog Shows. The first five– seven years I never even showed them to anyone but family and very close friends. For me it was something I enjoyed by myself, it was very much about learning a new technique for me just by doing it over and over.

About five years ago I started including them in lectures as a little extra part on “what I enjoy doing when I am not working”. The pictures always created a bit of a laugh and a lot of interest from the audience. More and more people encouraged me to put the images on Instagram, and after a while a few magazines and newspapers contacted me asking if they could feature the project. It’s been nice seeing so many people appreciate them; both people interested in photography but also dog lovers.

I really enjoyed having the freedom, to have a client-free project and, in terms of the actual photography, it was exciting to learn and develop a new way of shooting. I used to spend so much time correcting lights and finding the perfect composition and it was liberating not to have to worry about any of that.


Photograph taken from Dog Shows. © Martin Andersen.

JD: What was it that drew you to photographing at these events?

MA: I have always been attracted to the surreal in everyday life. I was fascinated by the many strange dog breeds, the obsessive competitors, the outfits, the outbursts, the constant barking, the ‘make overs’. It was camp and surreal, yet fun, mad and friendly.

JD: You mentioned you were photographing in different locations across the UK, and abroad for this series. Were the trips to the USA and Europe made specifically for this project, or did you seek out dog shows in the areas you happened to visit?

MA: The trips were always pre-planned. Each year I would study the list of where the national and international shows would take place and then plan holidays around them. The great thing is that they always take place over the weekends, so I would rarely miss my commercial work duties.

I would take on bigger commercial jobs, so that I could save money to travel to the States and around Europe. Once, I had an exhibition of some other photography in Miami but I was so obsessed about going to this dog show miles away that I ended up missing the opening of my own exhibition. I had to pay around $300 for a taxi to get me back for the last hour. I had lost all sense of time. I felt embarrassed turning up late, but can now laugh about it.


Photograph taken from Sojourn. © Martin Andersen.

JD: Were these trips when you began photographing for Sojourn?

MA: All the pictures from Sojourn are shot when I am on holiday. They are the outcome of my inability to just relax and lie by a pool all day. I am fascinated by other people having a good time and there is something beautiful and dreamlike about photographing people in the sun that look relaxed and happy. It’s a real contrast to my fast paced work life in rainy London.

JD: These photographs feel reminiscent of the 1960s and 1970s street photographers, particularly Henry Wessel’s ‘Waikiki’ series. Had you grown up looking at this type of photography?

MA: Actually no. One of my good friends, and exceptional photographer, Kim Thue mentioned Henry Wessel’s work upon seeing this series and I immediately took a liking to it. I could see the similarity in subject matter and in the milk creamy grade, but if anyone, I think I was more inspired by Bruce Davidson and Mark Steinmetz.


Photograph taken from Can't Smile Without You. © Martin Andersen.

JD: Your latest series Can’t Smile Without You brings us a little closer to home, specifically documenting Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (THFC) supporters. The photographs seem a lot darker, both in terms of your photographic approach and subject matter, especially compared to the previous work. Can you tell us a little more about this series?

MA: Can’t Smile Without You is more about longing for a time that is disappearing due to the commercialisation of the game. I wanted these photographs to look harder and more contrasty. I wanted to tell a different story to the other two projects.

JD: What drew you to photographing THFC supporters in particular?

MA: I’ve been supporting Tottenham most of my life and seen us in good and bad times. I’ve seen players and managers come and go, and it can be frustrating, even heart-breaking, when they leave for another team. Sometimes it can feel like there’s little loyalty in football. One day you are Spurs, the next day you can go play for a rival. The focus is always on the players and the manager. I was interested in making a project about the fans. The fans never switch allegiance, they are here forever and I felt that needed to be documented and celebrated.

I started bringing my camera to the games and photographed the atmosphere on the streets and in the pubs before and after. It ended up growing into an obsession, and after three years I realised that I was beginning to document a piece of our history — the last seasons at White Hart Lane. I decided that our last game at White Hart Lane should be the endpoint of this project. It felt fitting to put that into a book to mark the occasion.


Photograph taken from Can't Smile Without You. © Martin Andersen.

JD: The 248-page book is going to be published in the first week of December. What made you choose to publish this work in this form in particular?

MA: I wanted the book to capture different generations of fans, the camaraderie, the banter, the songs in the pubs, the madness. Travelling up and down the country and the long away trips in Europe. I photographed over one hundred home and away games between 2013 and 2017 and the photographs that are featured in the book have been edited down from that.

Like the Dog Shows pictures I really wasn’t interested in the main event (“the game”) but instead in everything else that goes on before and after. I wanted the book to have some artistic merit in terms of photography. I am interested in people and I’ve always been more interested in photography that is open-ended, pictures that are suggestive and open to interpretation, rather than pictures that are descriptive.

JD: How has the editing process been?

MA: I commissioned Kim to do both the editing and the grading, as I was too close to it.  The images we picked for the book are the ones Kim and I personally liked, that we thought had a visual and emotional quality to them, which worked within our idea of making the book feel like its ‘one day at a football game’. It was difficult to leave so many of the images out and the editing took much longer than we expected (nearly a year). When we finally managed to get a sequence right, there was this wonderful feeling of it suddenly being the only right way and you suddenly can’t imagine it any other way.

I wanted to make it into the book to be able to give something back to the fans, both to those who go to the games, week in and week out, but also to the many fans who for some reasons can’t go to our games and who might be interested in visually experiencing that.

Can’t Smile Without You (Hardback, 248 pages, beautifully printed in tritone on GardaPat Kiara) will be published by AMS in December 2019.

Email for enquiries: [email protected]

You can find more of Martin’s work here.

Martin Andersen:

Martin Andersen Instagram – @martin_masai_andersen

Andersen M –

Andersen M Instagram – @andersenmstudio



All Photographs © Martin Andersen. 

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