“I just wanted the photography to feel true to their spirit and true to
what it meant to be one of these brothers.”
They made an impact on the photographer in more ways than one:
he shot the whole project on film, an uncommon practice in the rest
of his work, but revisiting the older process actually motivated him to
return to film for his editorial jobs. “I’m not sitting around with a group
of people staring at a computer anymore, I’m not second-guessing or
worrying about what other people think in that moment,” he says. “I’m
just shooting, and that seems to be when I get my best pictures.”
Up until a year and a half ago, Martensen had no idea what he was
going to do with his five years of photos. And then Moselle finished
up The Wolfpack and sent it to Sundance in 2015; it won the U.S.
Documentary Grand Jury Prize. “Crystal literally said something to the
effect of, ‘Okay if you’re going to do that book, now’s a good time.’”
He hurriedly got things rolling, aiming to release the book on
Halloween, an ambitious deadline for him but a favorite day for the
Angulos. He blocked off a couple of weeks and went home to sift
through his photos, printing, arranging and pinning them around. He
enlisted Dean Langley (the former art director of i-D magazine) to help
edit and design the book, and journalist Joseph Akel to edit and write
a forward. “It was really painful to get rid of some of the images,” he
says, but they managed to edit it down in a couple of weeks. Damiani
was on board with publishing right away.
But not everything wrapped up as succinctly. A couple of the
brothers became overwhelmed by the publicity, and one of them was
uncomfortable with having his image in the movie or book at all.
“It’s not that he wasn’t told, but I think with the momentum of this
movie coming out and winning all these awards and all of a sudden
they’re sort of famous, it all happened really quickly,” Martensen says.
Considering where the Angulos were years ago, the brothers, now
18 to 24 years old, have adjusted incredibly well—two are pursuing
filmmaking, one’s a musician, another’s an environmental activist. A few
have even cut their hair and changed their names (Krsna goes by Glenn
now, and Jagadisa is Eddie). But when their lives took a sharp turn—from
knowing practically nobody but their family, to everyone wanting to
know them—the less-enthused brothers wanted to pump the breaks,
and Martensen’s relationship with them was a casualty that frayed in the
process. “We still talk, we email and I see them when I’m around—though
they’re actually busier than I,” he says, “but there’s that feeling from a
couple of the boys that they didn’t realize what this was going to be.”
The fact is, no one knew; it’s almost impossible to predict these
things. Still, Martensen maintains the same “cool uncle” relationship
with the rest of the pack and continues to take steps to rebuild trust.
Now that the book is out there, he’s focusing on some paid
gigs—Martensen’s got plenty coming through—but when it comes to
his next project, he’s cracking open Wolves Like Us for inspiration.
There’s just one problem: “I’m never going to find another group of
brothers like this,” he says, “it’s just not going to happen.”
With one huge project down, Martensen is facing what is perhaps
a more daunting task on the horizon: hashing out what he can take
from this adventure with the Angulos to carry out in his creative
endeavors down the road.
CAMERAS: Canon 1D X, Pentax 67II, Canon 35mm,
Leica M6, Connate G2 LENSES: Canon 70-200mm,
Zeiss 21mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 110mm