For Sedona-based National Geographic photographer Martin Gray, his wanderlust began when he was still just a twinkle in his father’s eye.
“My father was a diplomat,” Gray said. “My parents met and were married in China. They both loved to travel.”
Gray considers himself an honest man; he isn’t exaggerating when he says he’s been to 159 countries and has photographed some of the world’s most sacred and holy sites.
After 25 years of living in Sedona, Gray will be leaving for good next month to continue his research and photography in the Middle East and Africa.
Gray first became interested in anthropology and photography while flipping through National Geographic magazines before he even knew how to read.
Born in Colorado Springs, Colo., Gray moved to Germany when he was just a year old. When he was 12, he and his family moved to India and since then, has visited all 29 states.
“Most kids in America get to go to shopping malls for enjoyment,” he said “I got to live in India.”
When he travels, Gray makes a point of visiting slums and landfills and enjoys the juxtaposition of ugly and beauty. He also tries to read all the local news media of the countries he visits, keeping a well-balanced media diet.
A passionate environmentalist, Gray sees himself as an archivist of the world’s beauty and said his work is an expression of gratitude to the planet he serves.
“I like looking through the black box and composing,” he said. “I am enamored with looking at its beauty — both the good and bad.”
He said before he shoots he will say a little prayer; he’ll ask, “Oh god, let me be a paintbrush in the hands of perfection. All I’ve ever wanted to do is to convey beauty.”
Gray admitted that he sometimes feels limited by his abilities to capture the essence of the moment and becomes discouraged.
“Luckily I have good subject matter,” he said. “Sometimes I wish I was better but I don’t worry about being better because there is such a strong artistic urge in me to serve this Earth.”
Wanting to express his gratitude in other ways, Gray said he believes words are cheap, so he chooses action, which is why he will be working with Sedona Film Festival Executive Director Patrick Schweiss to present a final slide show of his work at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre.
Schweiss said he has been friends with Gray for years and that he’s still blown away to have the chance to help showcase his work.
“It’s always great to catch him while he’s in town, and to present his last show is a tremendous honor,” he said.
Places of Peace & Power: The Sacred Site Slide Show of Martin Gray will be shown at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre Thursday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $15.
To learn more about Gray and his work, visit his website at www.sacredsites.com.