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Wolves Like Us: Magical Portraits of The Wolfpack's Angulo Brothers

Dan Martensen's portraits of 'The Wolfpack' brothers archive their life outside the documentary.
October 23, 2015, 1:55pm
All images courtesy the photographer and Damiani books.

The Angulo brothers—the six siblings captured in Crystal Moselle's feature-length documentary The Wolfpack—continue to capture the hearts of the world. Their appeal comes from Moselle watching the brothers venture out after being homeschooled in their NYC apartment for their entire childhood. Photographer Dan Martensen shot the family throughout five years time and launched the photo series and book title, Wolves Like Us: Portraits of the Angulo Brothers.

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When Moselle first embarked on the Angulo family as a potential focus for a film project, she immediately called Martensen to shoot portraits of the brothers in 2010. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Martensen works as a commercial photographer in New York City. He is best known for this ethereal fashion spreads in rural environments. He says, “When they showed up I was obviously floored. It’s not everyday that you see one person or two people who look like they do but six of them all together all dressed in their suits, like Reservoir Dogs. They had these curious eyes. Their presence was so powerful. I was entranced.”

Martensen’s portraits capture the brothers in their apartment in the Lower East Side, archive their now-notorious homemade movie props, costumes, and masks, and their communions with nature in upstate New York and along movie-themed road trips. Martensen says, “I didn’t take the angle of reportage in the sense that I wasn’t documenting the conditions they where living in.”

The bond between photographer and “the pack” was established early on over shared obsessions for 80s films from Stand By Me, Platoon, The Shinning, and 80s horror films. Hey says, “The boys are obsessed with films of my childhood not their own, weirdly. So that was our connection. We shared similar sentimentality. I really got to connect with them on a boyhood level. This isn’t about how they grew up but how their imaginations are.”

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After spending two years shooting the family indoors, Martensen began planning thematic excursions to riff off of the Angulo’s passion for films and filmmaking. A trip to Coney Island wasn’t just a day at the beach, it became an opportunity to stage recreations of the film the Lost Boys. The boys would come in costume and in character and Martensen would direct them in scenes on rollercoasters and the boardwalk.

From Manhattan, Martensen took the boys to his house upstate to further explore their creativity. He wanted to push their film re-creations to real places outdoors, like war films and Friday the 13th recreations by the lake. What you get are portraits of the boys half in awe of nature and half in awe of how far their characters take them. Martensen says, “I wanted to see how they would react to vast nature and big open spaces. They are these beautiful and raw humans who are really connected to nature. Their mom taught them to respect the planet and the animals on it.” The portraits from that series of the collection are some of the most powerful, perhaps for the sense of exhilaration and from the freedom that the boys were feeling.

“I love that this project became about art, and dreams, and fantasy and not about some not social commentary. It’s about what’s in their hearts and minds,” says Martensen.

The series of photographs are up now at Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in conjunction with a whole show dedicated to the world of the The Wolfpack, replete with all of the props and costumes the brothers constructed for their homemade films.

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Jeffrey Deitch presents The Wolfpack Show is up through November 1st.

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