Notable Native: Martin Machnica


Courtesy Martin Machnica

Martin Machnica, a data analyst for Kirkland & Ellis LLP, has begun a kickstarter campaign to fund a international documentary series capturing the lives of homeless individuals.

By Associate Editor

While many Chicagoans walk past homeless people, Martin Machnica stops to interview them about their lives on the street. Touched by the stories of homeless individuals, Machnica has begun turning their stories into a documentary series called “Chicago Street Life Photo & 4K Video Documentary.” 

Machnica, a Poland-born filmmaker and data analyst for Kirkland & Ellis LLP, launched a Kickstarter campaign Oct. 28 to fund the documentary series that captures the lives of homeless people and how they wound up on the streets. He has raised $221 of his $10,000 goal as of press time, but said he remains optimistic and plans to continue to fund the project himself. 

The Chronicle spoke with Machnica about his goals the inspiration behind his project and his passion for photography. 

THE CHRONICLE: What gave you the idea for the project? 

MARTIN MACHNICA: The core question is, “Why?” “Why are you on the street?” There are so many services available. There are shelters. There are homes for the homeless so the question is “why?” That’s kind of the [probing] question throughout. [As far as] Chicago, I’ve already heard some answers.

Where do you plan on conducting your interviews?

MM: Rio De Janeiro, [other places in] South America, Africa—I plan on going all over the world, wherever the wind takes me, wherever there are people who have a story to tell because these people have a story. Everyone has a story. I want to be there to enable them to tell their story, while at the same time, I want to help them.

Why did you major in anthropology in college?

MM: I’ve been fascinated by human beings. I’m fascinated by that core question: “Why?” And that’s been with me forever. Why is the world the way it is? Why do we live the way we live? [Answering] that has been the core question throughout my life. 

What made you want to pursue a career in photography?

MM: When I was a child, I used to spend countless hours in the darkroom with my grandfather. He taught me a lot. He passed away when I was 9 years old, but I still learned a lot from him. I was just at his grave a few days ago praying for him, being with him and in my belief. Photography has always been a hobby. 

Did you help your grandfather with his photography?

MM: I would help him myself. Cutting and zooming in and out and developing in black and white. I specialize in black and white photography since that’s what he influenced me with the most. He was a pretty famous photographer here in Poland. He did portrait photography, but he also did weddings to earn a living. It’s a wonderful experience to be part of the joy. It’s amazing. It really lifts up your spirit. 

What is your day-to-day work like?

MM: I do things that are interesting. I learn programming. I do research. I talk to people. The main film used for the Kickstarter, I filmed on a lunch break. I edited it on my iPad and threw it up on the Internet.

Do you film all of your pieces with mobile devices?

MM: I use an iPad and an iPhone. I also use a MacBook Pro. I use Nikon cameras with Nikon lenses. I use a Blackmagic Design Studio 4K camera, which is the one for high-quality video. I also use GoPro video cameras.

Why do you want to help the homeless and disadvantage people?

MM: I have everything I could want in life and everyday … I come into work and I see these poor people and my heart is just ripped apart. [With money], it’s not how much you make. It’s what you do with it