Category Archives: Martin Parr

Exercise : Martin Parr territory

Read the document ‘Martin Parr : Photographic Works 1971-2000‘ by the National Museum of Photography , Film and Television . Core resources :Parr pdf.

Watch an audio slide show of Martin Parr talking about his progression from B&W to colour photography and The Last Resort .In this video Martin Parr acknowledges what he calls ” hypocrisy and prejudice” in his work. What do you think about this statement ? Write a short reflective commentary in your blog.

I have been to two Parr exhibitions this year –notes  here & here

Parr had a conventional middle class upbringing . His interest in photography was fuelled by his grandfather, a keen amateur photographer , who took him on day trips to run-down Northern seaside towns. A contemporary of Daniel Meadows , and influenced by the British photographer Tony Ray-Jones , Parr became fascinated with the erosion of traditional British society , class and consumerism. He began to photography exclusively in colour in 1982.

The Last Resort 1983-6

Parr’s images of the working classes enjoying their leisure time in the declining resort of New Brighton seem , on first viewing , judgemental . The litter strewn and run down area is populated by families holidaying against a backdrop of deprivation. Whist junk food addicted holidaymakers epitomise how the working class are perhaps frequently perceived by those of a different social class. Yet despite the photographs being funny , surreal and undeniable cruel they have a strange poignancy about them.”The Last Resort is a depressing series of images , and they depict the British working class in an unforgiving light. But , there is a profound sense of sadness in this series ” ( Parr pdf. p.g 7 ) . Using flash and highly saturated colour the brash images contradict the confident self- assertiveness perception of Thatcher’s Britain but document instead ” a supposedly affluent society falling apart at the seams” (Parr pdf. p.g 7 ) .

Parr’s method of working to produce an acerbic comment on society has become his hallmark yet he considers his work both hypocritical and prejudiced . Parr , influenced by middle-class mores , undoubtably has pre-conceived ideas regarding class status , it is impossible to work in a moral vacuum. He willingly admits his work objectifies the people he documents hence making them objects of consumerism , the very thing he is criticising.

References / Bibliography

Martin Parr : Photographic Works 1971-2000′ by the National Museum of Photography , Film and Television . Core resources :Parr pdf.

Accessed 13/8/15

Martin Parr : Black Country Stories. Wolverhampton Art Gallery

Visited Thursday 6/8/15

Parr was initially commissioned by Multistory to document daily life in Sandwell , a district in the Black Country , over a twelve month period. The project was so successful locally that Parr continued to travel across the whole area known as the Black Country , which includes Wolverhampton , Dudley and Walsall.

Screen Shot 2015-08-08 at 11.40.26
I went with my husband and we were initially the only two people looking around the free exhibit , which was great as we could spend longer viewing the images and it gave us a chance to chat with the curator . He told us the exhibition , which had initially been busy in the opening weeks , had become rather quieter recently with visitors frequently looking in briefly then walking straight out again . Maybe some visitors , unfamiliar with Parr’s photography , were expecting perhaps more scenic images , not ones like this here , which I think exemplifies Parr’s ability to notice and give significance to the mundane. The plastic bags were left over chairs by West Bromwich football fans (known as Baggies ) following a match with Wolverhampton , the connotation simply sublime !

The image of Wolves football fans–see above at the top of the page – was our favourite. Printed large scale the detail was incredible , not something that can be appreciated simply by looking at it on a screen or in a book . It was hung on a back wall , not immediately on view when entering the display area , and the curator agreed with us that this should have been placed at the entrance to the exhibit as it has such an imposing presence.

There was a selection of other large scale and slightly smaller prints arranged around the white walled display area.The Black Country has a large diverse multi-cultural population and the portraits were both eclectic and visually outstanding see image here . I found his portraiture exceptional and not something I was expecting to discover.

The area was once one of the most industrialised in the country but no working coal mines remain and many of the traditional industries are in decline and have gone. However smaller factories remain and prosper , Parr’s large scale image of father and son see here was particularly cogent .

My iPhone images below are not particular good but give an idea of the exhibition lay out.




The Wolverhampton Archive

An entire wall was covered in hundreds of smaller prints , and the curator , a Parr fan, told us his favourite Parr image from the selection on the wall changes from week to week . This week his choice was of a notice in a shop window asking women to donate old bras for charity . The humour is subtle , as he pointed out the bras provide support in two senses of the word , not something I initially picked up on !

To make the archive accessible Parr arranged for copies of 10 x 8 inch prints to be available to buy for £12 each with a maximum of four per person. I was going to purchase some for myself but unfortunately they were all sold out but I am not sure how I would have been able to chose just four out of the available prints though !

Parr 2
Four short films made by Parr were included in the exhibition but we only had time to watch two:
Turkey & Tinsel & Tudor Crystal .

Link to short clips of the films here

Turkey and Tinsel
Follows a group of pensioners from their Black Country homes on a trip to Weston-Super-Mare.The film was a mix of laugh out loud moments with moments of pure pathos as they celebrated Christmas and New Year in November. The music accompanying the film was interesting — In the Bleak Midwinter accompanying sombre scenes of the desolate winter seaside and the ageing guests whilst the pensioners dancing to Show Me the Way to Amarillo brought to mind Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights ! A few people ambled in whilst we were watching it but did not stay to watch the film in its entirety–we loved it.

Tudor Crystal
A more serious but interesting film about a firm of traditional Glassmakers based in Stourbridge .

I wish we had allowed more time to be able to watch the other two films.

Oral histories were also available to listen to describing life and memories of the Black Country.

The combination of prints , film and audio form a comprehensive documentary and additionally an important archive of the Black Country, well worth a visit. Parr’s short video below is also well worth watching and gives an insight into his working method. A book is available and I shall probably buy it as I really enjoyed the exhibition.
Accessed 8/7/15
Accessed 8/7/15
Accessed 8/7/15
Accessed 8/7/15

Martin Parr : The Non-Comformists

Exhibition at Compton Verney , Warwickshire.

Visited Sunday 31st May 2015

Martin Parr.The Non-Conformists

Martin Parr is best known for his colour photography but his first significant body of work from the mid 70’s was the B&W images taken between 1975 and 1980 of Hebdon Bridge and the Calder Valley , Yorkshire . Having completed his art studies Parr moved to the area he then documented. His images of the surrounding landscape and its inhabitants record a very traditional British way of life that was already in decline.

I found it very different to his distinctive later work that I am more familiar with . I like Parr’s luridly saturated candid documentary style but these are much gentler observations , the humour more subtle. There is also a poignancy , a glimpse of a lost social landscape and tightly knit communities that now hardly exist.

The exhibited 75 images accompanied with wonderful descriptive text written by his wife Susie were displayed in three interconnecting areas. On reading that the roomful of elderly men seen in one image were all members of The Ancient Order of Hen Pecked Husbands at their AGM made me (& my husband) laugh out loud , the context changed by the additional information    .

Cleverly observed and using juxtaposition a well dressed woman sugars her tea beneath a frieze of The Last Supper at Boulderclough Methodist Chapel , .

Whilst a young boy in shorts aims a toy machine gun at an outdoor service of three chapels from behind a cenotaph.

At the head of queue outside a picture house waiting to see Jaws is a young girl , mouth open and teeth bared , that seems to mimic the poster behind.

Two elderly ladies appear to be asleep at the Mankinholes Methodist Chapel ,  a funny but strangely touching image too.

Also on display were the winning entries from the Compton Verney 2015 photography competition ‘A Sense of Britain’. It is interesting to compare how each finalist interpreted the brief, my personal favourite is the middle image below. Isolated between two rather large individuals casually dressed in bright yellow tops sits a well dressed Sikh gentleman , the epitome of a well dressed Englishman in his suit , gazing ahead as pigeons peck around his well shod feet. A comment on our multi-cultured nation and a clever observation of modern-day Britishness.

Compton Verney