Martin Parr is one of the most influential British photographers today. He is a member of Magnum, has published 60 photo-books and lectures at Brighton University. He currently has an image on display at the Tate Modern in a collection of paintings and photographs that collectively show how art has represented ‘Family’ over the past 400 years.
This evening talk was illuminating. He took us through his career and illustrated it with his work, some serious and others not-so-serious.
Martin Parr is a prolific publisher of photo-books, and he believes tht the photo-books are currently an important way for a photographer to show his/her work. They are becoming an integral part of the photographers history.
If his varied oeuvre had to be explained in a simple sentence, it would have to be this.
- Martin Parr has cultivated a ‘seeing eye’. He captures the ordinary and everyday in an extraordinary way, looking at society, particularly British society in its various forms and creates a methodology centred on place and reality.
Throughout the evening, he explained much of his work, giving us an insight into the reasoning behind his varied choice of subjects. He is by nature an ‘obsessive collector’ of strange ephemera. Watches adorned with Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden memorabilia, objects of political imagery and ephemera connected with the motorway system of Britain. He also collects post-cards, that incidentally became the subject of one his most successful books… and he didn’t have to take a picture!
Most of his work records a social history.
Some of them include.
- A series called ‘Resort’ looked at holiday makers on Brighton Beach in the Wirral.
- A series based on shopping, supermarkets and the middle-class. He expanded this project to include supermarkets in different countries including Spain, Ireland and Russia.
- A series based on Middle Class living: recording dinner parties, aerobics, craft fairs, Conservative Party events.
- A series of iconic European cliches… French escargot, British cakes etc.
- A series on ‘boring’ postcards, and visiting the town of Boring in Oregon, USA.
Martin admits that some of his images can be seen as fun, but they each contain a cultural message. It was fascinating to listen to the way that many of his series came about. Many of which it seems developed over a number of years, as he began to ‘collect’ images on his travels, rather than work being developed in a single time-frame.
I think that this concept of ‘collecting’ is one that might be a good idea for photographers. I think that this is main message I took from the talk, that the art of collecting and filing images for use at some-point-in-the-future is valuable.