Martin Parr Research

Martin Parr is a British documentary photographer, photojournalist and photobook collector. Parr was born on 23rd May 1952, in Epsom, Surrey. Parr is known for his photographic vision that is captured in his projects that take an intimate, satirical and anthropological look at aspects of modern life, in particular documenting the social classes of England, and more broadly the wealth of the Western world.

Parr wanted to become a documentary photographer from the age of fourteen. He cited his grandfather, George Parr, an amateur photographer and a member of the Royal Photographic Society, as an early influence on his choice to pursue photography. From 1971 to 1973, Parr studied a degree in photography at the Manchester Polytechnic (now known as Manchester Metropolitan University).  His major projects have been rural communities (1975–82), The Last Resort (1983–85), The Cost of Living (1987–89), Small World (1987–94) and Common Sense (1995–99).

Since 1994, Parr has been a member of Magnum Photos. He has had around 40 solo photobooks published, and has featured in around 80 exhibitions worldwide – including the international touring exhibition Parr World, and an exhibition at the Barbican Arts Centre, London, in 2002.

Parr is a British household name when it comes to photography and like many others I am always in two minds about his work. What he tries to represent is sometimes a little vulgar and obscene. Parr is able to get right into people’s comfort zone and take an image before they have realized what has happened.

MP1This image from Martin Parr is more recent, it was shot on Liberation Day 2013 in Jersey 2013. This image explains my issue with Parr’s way of working – that there is no sense of morality in the image. There is the subject that is in focus but has been cropped out, while the out-of-focus subject is where the viewer is drawn to once taking in the detail of the uniform at the front. We can see the image has no flash involved like many of Parr’s images, as there is enough daylight and using one would have meant the person in the background would have likely been hard to see. Depending on the camera combination it would most likely be a prime lens used with an aperture set between f/3 – f/5. The image also has a satisfying composition within the frame.

MP2This is image is from one of Parr’s photobooks shot in the 80’s or 90’s. This image creates a slightly unrealistic image of the human condition. Usually when photographing the human condition, photographers tend to try to capture something beautiful. This image throws all that out the window, at the expense of creating a statement about society at the time the image was captured. Parr tended to use a Nikon 35mm film SLR with a 60mm Macro lens and a Nikon Ring flash. This allows him to capture these scarily up close and personal pictures of these people. Using flash in the day can be used as a technique to oversaturate colours in the foreground, or to make the overall image appear darker. Parr is using it to change the colours of the subject. Her hands are where your eyes are drawn too.

MP3This image is called “I don’t think it’s anything particularly forced on Deborah. We’ve just always enjoyed the same sort of things” and is part of a photobook called “Signs of the Times” based on the TV show of the same name. In the early Nineties, the BBC aired a documentary on the subject of taste in the British home, directed by Nicholas Barker with Martin Parr as the stills photographer. Each of the titles he and Barker gave the photographs are quotes from the people shown in the photographs. Because these images are staged they show Parr’s style but in a more constructed environment rather than a spur of the moment photograph. The title and the image itself show how sometimes parents unintentionally force their own opinions and beliefs onto their children. This can lead to the child in later life becoming distant from their parents as they want to rebel.


Collecting with the FT: Martin Parr

Martin Parr: Photographic Works at the Barbican

Martin Parr: How to put photography in the frame

Photographer Martin Parr on being back in vogue – and setting his sights on the British establishment


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