Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Martin Parr (born 1952) is a British documentary photographer, photojournalist and photobook collector ( Magnum Agency photographer)

Martin Parr (born 23 May 1952) is a British documentary photographer, photojournalist and photobook collector. He is known for his photographic projects that take a critical look at aspects of modern life, in particular provincial and suburban life in England. He is a member of Magnum Photos.

Early life

Born in Epsom, Surrey, Parr wanted to become a documentary photographer from the age of fourteen, and cites his grandfather, an amateur photographer, as an early influence. From 1970 to 1973, he studied photography at Manchester Polytechnic. He married Susan Mitchell in 1980, and they have one child, Ellen Parr (born 1986). He has lived in Bristol since 1987.


Parr began work as a professional photographer and has subsequently taught photography intermittently from the mid-1970s. He was first recognised for his black-and-white photography in the north of England, Bad Weather (1982) and A Fair Day (1984), but switched to colour photography in 1984. The resulting work, The Last Resort: Photographs of New Brighton, was published in 1986.
Although John Bulmer had pioneered colour documentary photography of Britain, from 1965, Gerry Badger has said of Parr's The Last Resort:
It is difficult from a perspective of almost a quarter of a century to underestimate the significance of The Last Resort, either in British photography or Martin Parr's career. For both, it represented a seismic change in the basic mode of photographic expression, from monochrome to colour, a fundamental technical change that heralded the development of a new tone in documentary photography.
Since 1994, Parr has been a member of Magnum Photos. He has had almost 50 books published, and featured in around 80 exhibitions worldwide - including an exhibition at the Barbican Arts Centre, London. In 2007, his retrospective exhibition was selected to be the main show of Month of Photography Asia in Singapore. In 2008, he was made an Honorary Doctor of Arts atManchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in recognition for his ongoing contribution to photography and to MMU's School of Art.
Parr's approach to documentary photography is intimate, anthropological and satirical. Macro lenses, ring flash, high-saturation colour film, and since it became an easier format to work in, digital photography, all allow him to put his subjects "under the microscope" in their own environment, giving them space to expose their lives and values in ways that often involve inadvertent humour. For example, to create his book Signs of the Times: A Portrait of the Nation's Tastes (1992), Parr entered ordinary people's homes and took pictures of the mundane aspects of his hosts' lives, combining the images with quotes from his subjects to bring viewers uncomfortably close to them. The result of Parr's technique has been said to leave viewers with ambiguous emotional reactions, unsure whether to laugh or cry.
Sean O’Hagan, writing in The Guardian, named Up and Down Peachtree in his list of best photography books of 2012.


Besides being a photographer, Parr is a keen collector of postcards, photographs and various other items of vernacular and popular culture, and many of his collections have been used as the basis for publications. Since the 1970s, Parr has collected and publicised the garish postcards made between the 1950s and 1970s by John Hinde and his team of photographers. The images made by Hinde and his team are a key influence on Parr's colour photography.
As an admirer of this medium he has published several photobooks as well as a work about photobooks. The Photobook: A History (in two volumes) covers more than 1,000 examples of photobooks from the 19th century through to the present day. The work was a collaboration with the critic Gerry Badger which took eight years to complete.

Documentary filmmaker

Parr's first contact with the medium of film was his collaboration with Nick Barker from 1990-1992, taking pictures to accompany Barker's film Signs of the Times. In 1997, Parr began producing his own television documentaries with Mosaic Film.
He was cameraman on the film, It's Nice Up North with comedian Graham Fellows as his character John Shuttleworth. The film is a comic documentary filmed over several years in Shetland and was released in 2006.

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