With a unique eye for the oddities of ordinary life, Martin Parr empowers us to see things that initially feel familiar to us in a new light. For over 40 years, he has been documenting British sensibilities and traditions, often conferring his subjects with a surreal or comedic touch.
Bad Weather (1982) is a series that documents the British and their ongoing love-affair with the weather. Equipped with a waterproof camera and a flashgun, Parr’s images celebrate the British fixation with their country’s weather and their fortitude in the face of seemingly never-ending dreary days and drizzle. His series encapsulates a range of stoic and humorous reactions to inclement conditions. Scenes depicted in the series include children taking refuge from the rain in a phone box and raging winds almost sweeping a group off a cliff. Umbrellas, of course, feature heavily.
Jubilee Street Part Elland, Yorkshire, taken in 1977 is perhaps the best known image from the series. The scene sees the eerily deserted remains of a happy celebration. The formally laid table is juxtaposed with the rain coursing, as if a river, through the streets behind. The sodden table clothes blow eerily in the wind, whipping past the empty chairs that stand, redundantly, without their attendant guests. Cake stands and porcelain plates lay, ghostlike, catching the rain as it falls. The scene depicts a pregnant moment between a ‘before’ – the laying of the table, expectations high – and an ‘after’ – the clearing away of a spoilt event, disappointed.
Using a satirical lens over somewhat bleak and difficult environments, Parr seeks to reveal the individual qualities, and peculiarities, of those he depicts