‘The Last Resort’: Martin Parr’s photographs of New Brighton

Martin Parr is widely acknowledged for his photographic projects that highlight and gently satirise people and their cultures.  This image is part of the project The Last Resort: Photographs of New Brighton (1986). This was Parr’s first project to show a move towards his now distinct personal style: bright colours and vivid images, that captured the holidaymakers of Brighton and set alight his passion for observing society. The series has since become a modern classic.

Together with fellow Manchester graduate Susie Mitchell who the artist had wed in 1980, Martin Parr returned to England from Ireland in 1982. Margaret Thatcher had been in power for three years, and radical policies had changed many areas they had known in the 1970s beyond recognition. The pair settled in Liverpool Bay, where Parr began photographing at the nearby seaside resort of New Brighton on The Wirral Peninsula. This work represented a major shift in his photography. He stopped using his 35 mm camera, and began working with a medium-format Plaubel.

Parr was galvanised to experiment in colour, not only by the changing political atmosphere of Thatcher’s Britain, but also after seeing pioneering and confrontational colour work by William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Joel Meyerowitz emerging from America. Parr’s standing as an outsider in New Brighton revealed itself in a distance from his subjects that his work had not had in Hebden Bridge, where he had been thoroughly immersed in community.

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