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

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. His New Brighton series was entitled The Last Resort, and documented holidaymakers at the crumbling, rundown seaside resort.

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