Martin Parr’s Approach to Photography

 

Martin Parr is one of Britain’s most significant photographers, best-known for celebrating the eccentricity of British culture and taste. For thirty years his pictures have revealed the sometimes charming (and sometimes horrendous) surreality of ordinary British people doing ordinary British things – at the seaside, in supermarkets, at village country fairs or on holiday abroad. In particular, Parr has become known as a commentator and recorder of Britain’s finely nuanced class system.

Born in Epsom, Surrey on 23 May 1952, the son of a civil servant, he was heavily influenced by his grandfather’s hobby as an amateur photographer. Parr went on to study the subject at Manchester Polytechnic (1970-73).

On graduating, Parr began work as a professional photographer, supporting his career, by taking on various teaching assignments between 1975 and the early 1990s. At the beginning of the 1980s his work aimed to mirror the lifestyle of ordinary British people, reflecting the social decline and distress of the working class during the era of Margaret Thatcher. He earned an international reputation for his oblique approach to social documentary, and for innovative imagery, in particular his black and white projects such as Bad Weather in 1982 and later his publication A Fair Day in 1984.

For Parr, the moral atrophy and preposterousness of our daily lives means we can only find salvation through adopting a certain sense of humour. Much of his work satirizes the banality, boredom and lack of meaning that he finds prevalent in modern times.

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Irving Penn, Woman with Sunblock, 1966