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Martin Parr and his 12,000 Books

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Collecting with the FT: Martin Parr

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March 14, 2014 1:23 pm

By Liz Jobey

“Just look a little bit . . . happier.” It’s hard not to be amused by the hopeful upturn at the end of the sentence. Eva Vermandel is trying to take a portrait of Martin Parr, at home in Bristol, surrounded by his book collection. It’s not easy: partly because he looks so sceptical; partly because he keeps opening books up on the floor to show us, and so she has to keep asking him to stand up. After David Bailey, Parr is probably the best-known living photographer in Britain. His reputation derives from his candid pictures of others but he is also a dedicated exponent of the selfie – he may even have invented the term. His collection of self-portraits, taken in photo booths and studios all around the world, began long before the mobile phone camera was invented.

“You probably have to be an obsessive person to collect,” he concedes, “if you are going to do it seriously and thoroughly, which I attempt to do.”

We are here to talk about his books but Parr collects pretty much everything, from Chinese Mao-era tea caddies to miniature televisions, commemorative plates to cigarette cases decorated with Soviet space-dogs: “Yes, Laika, Strelka and Belka, they’re the three most famous . . .” That’s before you get to his print collection, some of which is in evidence on the walls as he leads us downstairs to the basement.

“China and Latin America down here,” he says, “well, some of China . . .” We go into a small room stacked with boxes and lined with shelves of books. “There’s Japan, but just propaganda, here . . . and Latin America overspill.” It’s too tight for three, so we go next door, where a cabinet holds some of his novelty watch collection. He points to a watch-face decorated with portraits of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and his father Hafez. “Very rare, the Assad material.”

“Where did you get it?”


Parr is in his early sixties and, alongside his reputation as a photographer, his most enduring legacy is likely to be the 12,000 photography books he has collected over the past 35 years. What began as a hobby has developed into a mission to change the way the history of photography is defined and understood.

Parr began collecting photobooks as a student at Manchester Polytechnic. As a collector, he has discovered, documented and promoted previously unknown areas of photographic bookmaking. Japan is a good example: until the 1980s, the Japanese photobook was a specialist area, reserved for a few maverick enthusiasts, historians and collectors. Parr is quick to acknowledge them but, once he discovered what was there, it was his own proseletysing that brought the Japanese books to the fore. “The main thing I’ve learnt,” he says, “is how lazy and narrow-minded our histories of photography have been, and how, with some investment and some application, there is so much to discover.”

His collection is not comprehensive. “I get sent a lot of books – I get sent a lot of bad books,” he says. “If I don’t want a book, I’ll give it away. But I also get sent some fantastic things.”

He has bought books ever since he was a student at Manchester Polytechnic in the early 1970s but he dates the beginning of his serious collecting to the late 1980s, “when I bought the original Robert Frank Les Américains, and The English at Home by Bill Brandt – some of the classics. As I started to earn more money, I got more hooked and, having cash from my relatively successful magazine and commercial career . . . You know, this is an expensive business.” A look on gives an idea of current prices: Les Américains (1958) at between $3,000 and $5,000 – a signed copy is $10,000. A first edition of The English at Home (1936) is around £300 to £400.

When I ask if he has estimated the value of the collection, he says, “I haven’t. But I know it would be substantial.” His critics are quick to point out that, in being one of its generators, he has also been one of the chief beneficiaries of the growing interest in photography books and the steep rise in prices. Isn’t he now competing in a bull market he has helped to create?

“Yes,” he says, “but, remember, I’m looking for things before anyone else is looking for them. That’s what’s happened in China. When people see what we’ve dug up from China, they are absolutely bog-eyed.”

In 2004, he published the first of two, soon to be three, volumes of The Photobook: A History, an edited selection of his collection, illustrated with layouts from each volume, written by his friend and collaborator, the photo-historian Gerry Badger. Initially pored over by photography fans, dealers and collectors, the volumes quickly became the handbook for auction houses, which often had little else to quote by way of provenance for a photographer’s work. Since then, the selective listing by Parr and Badger has encouraged an insider market among collectors, publishers and photographers, since inclusion in the history brings kudos to both publisher and photographer’s reputation and almost guarantees an eventual hike in the resale value.

In his study, a large print by his friend Chris Killip hangs over his desk. This is where he keeps his most recent acquisitions. He has “correspondents” in various countries who help find books, and a range of dealers who offer him things he might want. He believes that China is the last country with a true hidden history of photographic publishing. “The other candidate in Europe is Italy. I’ve just come back from a trip and I’ve got many books from the Italian fascist period.

“Now, let me show you . . .” He hands me a stapled pamphlet, badly printed in black and white. “Emmett Till – this is the first civil rights book ever . . . look, price $1, the first, and a factual photo story.” It covers the trial of two white racists from Mississippi who murdered 14-year-old Emmett Till, a black boy from Chicago, for flirting with a white girl. “Took me a long time to find that,” he says. “I had to spend £7,000 on it. And I’ve never seen one since.”

What does he want to happen to the collection? Where does he want it to end up? “Eventually I want it to go into a public collection, to be looked after and be used as a research tool. That’s the whole point really. There is no particularly good photographic book collection in the public domain in the UK.”

So if a private individual were to offer you a great deal of money? “I would decline,” he says immediately. “It’s not about the money.”

Of the possible venues – the V&A, the British Library, the Tate – he nods at the last one. “Well yes, it’s my preferred venue,” he says. “I’m in discussion with them, but nothing has been determined.”

Simon Baker, the Tate’s curator of photography, says: “Clearly, Tate is supportive. The photobook is absolutely at the heart of the history of photography. In our exhibitions, we place books in the gallery alongside prints. We’ve already put our marker down.” And anyway, he adds: “Whichever institution gets it, they will have the greatest photobook collection in the world.”

“The Photobook: A History Volume III” by Martin Parr and Gerry Badger is published by Phaidon on March 17. The authors will be speaking at Photobook Bristol, June 6-8.

 Click here to read the article in its entirety click here.

Martin Parr 'The Non-Conformists' on TIME LightBox

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We are pleased to announce that we will be showing selections from 'The Non-Conformists' at Paris Photo this year. We hope you can join us and see this fantastic work in person! Not going to be in Paris? Visit TIME LightBox to view some a slideshow of selected works from this series. To purchase a copy of The Non-Conformists, click here.

“In the 70s, in Britain, if you were going to do serious photography, you were obliged to work in black-and-white,” master photographer Martin Parr tells TIME. “Color was the palette of commercial photography and snapshot photography.”

“It’s only late in the decade that we began to see color photographers being shown in museums — like Eggleston and Stephen Shore,” he adds. “I took note of that and got excited.”

A few years later, in 1982, Parr made the switch from monochrome and never went back. To the many fans who have come to know his work over the last three decades in color, it may come as a surprise encountering Parr’s first major project in black-and-white. The Non-Conformists finally finds closure over 35 years after it was started with the publication this month of his latest monograph from Aperture.

It was 1975, and two years out of art school, Parr moved from the gritty, bustling city of Manchester to a picturesque mill town in the English countryside called Hebden Bridge. There, he found a traditional way of life in decline. Factories were closing, industry was leaving and the town was gentrifying. A new community was emerging made up of  “incomers — youthful artistic refugees… in search of alternative lifestyles and cheap housing,” Parr’s wife Susie writes in her introduction to the book.

With four other artists, he opened up a storefront workshop and darkroom in the middle of town. Equipped with a Leica and a single lens, he took to the streets and began one of his earliest extended photographic studies.

“Places change all the time and the type of people who live there change. I was not so much looking at the new incomers,” of which he was a part, “but at the traditional lifestyle there.”

He would wander around, attend events listed in the local paper, and on Sundays, go to services at the Non-Conformist churches which were all over town. In these chapels, which had historically distanced themselves from the rules of the Church of England, he and his wife, who had been working on an accompanying text for his pictures, found the focus for the body of work.

“There’s a certain independent spirit these Non-Conformists have, which not only gave the chapels their names,” — like the Mount Zion Strict and Particular Baptist Chapel — “but was also very emblematic of the fading attitude of the whole place,” he says.

Parr’s photographs in which he aimed to capture that attitude reveal a greatly skilled young documentary photographer with a keen eye for British quirk, anticipating the tremendously poignant sense of humor for which he has become known. There is great wit in these images, but it’s more subtle and less sardonic than his later saturated color work; it seems above all, affectionate.

“Black-and-white is certainly more nostalgic, by nature,” he says. “My black-and-white work is more of a celebration and the color work became more of a critique of society.”

Parr and his wife, whom he had married in Hebden Bridge, became very active in the community during their documentation, if at first only to gain trust and access. Some church members mistook their interest as one in keeping the chapel life going in the future.  The documentation came to an end, however, and the Parrs moved on. By the late 90s, most of the chapels had closed and the communities disappeared. Hebden Bridge today, “sandblasted and quaint,” his wife writes, “is a lesbian stronghold and a lively commuter town to professionals working in Leeds, Bradford and Manchester.”

“We did this photographic documentation and that’s all that’s left,” Parr says. “Virtually everyone in the photographs is dead now. It was just another era. But that’s the great thing about photographs; they’re there forever.”

Martin Parr is a British documentary photographer, photojournalist and photobook collector. The Non-Conformists is available through Aperture from October 2013. The work will also be on view at Media Space in London through March 16, 2014. Read more:

Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr Photographing the English

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Photographers Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr were united by their gently satirical documentation of our national characteristics.

Excerpted from: Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr: Photographing the English by Lucy Davies.

Martin Parr on the influence of Tony Ray-Jones on his photography: [In] 1970 [at] a lecture theatre at Manchester Polytechnic, where an 18-year-old Martin Parr was studying photography. Enter Bill Jay, on a mission to infuse the country’s fledgling photo­graphers with the same energy and outlook that he had seen in the work Ray-Jones had shown him. Parr, now 61, remembers hearing Jay talking about Ray-Jones. 'That [visual] language that [Ray-Jones] caught, that he encapsulated, was able to portray the atmosphere and the feeling of the time in a way that hadn’t yet been achieved. Even though there had been lots of photographs of Britain, such as the images in Picture Post, his just felt different. They brought something else… a sort of street theatre, or in this case beach theatre.’

Portobello Road Market, 1966, by Tony Ray-Jones PHOTO: Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum Next month visitors to Media Space, the new home for the National Photography Collection at the Science Museum, London, will be treated to a display of these vintage Ray-Jones prints, alongside 'The Non-conformists’, the work Parr produced when he moved, in 1972, with a group of other Manchester graduates, to Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire, and set up the Albert Street Workshop. It is a study of the local community, in chapel, at tea, queuing for Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Parr has always acknowledged that this work was fundamentally inspired by Ray-Jones. 'He learnt the way that people made their own world, generated their own world, from, in this case, the streets of America. He applied that idea to the UK. That’s what inspired me.’

Silver Jubliee street party, 1977, Todmorden, by Martin Parr. PHOTO: MARTIN PARR. MAGNUM PHOTOS

Ray-Jones died of leukaemia in 1972, aged 31, but his experiments were everything for the generation of photographers that followed. 'There’s a certain benefit of hindsight,’ Parr says. 'You can think differently 40 years on, and we’ll never know if Ray-Jones would have approved. But his best shots from back then still stand very well, they’re still brilliant images. The Beachy Head boat trip, and the shots of Margate and Glyndebourne. Those pictures are icons of documentary photography in the UK; they’re difficult to better.’

  • Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr, at the Media Space, Science Museum, London SW7, from September 21 (; National Media Museum, Bradford, through March 16 ( Martin Parr: The Non-conformists (Aperture, £30), out October 7, can be ordered for £24 plus £1.35 p&p from Telegraph Books (0844-871 1514;

Martin Parr's 'The Non-Conformists' set for October release

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"The Non-Conformists features Martin Parr’s first major body of work from the mid-1970s, published here for the first time in book form. A wonderful and charming surprise for Parr enthusiasts and fans of traditional reportage, this body of black-and-white imagery predates the cutting color work that earned him his fame in the 1980s. In 1975, fresh out of art school, Martin Parr found poor footing in the London photography scene, so he moved to the picturesque Yorkshire Pennine mill town of Hebden Bridge. Over a period of five years, he documented the town in photographs, showing in particular the aspects of traditional life that were beginning to decline. Susie Parr, whom he had met in Manchester, joined him in documenting a year in the life of a small Methodist chapel, together with its farming community.

In words and pictures, the Parrs vividly and affectionately document cobbled streets, flat-capped mill workers, hardy gamekeepers, henpecked husbands, and jovial shop owners. The best Parr photographs are interleaved with Susie Parr’s detailed background descriptions of the society they observed."

Click here to read more about the book and to pre-order your copy of The Non-Conformists.

Phaidon: Martin Parr

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Martin Parr turns his lens on the Swiss

The quintessentially English photographer focuses on Helvetican clichés in Think of Switzerland

Martin Parr, from Think of Switzerland (2013)

It's hard not to regard Martin Parr as a quintessentially English photographer. The Surrey-born, Bristol-residing Magnum photographer made his name with books like Think of England (2000), in which he captured the dowdy, endearing tattiness common to much of the country.

Martin Parr, from Think of Switzerland (2013)

Yet, Parr can apparently pull out these characteristics from more than one nation, as his new project makes clear. He shot Think of Switzerland to accompany his show at The Museum of Design in Zurich, which opens 12 July 2013 and runs until 5 January 2014. The series captures many of the same qualities as Think of England, while keeping the Swiss character firmly in the foreground.

Martin Parr, from Think of Switzerland (2013)

"Of all the countries in the world that have clichés, Switzerland scores very highly," Parr says. "I have made these my starting point for this exploration of the country through this portfolio of work. For the exhibition, I combined the new images, shown here, with many photos I had taken over the years to produce a tapestry of my impressions of Swiss life."

Martin Parr, from Think of Switzerland (2013)

We haven't spotted any cuckoo clocks, though there's a few shots of fondue, some ball nights, The Matterhorn and those delicious (but probably very bad for you) sausages. See the series here. And find out more about the Zurich show here.

You can order Parr's classic photo essay Think of England here for£19.95, for which Phaidon Club members will be rewarded with 200 Phaidon points; you can also pre-order the new edition of our classic Martin Parr monograph for £8.95; for which Phaidon Club members will be credited with 90 Phaidon points towards their next purchase. Find out more about our club here.

Text and images courtesy of Phaidon

Dubbo Photo News: Martin Parr

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An Englishman’s Eye

Saturday, 18 May 2013 Written by  

Martin Parr, AUSTRALIA. Port Hedland. Arnold Carter, Deputy Mayor of Port Hedland. 2011.

The WPCC is currently hosting a major series of photographs by famed international photographer Martin Parr.

Parr, born in England in 1952, rose to international prominence in 1986 when he published Last Resort, Photographs of New Brighton – a series of images that, in the words of one critic were “a seismic change in the basic mode of photographic expression.” A documentary photographer of the highest order, Parr’s ability to capture the essence of a community simply through a series of still images remains unsurpassed.

Having shown in more than 80 exhibitions, and published 50 books, Parr is a remarkable talent. He was awarded the Centenary Medal in England in 2008 by the Royal Photographic Society and is a major influence on thousands of young photographers working today.

No Worries, Parr’s work currently on show at the WPCC, examines the cities of Broome, Port Hedland and Fremantle. It looks with wry humour at its people and tribes of all persuasions – from European Australians to the RSL, from beachgoers to the local footy team.

It’s a world several thousand kilometres away from Dubbo, but in these pictures you can see more of what makes us one than what divides us. Sometimes it takes an outsider to make us see truths such as that.

Text and image courtesy of Dubbo Photo News.

The New Yorker: Martin Parr

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MAY 15, 2013



In the Janet Borden gallery retrospective of Martin Parr’s photographs of life in the U.S., taken over the past twenty years, we see the relationship that color has to many of the more absurd aspects of American culture. Parr’s saturated photographs highlight just how flamboyant and loud this country can be.

In the introduction to the book “Martin Parr,” the writer and curator Val Williams observes,

Martin Parr’s photographs can make us feel very uncomfortable. He has made a comedy about the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the places we go; scrutinized the very way we live our lives …. Parr’s photography is, above all, a visual extravaganza; a large and skillfully honed collection of aesthetic devices that are used not just to define a social point or to underline a cultural statement, but for their own sake, in celebration of photography’s singularity as a still, two-dimensional image acting as a mirror to the way we live.”

“Martin Parr: USA Color” opens on May 16th.

Miami, 1998

To view complete slideshow, click here.

Photographs by Martin Parr/Courtesy Janet Borden, Inc.

Text courtesy of The New Yorker.

Martin Parr: "Life's a Beach" Available from Aperture

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Life's a Beach

Photographs by Martin Parravailability: limited quantities

Click here to order

11 x 9 inches

Signed and numbered limited-edition of 1,000, 98 four-color images

Slipcased hardcover


Fall 2012

Designed by Xavier Barral

In the United Kingdom, one is never more than seventy-five miles away from the coast. With this much shoreline, it’s not surprising that there is a strong British tradition of photography by the seaside. American photographers may have given birth to street photography, but according to photographer Martin Parr, “in the UK, we have the beach!” Here, he asserts, people can relax, be themselves, and show off all those traces of mildly eccentric British behavior. Parr has been photographing this subject for many decades, documenting all aspects of the tradition. His international career, in fact, could well be traced to the launch of The Last Resort, a 1986 book depicting the seaside resort of New Brighton, near Liverpool. What may be less known is that this obsession has led Parr to photograph beaches across the world. This compilation, his first on the topic, presents photos of beachgoers on far-flung shores, including Argentina, Brazil, China, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Japan, the United States, Mexico, Thailand, and of course, the UK, among others. This book shows Parr at his best, startling us with the moments of captured absurdity and immersing us in the rituals and traditions associated with beach life the world over.

Life’s a Beach, the exhibition, opens in Lyon, France in September 2012 (traveling internationally thereafter).

Martin Parr (born in Epsom, England, 1952) is a key figure in the world of photography, recognized as a brilliant satirist of contemporary life. Author of over thirty photography books, including Common SenseOur True Intent Is All for Your Delight, and Boring Postcards, his photographs have been collected by museums worldwide, including the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, and the Tate Modern, London. A retrospective of his work continues to tour major museums around the world since opening at the Barbican Art Gallery, London, in 2002, and he was featured in Cruel and Tender, the Tate Modern’s major survey of photography in 2003. Parr is a member of Magnum Photos.

For more information, images and video, click here.

Text and image courtesy of Aperture

Rinko Kawauchi and Martin Parr in "Aperture Remix"

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November 15, 2012


Rinko Kawauchi, in response to Sally Mann's "Family" (1992)

For the current show “Aperture Remix: A 60th Anniversary Celebration,” the curator Lesley A. Martin commissioned ten contemporary photographers, including Rinko Kawauchi, Vik Muniz, Martin Parr, Doug Rickard, and Alec Soth, to create photographs in response to an Aperture publication they felt most influenced their development as artists. “I wanted to reflect the wide and varied range of contemporary photographic practices and to select artists working at the top of their game within their particular niche,” Martin says. The show runs through Saturday at Aperture before it goes on the road internationally. Click here to view more photographs.

Text courtesy of The New Yorker

Martin Parr — News

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Bombay Sapphire Has Launched a Gift Pack in Honour of London Olympics

As many other brands including P&G and Virgin AtlanticBombay Sapphire gin has launched a limited edition ‘This is London’ gift pack celebrating the city of London.

Created in partnership with British photographer Martin Parr, the gift box contains five postcards with images of London life and symbols made by Parr, says Moodie Report.

The gift pack will be available at the World Duty Free for passengers at London Heathrow Airport at £19.99. The brand will run engaging activities, including a London-themed photography competition, in Arrivals and Departures. The winner’s pictures will be displayed at Heathrow. Other prizes include the limited edition Bombay Sapphire 250th anniversary crystal decanter and an HD compact digital camera.

The other way to promote the limited edition series is the driving footfall into the store with imaginative versions of familiar sights on the UK capital. The Sapphire Summer Cup coctail will be served in branded Union Jack mugs placed on coasters featuring Parr images.

At select World Duty Free stores, consumers are offered a Bombay Sapphire & tonic and a map of London focused on the best bars where people can order a Bombay Sapphire cocktail. The map also informs consumers on the Bombay Sapphire ‘Capture Imagination’ photography competition.

“As a London dry gin in a landmark year for London, we wanted Bombay Sapphire to yet again push the boundaries in global travel retail,” said Richard Cuthbert, Senior Brand Manager for Bacardi Global Travel Retail. “We’ve created a Bombay Sapphire exclusive for World Duty Free which perfectly captures the spirit of the occasion and will truly inspire both Londoners and visitors to the city.”

Images and text courtesy of PopSop

Iconic Image: Martin Parr on Abstract painting with abstract shirt

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Magnum member Martin Parr has been called “the Jay-Z of documentary photography” for the immense influence his vivid, witty images have had on the medium. For this month's Iconic Image, Martin tells us the story behind one of his most best-known pictures…

I saw this shirt and liked it so I talked to [the man wearing it] and said, “Could I follow you round for a while?”

I was at the Gulf Art Fair in Dubai in 2007. He was a collector. He understood what I was up to and it wasn’t an issue for him. I was just shadowing him, waiting for it to get better, and then sure enough he stands in front of that painting and there’s the picture. It has that visual pun of the shirt being very similar to the painting he’s looking at. You often know when things are looking good so I was pretty certain this was going to work. That was the peak moment. There was no point going any further because you couldn’t do any better than the painting. I said goodbye and that was it.

Now they have art fairs in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, so it has become quite established, but this was the first one in the Middle East. I decided to go and got the commission from the Observer Magazine, so that must have been where it was first published. It has been published many times since and I think it has nearly sold out as a print, so it’s done quite well. It certainly paid for itself.

This image was shot on a Plaubel Makina 6x7. I think it was the last year I was using film. Digital had got better and being a bit of a Luddite I was slow to move but eventually I did and I’ve never looked back.

I can’t really say how it fits into my work more broadly. It’s just another picture. I have 24,000 pictures on the Magnum site alone. You just accumulate them over the years. I’m a man of many photos and few words – that’s why I’m a photographer, not a writer.

Martin’s advice for young photographers

Work harder, get closer and be passionate about what you photograph.

Martin Parr was talking to Rachel Segal Hamilton.

Images and text courtesy of  Ideas Tap

NP6 — Martin Parr

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Friday, April 20, 2012—Sunday, August 5, 2012. Linda and Lawrence Perlman Gallery (262). Free Exhibition

Martin Parr. USA. Minnesota. Minneapolis. Winter Games. Ice Fishing. 2012. © Martin Parr/Magnum Photos/Janet Borden, Inc.

As part of our “New Pictures” series devoted to innovation in contemporary photography, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts invited British photographer Martin Parr to cross the pond and shoot photos covering the wealth of winter activities in Minnesota, from pond hockey to ice fishing.

The results of his endeavor are on view in his exhibition, “New Pictures 6: Martin Parr,” opening April 20 in the Linda and Lawrence Perlman Gallery (262).

A member of the esteemed Magnum Photos, an international photographers’ cooperative, Parr is one of the most renowned and celebrated photographers working today. He is known for his innovative use of color photography and his humorous approach to documenting the daily rituals of life. Parr is also recognized for his work as an editor of photo-based publications, and is credited with more than twenty compilations of his own work. In 2008, he was awarded the Royal Photographic Society Centenary Medal and the Baume & Mercier award for his career contributions to contemporary photography.

Text and image courtesy of New Pictures 6

Martin Parr

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New Pictures 6: Martin Parr closes soon, but some of his pics won't leave the MIA...

Do you remember when it was cooler than 90 degrees every day?  Peer back beyond the humid haze.  Only mere months ago, it did happen–the camera doesn’t lie–and British photographer Martin Parr’s pictures are our evidence.  Summer weekends fill up fast and only a few remain for a viewing of his cold-weather photos. New Pictures 6:  Martin Parr, featuring winter photographs Parr shot in the Twin Cities as an MIA-commissioned project, closes in under three weeks.

If you haven’t stopped by the 2nd floor Linda & Lawrence Perlman Gallery (262) recently, Parr’s January pics of Minneapolis winter sports will be on display through Sunday, August 5th.  After that, the images will take a break in storage for a while, however, the MIA Photography & New Media department are proud to announce the acquisition of six Martin Parr photographs into our collection.

Come in and enjoy the free-flowing air-conditioning while you enjoy the display of twelve of Parr’s visual observations of our local winter activities.

Jen Dolen, Photography & New Media intern

Text courtesy of New Pictures 6

Martin Parr — Review

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Up and Down Peachtree: Photographs of Atlanta by Martin Parr — REVIEW

Martin Parr has long walked a fine line between sympathetic portraits of everyday life and voyeurism. Now he trains his English eye on main-street America.

Sean O'Hagan

The Observer, Saturday 21 July 2012

Snacking at the Georgia State Fair – a snapshot of life in Atlanta, through the eyes of Martin Parr. Photograph: Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

At home and abroad, Martin Parr is one of Britain's most famous photographers. He has chronicled our everyday life since the 1970s, turning his relentlessly curious eye on the eccentricities and vulgarities of every class and every corner of Britain.

When his first book of colour photographs, The Last Resort, was published in 1986, his detractors accused him of exaggeration and patronisation, claiming that he portrayed the New Brighton seaside town as a kind of working-class hell of junk food, ugly people and litter-strewn streets, made all the more nightmarish by Parr's use of close-up and garish colours. Time changes everything and, today, The Last Resort is considered an important document, unflinching in its gaze and heightened in its atmosphere, but neither cynical nor exploitative.

Parr's vision has deepened and widened since 1986, while somehow staying essentially the same. His signature is as recognisable as any in the contemporary art world and his energy – for collecting photographs, photo books and photographic ephemera, as well as for curating festivals and championing the form – seems at times superhuman. In Europe, he is viewed with a mixture of fascination and admiration, as a kind of archetypal Englishman, despite the fact that his Englishness is of the wilfully old-fashioned socks-with-sandals variety. At home, he continues to divide opinion like few other photographers.

Having recently turned his relentlessly curious eye on globalisation (he photographed the vast Beijing car show for theObserver in 2008), Parr now gives us his photographic portrait of Atlanta, Georgia, "the symbolic capital of the American south". Up and Down Peachtree (the title refers to the city's main thoroughfare, Peachtree Street) is an intriguing book, not least because, apart from the odd up close and garish image – mustard- and ketchup-splashed hotdogs on a red plastic plate, a cross-section of a layered, multicoloured cake, grease-stained mouths devouring greasy snacks – it is somewhat restrained in its depiction of everyday American excess. There are several pictures here that are intimate but not intrusive, many of them depicting people deep in quiet or animated conversation at religious or social gatherings. Here and there, Parr nods to the master of the American quotidian sublime, William Eggleston: the open boot and chrome tailfins of a rusting vintage car; the mundane Sunday school noticeboard – "Attendance last Sunday 9".

Several images suggest the various conflicting narratives of American political life as they are played out in a major city: a smiling, middle-aged woman holds a placard that reads "I Heart My Gay Sons", while on the opposite page a man holds a banner protesting against gay marriage – "I now pronounce you pervert and pervert".

Parr photographs in churches, bars, supermarkets and fast-food joints, but it is on the streets that the myriad small dramas he captures seem most alive, even when their meaning remains elusive. Sometimes, the people in these public vignettes seem like actors in a strange, dreamlike drama: a trio of stationary women caught at a bus stop or at a traffic light might be listening to a funeral service, so stern and contemplative are their expressions.

For all that, the Atlanta depicted here is still a version of Parrworld, that now-familiar place that may still put off as many viewers as it intrigues.

Text and image courtesy of The Observer at The Guardian

Le Journal de la Photographie

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San Francisco Collectors: The Traina Collection

Martin Parr, Fashion Shoot for Amica, New York

Our third private collection brings us back to San Francisco, this time to the M.H. de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park where Real to Real: Photographs from the Traina Collection is on view. The history of photography in this show begins with Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus and Garry Winogrand who set the stage for a fresh, young vision of photography: lots of color, lots of very large pieces and very conceptual. The collection hits all the stars of contemporary photography and includes younger artists such as Ryan McGinley and the much beloved Alec Soth. The idea is that photography has gone from reflecting the “real” to re-definining it. The 100 pieces are sorted into four groups: “Everyday”, “Excesses”, “Spectacular”, and “Losses.” The works fully embrace the conceptual aesthetic of the NOW: shuffled, sequenced, and laid out in nonlinear narrative structures. Combining and recombining already re-contextualized images, the photographers subvert the photographs’ original roles. That is the theory. In reality, people usually have no idea what they are really viewing but they are drawn to the work unconsciously. It is enough for most people to simply know that they have been somehow entertained or stimulated in some way without really knowing how or why.

One feels lost in a fun house, full of confusing ideas that turn back on themselves by wondering what is deconstructing what and when or how; whether imagination is more real than what we determine to be real and so on. As guest curator Kevin Moore says, “Contemporary photographs are tricky concoctions. . . . Particularly today, in an ultramediated culture of tepid Facebook friendships and corporate propaganda and political spin and industrially manufactured foods, the desire to cut through the layers separating us from the real is more urgent than ever.”

Lurching from something as intense as Larry Clark’s “Tulsa” work to Laurie Simmon’s “Walking Cake II” and then on to Eggleston’s “Untitled (Memphis) and on to Jack Pierson’s “Fate” perfectly captures the Generation Text mind and therefore is actually perfectly suited to our times – so much stimulus coming from every direction at the same time. I’m not sure that Mr. Moore’s goal of cutting through layers (of what?) to the real can be accomplished without adderall.

The lack of boundaries around this exhibit extends to a lack of boundaries between Mr. Traina and the museum. He is a board member of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (managing organization for the de Young) and the son of its president, Dede Wilsey. This raises all kinds of ethical questions about using the show to enhance the value of the Traina works, whether the museum board is serving the community or themselves, and if nepotism were not a factor, would the collection be worthy of such a show. But, for my personal pleasure, I was happy to see the show, try to look past the fashionable art speak of the catalogue and connect with humanity and myself in new ways, which is more than enough for a vacation excursion.

As John Szarkowski put it with his famous mirrors and windows analogy, there are basically two types of photographers – those who take photographs of things to show what they look like when photographed, and those who take photographs of things because they’re engaged in some process of (self) discovery. They either shed light onto the inner experience or show us an aspect of the outer world. The Traina exhibit is a mad fun house careening back and forth between mirrors and windows – very much the opposite of the Pier 24 collection, with its very thoughtful, purposeful choices. The di Rose collection might be somewhere in the middle of the spectrum: largely experiments in self-discovery but with some reaching out to look at and document the world. Whatever your personal cup of tea might be, these are three worthy offerings for the summer.

Image and text courtesy of Le Journal de La Photographie

Martin Parr - ArtInfo

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July 2, 2012

Atlanta's High Museum Sends Three Photographers to Discover Unique Pockets of the American South

Alanna Martinez

Martin Parr, Staff at The Silver Skillet Restaurant, 2011
Click here to view slideshow from "Picturing the South"

WHAT: “Picturing the South”

WHEN: Through September 2, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday 10am-5pm, Thursday 10am-8pm, Sunday noon-5pm.

WHERE: The High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree Street, Atlanta.

WHY THIS SHOW MATTERS: For the 16th installment of the High Museum of Art’s “Picture the South” exhibition, which began in 1996 for Atlanta’s Olympic Games, photographers Martin ParrKael Alford, and Shane Lavalette have turned their cameras towards America’s Southern states, capturing the daily lives, hardships, and surroundings of the people there. Each year the museum commissions photographers to create work inspired by the American South, which serves the dual purpose of simultaneously boosting the museum’s holdings and providing fresh contemporary works for summer exhibitions that feature prominent emerging and established artists, with past participants like Sally MannDawoud BeyAlex Webb, and Alec Soth.

This year, Parr’s photographs combine humor and the non-objective perspective of an outsider to create a heartfelt American romanticism focused on subjects like waitresses, the quintessential foods of a state fair, and tailgating traditions. Parr’s subjects are always displayed in action, his characters inseparable from their narrative.

Lavalette presents much more somber and meditative views of his subjects, choosing to concentrate on the relationships between Southern music and the modern landscape. He shows locations that were formerly frequented but now sit empty, like the one-too-many-times scrawled upon and now unoccupied bar table in “Ground Zero” (2010). The photograph testifies to the ghostly presence of the local population. His portraits of people project the same stillness, as they appear mostly alone, absorbed in thought or enraptured by music.

Lastly, Alford’s documentation of the marshlands in Louisiana impacted by coastal erosion and environmental disaster take their cues from Catherine Opie and Dorthea Lange, with a piercingly tight focus and a prevailing spirit.

“Picture the South” strives to offer a varied but balanced perspective of a tremendously diverse population and landscape, and succeeds by providing three vastly different angles of vision. Together they make up a perceptive vista that is definitively American.

Image and text courtesy of ARTINFO

Martin Parr at Brisbane Powerhouse Arts

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Now Worries by Martin Parr

July 26 - September 23, 2012

Commissioned by FotoFreo: The City of Fremantle Festival of Photography in 2011, Martin Parr documents the work and leisure of people in Western Australian port towns and coastal cities, revealing something unique about the coastal dwelling population and Australian life in general.

In 2011 Magnum photographer Martin Parr, as a special project for FotoFreo, set out to photograph three Western Australian port cities, Fremantle, Port Hedland and Broome. Each town was a unique setting for a photographer famed for his images of British seaside culture in the publication Last Resort. Using his unmistakably intimate and satirical style, Parr went about photographing Australian clichés, full of saturated colours and flash photography. The resulting photographs, published here for the first time, are an invaluable collection from this world-renowned British photographer.

In Martin’s own words, “No Worries. This is a phrase that seems to encapsulate the rather delightful, laid back approach that the West Australians adopt. I quickly noticed that nearly everyone I met in Broome and Port Hedland in particular used this phrase, and once observed the title was a done deal.”

“No Worries. This is a phrase that seems to encapsulate the rather delightful, laid back approach that the West Australians adopt. I quickly noticed that nearly everyone I met in Broome and Port Hedland in particular used this phrase, and once observed the title was a done deal.” -Martin Parr

"Magnum is a community of thought, a shared human quality, a curiosity about what is going on in the world, a respect for what is going on and a desire to transcribe it visually." - (Henri Cartier-Bresson)

Text and image courtesy of Brisbane Powerhouse Arts

Martin Parr

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Martin Parr: Picturing the American South

Hot Dogs, Atlanta, 2010
Click here to view photo gallery

The High Museum of Art commissioned Martin Parr to document Atlanta as part of its Picturing the South project—a series of artist commissions that engage with the American South. Channeling his unparalleled ability to collate humor, wit, and curiosity into his heavily socio-cultural photographs, Parr captured the oddities and eccentricities of contemporary Americana.

British-born Parr, whose photography career spans over 30 years, is known for his provocative documentary style by using cultural criticism through an exaggerated and humorous light. His analysis of how we live is not simply satire, as Parr offers his audience an approach to seeing which acts not to denounce, but to highlight (both aesthetically and thematically) patterns between people, the things we consume and the milieus in which we live.

The outcome of the museum’s commission offers a vivid, comedic and touching perspective on the diversity that lies in Atlanta. Parr covers a large body of subject matter in his findings, which ranges from the high and low—juxtaposing images from a gallery opening to an oddly lengthy corn dog on a stick. Parr’s images offer insight which would only be found through the lens of a meticulous and curious outsider.

Beyond the exhibition at the High Museum of Art, Italian publisher Contrasto released a book, Up and Down Peachtree: Photographs of Atlanta, and a documetary, Hot Spots: Martin Parr in the American South. The book, a meticulously edited and impeccably designed object in its own right, is printed without text beyond the book’s title and colophon—which, undeniably, is a testament to Parr’s talent for storytelling. The documentary is a 60-minute lens behind the lens where documentarian Neal Broffman followed Parr photographing around Atlanta. The documentary includes interviews with noted curators, writers, critics and photographers, and offers a look into at Parr’s real-life affable personality and interactions with his subjects. Below, Contrasto has given LightBox an exclusive clip on the documentary:

Text, image and video courtesy of Time Lightbox

Martin Parr — New Monograph

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Martin Parr's monograph Up and Down Peachtree captures moments from everyday life in Atlanta, Georgia. This volume accompanies the exhibition Picturing the South at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, which features this work alongside other commissioned projects by contemporary artists Kael Alfrod and Shane Lavalette.

For more information about the High Museum exhibition and its artists, click here.