One of the leading British photographers of his, or any, generation, Martin Parr
presents a retrospective of Parr's 30-year career, a dynamic entirely appropriate to his wry, equivocal look at nostalgia and tradition. Suburban warrior from Surrey, he was one of the first to drag British photography from the realms of advertising, fashion or hobby to the pretensions of serious "art". A collector by nature, even a trainspotter, and inspired by picture postcards, as his superbly monotonous Boring Postcards
series bear witness, this mildly obsessive characteristic is at the centre of his art, which through his books, exhibitions, television documentaries and most notably, his work for magazines and newspapers, is immediately recognisable, and influential, as Richard Billingham's Ray's a Laugh
demonstrated. His themes are for the most part unwavering, yet ultimately, it's other people's taste that lights up his photographs.
Attracting critics as well as fans, including fellow Magnum member Henri Cartier-Bresson, who remains "highly suspicious" of Parr's photography, he has never flinched from his content, saying of it, "certainly my photographs have a critical bite to them. I knew I was middle-class ...". It is also something Val Williams is conscious of in her lively essays that accompany the image selections from his career, and which follow him from the North of England to Ireland, back to the Northwest, and then down to Bristol. From his early days taking snaps at Butlin's to his strongest projects such as The Last Resort, The Cost of Living and Think of England, he renders his subject curiously denuded, despite frequent heavy adornment. Of similar kitchen-sink, kitschy curiosity as Pulp explore in their so-English music, Parr is less concerned with the "ordinary" than with the life less ordinary, such as holidays or social occasions, at which we exhibit our most excruciating foibles. Interestingly, when he moves outside his native land, as with Small World, his pictures remain technically superb, but lose the intuitive third dimension which his engrossed Englishness provides when observing his own. Parr may divide the critics at times, but this tasty body of work argues persuasively for his provocative and accomplished take on life, snapped from the inside looking in. --David Vincent
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
‘handsomely produced retrospect’ Times Literary Supplement
‘Monumental’ Evening Standard, 18 February 2002
‘Beautifully illustrated’ Time Out
‘If you love Parr’s work, this book is a must; if you can’t see the point of it, Val Williams’ excellent text may illuminate things’ Amateur Photographer