Martin Parr (1994-09-30)

Martin Parr
Practice: Photography
Date of Lecture: 2000-10-13


Martin Parr is one of the most renowned British photographers of his generation. Born in Epsom, Surrey, Parr began photographing at a young age. He went on to study at Manchester Polytechnic, graduating in 1973. He gained early recognition, receiving three successive awards from the Arts Council of Great Britain. Since then he has hardly stopped shooting, exhibiting and publishing. He has 14 monographs to his name and has also worked in television and film.

Parr_Martin_w01Sedlescombe, from Think of England, (2000)

His landmark, controversial series “The Last Resort” won him a great deal of attention in the early eighties. His supporters heralded the work as the beginning of a new era in documentary photography, which in many ways it was. The photos focus on the British working class at their most uninhibited – during the holiday season at the aging seaside town of New Brighton. With “The Last Resort”, Parr refuted the black and white images that have long been characteristic of British social documentary. The beach-scenes are shot in medium-format colour film with flash to heighten the daylight. Parr’s subjects are often overweight, sunburned, surrounded by their screaming children. The beaches are cluttered with plenty of garbage; the water in which the children swim is murky and covered with a film of wrappers and bobbing styro-foam cups. Many have contested Parr’s depiction of the lower class, citing his willingness to emphasize the most unfavourable aspects of a people who suffered greatly under “Thatcherism”. Parr himself suggests that he has not cast his subjects in a negative light at all, that he is simply showing a people who are overcoming their limited standard of life in their enjoyment of simple holiday pleasures.

Parr_Martin_w03Sedlescombe, from Think of England, (2000)

His subsequent series have focused on issues of tourism, mass consumption, mass marketing, often depicting the lower and working classes engaged in their frenzied rituals of consumption. In 1994 he became a member of Magnum. Recently, Parr has been doing fashion and advertising photography.

Additional Links: