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Martin Parr

The British photographer Martin Parr is one of the photographers who have impressed me most during all this time that I have been studying photography. His work is simply brutal. If you are one of those people who have a hard time trying to understand the absurdity of this world, you just have to take a look at his photograph work and you will understand a little more about what is going on.

His photographs are simple, daring and fun. You will never be tire of seeing them. Through his travels around the world, Martin Parr shows us that despite our cultural differences as human beings and as society, deep down we have many things in common. His photographs are like a mirror that allows us to see, analyse and understand how we are, no matter where the photographs come from, because from the corner of the most isolated world we can recognize ourselves as complex, absurd and even grotesque creatures.

But let’s go back in the time to have a look at Parr’s work in the ‘80s with “Last Resort”, an amazing body work that show us the Liverpool beach resort of New Brighton, a popular destination for the working class. With a documentary style, Martin Parr shows us the less idyllic face of a “beach resort”. Because when we evoke this word, immediately come to our mind beautiful beaches with enough space to enjoy our outdoor holidays, being relax with family or friends in a natural environment where you can breathe fresh air. However, what the photographer shows us is quite the opposite: a cement beach so crowded that people have to be happy with leaving their own towel on the asphalt, bored parents of their children and kids playing in areas surrounded by garbage.

Although it seems an aberrant vision of a beach resort, that was the reality lived by the citizens of the ‘80s, and perhaps this photography job allowed to expose, denounce ironically and change this sad reality as other great photographer has already done through the history, each one with their own style, with their own vision of the world had been helped to change the life conditions of the citizens of that time.

Let’s leave everyone observe, analyse and have their own opinion about these photos, but it definitely surprised me. I was surprise to see and be aware that although these photos have been taken in the ‘80s, this sad representation of reality is still in force: bored parents of their children, who do not know what to do with them, or people on the beach enjoying their holidays surrounded by their own rubbish. Luckily, in some cities this situation has been improved, but in general every time “the modern human beings” meet to enjoy with their friend’s time and leisure space, we still continue behaving selfishly and polluting everything wherever we go.

The exhibition of this bodywork at London’s Serpentine Gallery in 1986 caused a big controversy. Critics condemned as cruel and voyeuristic. However, Parr maintains that his interest was not in class but in the truism of everyday life that people must deal with such as screaming children and bad weather.

Definitely, Parr’s one favourites subjects is watching people on the beach. His exhibition “Life’s a Beach” is a great collection of his photos of beachgoers around the world, in countries such as Argentina, Brazil, United States, Spain, China, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Thailand and UK we can recognise ourselves in this moment of leisure.

He is able to see and represent us through the simplest aspects of everyday life with a funny point of view, using sarcasm to get the colour out of us. He is like a spy, observing how we behave on the beach, he observes the things we buy and consume and then makes us a photo to have fun and tell us….look at yourself! And do you think you are modern using that? And after that He’s going to do an amazing photo-book with all this material, so be careful when you’ll be at the beach because somebody would be using a telephoto lens to capture the funniest moments.

In “A Nice Pop up show” he shows us again how people enjoy their holidays in this popular place such is Nice, France. “Nice is a very cosmopolitan city and I wanted to illustrate this heady mix in the show. The Russians have their own section of beach. The local Nicoise folk also have their own stretch, where – particularly in the morning – they congregate for an early dip before the crowds descend. The Japanese are noticeable for their umbrellas and sunhats, and then there is an ever-increasing number of the Chinese tourists: a new and very welcome addition to the tourist population”.

During his work on the beach, the photographer took his time to chat with the visitors, took them a photo and, after that, invited them to being part in the exhibition he was going to do in the city, so they could be part of his creative process. “During this project, my team from London were processing files, making prints and hanging the show, all in front of a stream of visitors who could watch the whole process. Twice a day I would return to base, download the recently shot images and – after an edit – pass on the next batch of images to be printed”. A different way of doing your work and make people being involve in.

He documents modern consumerist culture, leisure and communication, concepts that he has been researching for several decades. From “Remote Scottish Postboxes”, a nice journey through the beautiful and peaceful Scottish islands of Orkney, Shetland, Barra, Lewis and Islay he pointed his camera to make a regular post-boxes as a main character of his work.

“In Cuba Tourism” documents the growing tourism industry in the Island.

In “Oxford” we can know the life of the university, their parties and rituals of this ancient and famous place. In “Monaco Grand Prix” he photographed the most prestigious Formula 1 racing events, their famous and luxuries parties, the previous moments of the race, even how people go into the hills trying to overlook it with their prism a little bit of the races.

If you are a passionate about photography, I invite you to explore it’s website and enjoy an incredible journey observing people from all over the world thanks to these magnificent photo-books.

Here I leave some links for you to enjoy the photographs of Martin Parr… In which photo have you seen yourself reflected?


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