Martin Parr

Last Wednesday I took Gareth over to Exeter Phoenix to see Martin Parr talk.

He (Gareth) has been feeling a little un-inspired about his photography, and combined with the January blues he was feeling a bit down, and I saw this advertised in the excellent weekly Creative Torbay email. Every week there seems to be something in that email that I want to attend, go and see or read about or visit, and this week was no different!

I first heard of Martin Parr when I was at University, about 5 or 6 years ago. He turned up in a few Design Theory lectures (not in person) and very soon I had looked at most of his work either in the University library or on the internet, and he quickly became one of my fabourite photographers. When Gareth first got back into photography, (again, about 5 years ago), one of the things that got him inspired was the BBC’s The Genius of Photography series, and the book that accompanied the series had a few of Martin Parr’s pieces in it… and Gareth became a fan too.

I bought him tickets, and surprised him a bit later with them… and after nearly a week of him being very excited, we headed over to Exeter to see Martin Parr.

He spoke for about an hour, taking us through his career with photos, and funny anecdotes, from his Grandfather encouraging him and inspiring him and his first exhibition – Home Sweet Home, through to his present work including some films he has been working on and nearly everything in between. My favourite work of Parr’s is his British photography – the images form “Resort” of a British summertime beach resort, “The Cost of Living” – photos of middle class life in a supermarket, and “Think of England”. I love the way he snaps people and life in general. He has a fantastic way of seeing things, most are amusing and entertaining, but with a subtle message underneath about us and the way we live our lives. Aesthetically, they are unusual, saturated and full of colour.

He also spoke of the trouble he had getting into Magnum, how he was not what they wanted, and had to fight to get a majority vote:

“Anyone who was described as Margaret Thatcher’s favourite photographer certainly didn’t belong in Magnum. His photographs titillate in some way, but the fact is that they are meaningless.” (Phillip Jones Griffiths)

He talked of his collections, which was one of the things that made me want to find out more about him back when I was a student. He collects Margaret Thatcher memorabilia, watches with Saddam hussein on the face (amazingly he has around 80?!), Miners Strike Commemorative Plates, and trays with photos on them… to name but a few. I can really identify with this, I collect and hoard too, and often get moaned at for the “junk” I have lying around…

We thoroughly enjoyed listening to him talk, he was interesting, and not just about photography, funny and charming. The hour went by far too quickly, and if I ever get a chance to hear him talk again, I’ll definitely go. In the meantime, I recommend having a look at his website, and buying some of his many many books…


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