Phaidon Press Inc.
Martin Parr presents a retrospective of the leading British photographer's 30-year career, entirely appropriate to Parr's wry, equivocal look at nostalgia and tradition. A suburban warrior from Surrey, Parr 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), Parr has a mildly obsessive quality that is central to his art and--through his books, exhibitions, television documentaries, and most notably, his work for magazines and newspapers--is immediately recognizable, as well as influential, as Richard Billingham's Ray's a Laugh demonstrates. Parr's 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...." Val Williams is also conscious of that fact in her lively essays that accompany the image selections from Parr's career, following 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 they lose the intuitive third dimension that 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, Amazon.co.uk
This Martin Parr retrospective is rich in the wit and colour that Parr's work is best known for, but also offers the first serious assessment of the career of this major contemporary photographer. Parr combines an urge to document with a bemusement about social behaviour. Author Val Williams, a distinguished writer and curator, considers his better known later work in the context of his full career and in so doing shows how Parr's photographs have highlighted political and social change over the last thirty years.
While Parr began his career in Britain, he now has a large international following. This book offers the overview that many have eagerly awaited. It features fascinating previously unpublished early work, his startling and original 1974 installation Home Sweet Home, early black-and-white photographs of the people and places of Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire where he lived and worked in the 1970s, photographs from Ireland and Salford, and of course a selection of the very best images from all his published books including The Last Resort, The Cost of Living, Signs of the Times and Think of England (published by Phaidon). With unlimited access to Parr's archives and quoting from extensive interviews, Val Williams charts Parr's life and career, revealing insights into his influences and attitudes and assessing his importance within the worlds of art and photography.