Martin Parr

Martin Parr (1952- ) was born in Epsom, Surrey, U.K. When he was a boy, his budding interest in the medium of photography was encouraged by his grandfather George Parr, himself a member of the Royal Photographic Society and keen amateur photographer. Parr studied the subject at Manchester Polytechnic from 1970 to 1973. Since that time, he has worked on numerous photographic and photographic book projects. Parr has developed an international reputation for highly innovative, unapologetically sensational and humorously subversive imagery, centered on the all-too-human condition.  He likes to take aim particularly at the subject of the social classes of England and more broadly at the wealth of the Western world.  Part photographer, part anthropologist, part comedian – Parr’s satiric, oblique approach to social documentary has made him stand out against the more sober approaches of his colleagues at Magnum Photos, where he has been a full member since 1994.  He has a gift for embracing and undermining his subjects in a single frame, all the while paying attention to fine design and saturated color, in which he has worked almost exclusively in the last years.  Major projects include “Rural Communities” (1975-1982),“The Last Resort” (1983-1985), “The Cost of Living” (1987-1989), “Small World” (1987-1994), and “Common Sense” (1995-1999). Most of his projects have been published in book form and to date Parr has more than 40 volumes.  Parr is also an obsessive collector of other artist’ books and in conjunction with Gerry Badger, Parr has put together, The Photobook: A History, (in three volumes).  He has also been a frequent guest curator of others’ works.  In recent years, Parr has developed an interest in making television, documentary and other films.  And he has started to use his photography within different conventions, such as fashion and advertising. In 2002 a large retrospective of Parr’s work was initiated by the Barbican Art Gallery and the National Museum. In 2004, Parr became Professor of Photography at the University of Wales, Newport.  In 2005, he was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. In 2008, Parr was given the Centenary Medal, Royal Photographic Society.  In 2008 Parr was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award, by PHotoEspaña. Parr has works in many major institutions as well as numerous private collections.

To quote the artist, “The fundamental thing I’m exploring constantly is the difference between the mythology of the place and the reality of it… Remember I make serious photographs disguised as entertainment. That’s part of my mantra. I make the pictures acceptable in order to find the audience but deep down there’s actually a lot going on that’s not sharply written in your face. If you want to read it, you can read it.”