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View Full Version : Discussing a Martin Parr picture



David H. Bebbington
09-13-2006, 10:19 AM
I have strong views about MP in general and this picture in particular but will keep them to myself for now. Look forward to your comments!

Regards,

David

clogz
09-13-2006, 10:25 AM
It certainly is photorealism and it shows tourism in all its gaudiness. There are people that don't like Martin Parr for his focus on this aspect of society.

Hans

John Bragg
09-13-2006, 10:49 AM
Hi David,

There is a strong sense of fun in this picture and I love the way he has got down to the same eye level as the children. Very bright and typical M.P.

Regards, John.

blansky
09-13-2006, 11:07 AM
Nice snapshot.


Michael

Dan Fullerton
09-13-2006, 11:20 AM
I was not familiar with Martin Parr and so visited his website. I enjoyed the various areas of the site and particularly the portfolio work. The few black and white photos I found were the typical grainy/photojournalist work I don't care for. Success with this close, personal photography is difficult. He has the ability to capture the moment as well as any of the earlier photographers. It was interesting to read of his choices of film and the fact he does not use Photoshop. His use of color is eyecatching, I can see the advertising side to many of his photographs with human interest and bright color. The attached thumbnail speaks to me of the future of photography, and how photography can be a tool to keep families together.

Jim Chinn
09-13-2006, 11:24 AM
I like it but it makes me a little sad. I often am amazed when I am on vacation and see folks with a video camera glued to their eye, almost non-stop. I often wonder if they actually experience the place they are at, or have we reached a point where the only experience some people can relate to is if it is played back through the TV?

I think we are rapidily approaching the time when all tactile experience will only be satisfactory through some type of interface or intervening medium.

I guess it is a puzzle to me how some people find the recording of an event or trip more important then really experiencing it at the time.

I love the color in the image. It was interesting to read to previous post about Parr not using photoshop, but for anyone who has seen color work starting in the mid to late 80s you find his images are always keen on clashing, contrasting colors in some aspect of the image.

bjorke
09-13-2006, 11:57 AM
He typically uses a ringflash to flatten the tone::color ratio. He also famously used a Plaubel Makina for a long time, but has used a variety of gear, including celphones. The self-reflection onto snapshots and other functions of photography in social context is a Big Deal for him.

Here's a Juan Buhler photo of Parr being snapped by my celphone:

http://static.flickr.com/22/90981960_a841c89d6e_m_d.jpg -> http://static.flickr.com/41/94352412_bf78c09873_m.jpg

A difficulty (ongoing) with this "discuss a...photograph" topic is that the photos are embedded in a particular context. Parr's famous advocacy of book form makes this particularly prominent.

Gerald Koch
09-13-2006, 12:10 PM
I find the picture mildly humorous in that the photographer is being photographed. However, the background is far too cluttered and the picture would have been better had the background been out of focus to de-emphasise it.

David H. Bebbington
09-13-2006, 09:01 PM
A difficulty (ongoing) with this "discuss a...photograph" topic is that the photos are embedded in a particular context. Parr's famous advocacy of book form makes this particularly prominent.
When I first heard of Parr, I had major difficulty with what I felt was his attitude, somewhat along the lines of: "Popular culture is crass and tasteless - look at these pictures for evidence! Of course, although I [Parr] was also present at this crass and tasteless scene, I am myself not crass and tasteless because I have a) a camera and b) an ironical viewpoint!"

I felt this particularly with his early New Brighton series (pictures of working class mothers and children sitting on stone promenades surrounded by garbage at a beach in the Liverpool area). I met Parr at a 4-day workshop, he was an affable enough guy on a personal level. One of the things he did at the workshop was take out about 1,000 8x10" machine prints which he had had made of a recent shoot in Switzerland (a commission by a Swiss bank) and ask us for our views on how to edit them. He had concentrated on food on plates, among other things, and I told him that I felt he had made the error which non-German-speakers often make of thinking Switzerland is like Germany - I felt his work was superficial. He made it clear that he was not all that interested in the commission, only the fee, and that the client would accept whatever the art consultant told him was good! I was later amused to learn that Henri Cartier-Bresson was violently opposed to Parr joining Magnum because of MP's lack of human empathy!

To get back to Bjorke's quote: Notwithstanding my views on Parr, I think the picture I posted is a masterpiece. The kids are dressed in plastic, are looking at plastic and indeed have turned their backs on reality in favor of the plastic which they prefer. In no way is this a snapshot - it's much too clever - and if there is clutter, it's deliberate - the clutter of tourist junk is obscuring the historic buildings.

BUT - this picture makes its point so strongly that I can hardly see the need for any more (despite anything Parr may say). I am somewhat bemused that Parr has gone on for years and years making a major career out of saying "Popular culture is naff!" again and again and again

blansky
09-13-2006, 10:02 PM
I think this is a classic case of reading far too much into a picture.

Michael

David H. Bebbington
09-13-2006, 11:37 PM
I think this is a classic case of reading far too much into a picture.

Michael
But if so, Michael, how do you explain Parr's stellar career?

Regards,

David

catem
09-14-2006, 04:02 AM
I started out actively disliking Martin Parr's work, because I perceived his stance as somewhat arrogant, and even cruel at times. Then I tried to have an open mind and looked at more of his work, which is something I try to do anyway with most photographers and artistis before coming to a final opinion. I began to see merit in his work and I liked some of it.

But overall my opinion has not shifted from my first impressions, although I admire his use of colour, and the way he made certain subject-matter suitable for serious (albeit ironic) consideration.

He is an ambiguous photographer - although he appears to have a democratic kind of approach to what a photograph is, he has been deemed 'successful' and is good at interviews and talking to young aspiring photographers, who generally seem to want to become him. He is definitely a self-confessed 'photographic artist' (trying to avoid that term 'fine artist' from another thread! It's different, anyway), rather than a documentary photographer in that his intent and yes, "ego" govern the work he comes up with, rather than, I think, the subjects and scenes, who sometimes become parodies of themselves (intentional, of course). The empathy bit that HC-B found lacking would not be paramount, but would take second place to his own artistic intentions.

I think his work is O.K. and has been important in various ways - but I think it's way past time other photographers were given a share of the limelight. Not altogether his fault, of course.

Cate

blansky
09-14-2006, 09:10 AM
But if so, Michael, how do you explain Parr's stellar career?

Regards,

David

I don't know. But I was commenting on this picture not his career.

Michael

David H. Bebbington
09-14-2006, 09:23 AM
... I began to see merit in his work and I liked some of it.
...
Cate
Would you care to amplify this? What merit do you see? It would interest me to learn this! Parr himself says that some people "get" his work, others just don't, which in a sense is a statement of the obvious! I perhaps can see some progression in his work away from the "Oh my dear! The squalor of the lower classes!" approach and more towards an almost affectionate documentation of human (particularly British) eccentricity. Posterity may end up regarding Parr in much the same light as some people see John Betjeman today!

Regards,

David

Will S
09-14-2006, 10:33 AM
This thread reminds me of Walker Evans' work depicting the streets of New York and the southern U.S. But, I think that Evans' work is deeper than Parr's in a number of ways. Evans' use of irony, for example, is resonant and meaningful, while Parr's is (to me) more superficial. If I think of, for example, Evans's picture of the woman wearing stripes standing in the door of the barbershop; this picture reveals an ironic (even sardonic) attitude about the woman's dress and the gauche paintjob of the scene and could be linked to various themes about the decay of the south, the reluctance of the south to morph into the prevailing American culture of the time, etc.

However, Evans manages to somehow (and I wish I knew how to do this myself) remove the subject itself (i.e. the woman and her position in the doorway) from the picture so that the combination of those elements form a complete and meaningful photographic whole. While I see irony in the Parr picture above similar to that in the Evans work, I don't perceive the same level of "desubjectification" necessary to transport the picture from snapshot to something more (and I'm not knocking snapshots here at all). I think Atget could be compared to Parr in a similar fashion as well.

Best,

Will

copake_ham
09-14-2006, 10:43 AM
The lenses and the round window on the rear building facade make an interesting triad - but overall I agree with Blansky that it's a snapshot.

catem
09-14-2006, 10:48 AM
Would you care to amplify this? What merit do you see? It would interest me to learn this! Parr himself says that some people "get" his work, others just don't, which in a sense is a statement of the obvious! I perhaps can see some progression in his work away from the "Oh my dear! The squalor of the lower classes!" approach and more towards an almost affectionate documentation of human (particularly British) eccentricity. Posterity may end up regarding Parr in much the same light as some people see John Betjeman today!

Regards,

David
Hmm ...now you put me on the spot, I suppose saying something has 'merit' could be damning with faint praise.

I suppose I'm saying his work isn't awful, I have in the past enjoyed looking at it and thinking about it, to a degree, but.....I do have more criticisms in the end than anything else. I think too often he draws us into a kind of conspiracy, so that we are very much with him, observing, rather than identifying with his subjects. I'm thinking of the girl with the bubble-gum - it should be a fun picture, but it should be her fun & enjoyment, instead she is a little ridiculous and in danger of being laughed at. Or the little naked red-headed boy who may be in the act of peeing - he is vulnerable in too many ways...

Martin Parr's pics were part of the Tender and True exhibition a while back, weren't they? They are as true, or not, as any other photographs, but to me they are not tender - unless meaning they hit a sore spot.

Here's a link for the bubble-gum photo, I'll try and find the other later.
http://www.buchcover.com/gallery/parr/01.jpg

Cate