This major retrospective explores the career of Martin Parr, arguably the most influential and innovative figure in British social documentary photography. Bringing together around 150 works and several installations, the exhibition explores the provocative, incisive and humorous nature of Parr’s internationally established and distinctive vision.
A significant portion of Parr’s early black and white work from the 1970s was created in West Yorkshire and Greater Manchester – Hebden Bridge, Todmorden, Mytholmroyd, Elland, Halifax, Rochdale and Salford – and provides both a fascinating record of time and place together with an insight into the development of Parr’s photographic agenda.
In the 1980s Parr produced several startling and challenging colour series, uniting a growing political awareness with a preoccupation with the domestic and mundane. These included The Last Resort (1983-86), looking at the declining seaside town of New Brighton and The Cost of Living (1986-89), dealing with the then-new phenomenon of the upwardly mobile. Some of the most biting images of this period come from the chaotic consumerism of a booze-cruise, captured in a lesser known series, One Day Trip (1989).
With Small World (1990-95) Parr was to chronicle the foibles of travel and tourism, uncovering the most unlikely commonalities amongst people and places across the globe, from postcard stands to wearing socks with sandals. On his travels he also began to assemble his Autoportraits – photographs of himself taken at photography studios from Odessa to San Francisco.
More recent projects include Common Sense (1999), a colour saturated examination of the minutiae of consumerism and waste; and Cherry Blossom (2000), a series of images of the fake cherry blossom in Tokyo shop window displays.
The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensively illustrated prize-winning book written by the exhibition curator, Val Williams, and published by Phaidon.
The exhibition is originated by the National Museum of Photography, Film & Television, Bradford, Barbican Gallery, London and Magnum Photos, London.