British artist Martin Parr has revitalised contemporary documentary photography with his own brand robustness and variety and has addressed themes of consumerism, mass tourism and globalisation, with a distinctive wit and sense of irony. Described as ‘a splendid deadpan observer’, Martin Parr is arguably Britain’s key contemporary photographer, with an unmistakable point of view and signature, and an international following in the worlds of art, fashion and journalism. Parr is known for his photographic projects that take a critical look at aspects of modern life, in particular provincial and suburban life in England. Some of Martin Parr’s most famous artworks, films and books include Think of England, Common Sense, Bored Couples, Bad Weather, The Last Resort, Boring Postcards, Food and Luxury.
Martin Parr’s grandfather encouraged his early interest in photography, and he studied at the Manchester School of Art. Parr was first recognised for his black-and-white photography in the north of England such as Bad Weather and A Fair Day. In the early 1980s, Parr produced a series of photographs of New Brighton; a run-down seaside resort outside Liverpool entitledLast Resort: Photographs of New Brighton. The gaudy and sometimes grotesque imagery of these works seemed to reflect the spirit of Thatcher’s Britain, while echoing the tradition of tacky seaside postcards.
In Common Sense (1995-9), Martin Parr uses bright colours and exaggerated close-ups to explore the excesses of contemporary capitalism. Motifs such as heads, hats, hands, food and dogs are repeated throughout, creating a snatched catalogue of our all too familiar shortcomings.
Since 1994, Martin Parr has been a member of Magnum Photos and recent work has included collaboration with designer Paul Smith in Ilford, capturing people wearing Smith’s Autumn/Winter 2007 collection. In 2008, he was made an Honorary Doctor of Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University in recognition for his ongoing contribution to photography and to Manchester Metropolitan University’s School of Art. Parr has also won the Arts Council of Great Britain Photography Award.
Martin Parr has had almost 50 books published, and featured in around 80 exhibitions worldwide including an exhibition at the Baltic Centre of Contemporary Art in Newcastle and the Barbican Arts Centre, London. In 2007, his retrospective exhibition was selected to be the main show of Month of Photography Asia in Singapore and has since been shown in the Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid, the Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris and the Deichtorhallen in Hamburg. A retrospective of Martin Parr’s insights into Bristol and surrounding areas was also shown at Bristol museum M-Shed in 2011.