In a career spanning over forty years, British photographer Martin Parr has forged a reputation as the great chronicler of modern life. His images—lurid, intimate, and immediately relatable—capture the everyday in all of its visceral strangeness; whether snapping the English working class towelling-down at the beach, or shooting tourists gazing into the Grand Canyon, Parr seems always to be there—an approachable, unthreatening figure (he’s admitted that you need to be “fearless” to do what he does)—camera raised, pacing between the beach towels and ice-cream vans.
In a special edition of Photographers in Focus, commissioned for the launch of Magnum Learn, a new online learning platform for photography and visual storytelling from the world-leading photo cooperative—courses are for beginners and practitioners alike—we get a closer look at Parr’s thoughts and process, courtesy of filmmaker Joppe Rog.
As we learn, Parr’s early images constituted raw monochrome portraits of working class towns in the North of England, while his later work would leave the terraces in search of the places where people spend their leisure time—whether at suburban dances, neon-lit arcades, or sprawling city parks. If the likes of Ken Loach and Shane Meadows have defined ‘kitchen sink drama’ in this northern European nation, Parr takes us beyond the sink—and into the country roads and caravan parks that lie beyond, bringing his appreciation for big characters and playfully composed scenes along for the ride.
At a time when working class culture, particularly in the UK, has been eroded by social policies and reviled in the press, Parr finds great solace, humor, and beauty in the country’s everyday life—upholding the proud traditions of fish and chips, show jumping, and tea shops, even as these phenomena seem doomed to disappear.
Discover Magnum Learn’s first online course, The Art of Street Photography, featuring Martin Parr and others at learn.magnumphotos.com