In Pictures: Martin Parr’s Work And Leisure

Autoportrait by Martin Parr (install shot, Firstsite). All images by Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

To mark their new Martin Parr exhibition, Firstsite’s Director Sally Shaw interprets his unique satirical take on British culture; spanning 40 years and 300 photographs, and documenting the underbelly of British life before Brexit…

Above install shot: I like the systematic nature of Parr’s Autoportraits. I can imagine how this series started, 30 years ago; bored, travelling photographer goes to someone else’s photography studio. Also, I like the honesty of Parr’s ageing face as the series progresses.

The Last Resort (1985) by Martin Parr (detail)

Above: The Last Resort (1983-85): This is my favourite photograph from the whole show. This young woman is a blast from our collective past. Taken in Thatcherite Britain, she’s kind of telling us to look how history may be repeating itself. Also, the composition is great: boy looking at woman’s chest gripping cone with two melting mounds of ice-cream. So much innuendo.

The Last Resort (1985) by Martin Parr (detail)

Above: The Last Resort (1983-85): I’ve just had a baby. I really need a holiday. It’s likely to be in the UK.

Leisure by Martin Parr (detail)

Above: Leisure: This woman is at a Billionaire’s convention. Apparently they were launching Trump vodka. So timely. I’m not sure I’m a fan of the way Parr depicts women. They seem to come off as disempowered more often than not. She looks like perhaps her riches aren’t paying off. 


Above: Leisure: Japan. Miyazaki, The Ocean Dome (1996). This one is fantastic. It took me ages to realise they’re indoors. I like to watch and see how long it takes other people to realise.


Above: Work: Teddy Gray’s confectionery manufacturer (2010). My husband and I went to Blackpool on our unofficial honeymoon. I love a stick of rock. Why is only one guy wearing gloves? Again, lots of great symbolism and use of colour. Hilariously phallic and serious and mundane at the same time. 


Above: I love the wobbliness of these homemade rhubarb tarts from the Rhubarb Triangle commission (2015-16), made for the original Hepworth Wakefield exhibition. There’s something horrifyingly fleshy about this image, too. I’m also interested in the recent resurrection of home baking as a ‘lifestyle’ activity.  

Rhubarb Triangle (2015-16), Martin Parr

Above: Rhubarb Triangle (2015-16). Martin Parr is great at drawing lines in the sands of time with each of his photos. I think this will be one we will look back at with hindsight and question a dying industry. This could also be a statue, not a photograph. A monument to manual labour. I find Parr’s framing very visually satisfying; there’s always plenty of space to see the full picture. 

Non-Conformists, Martin Parr

Above: The Non-Conformists (1970s). In the same way that Parr uses satirical devices to create humorous undertones, I picked this early work as a way to animate this area of Firstsite’s exhibition. Mounted to the doors, the image — taken in the Yorkshire Pennine mill town of Hebden Bridge – splits and invites visitors to step into and immerse themselves in Parr’s photography.

Sally Shaw

See Martin Parr: Work and Leisure – a Hepworth Wakefield Touring Exhibition – at Firstsite, Colchester, Essex, until Sunday 2 October 2016 — FREE. Open seven days a week, 10am – 5pm

Posted on 09/08/2016 by thedoublenegative