Phaidon, LONDON, United Kingdom

Pig Pink Cakes (From: 'Common Sense') by Martin Parr

Martin Parr Biography

Surrey, UK, 1952

Perhaps the most successful British photographer of his generation, Magnum member Martin Parr creates colorful images that, ranging in subject from crumbling British seaside towns to international hubs of consumer culture, offer witty, unblinking insights into contemporary life.

Parr studied photography at Manchester College of Art in 1970. In 1983, he began taking photographs in New Brighton, a run-down seaside resort on the Wirral outside Liverpool in England. Built as a Victorian rival to its elegant namesake in the south, by the turn of the century it had become a favorite resort for working-class families and day-trippers from towns in the industrial north west. By the time Parr got there, three years into Thatcher's new government, New Brighton was in severe decline and so were the working- classes. Instead of the grainy black and white in which photographers had traditionally reflected Britain (particularly working-class Britain) for the past half-century, Parr took a medium-format camera, flash, and color film. It showed New Brighton and its holidaymakers in an unforgiving light. There was no safe veil of nostalgia, nothing subdued by black and white.

The pictures made Parr's reputation as a British photographer with a new vision of the country and its people. Since then, his work has developed around themes relating to contemporary, western reality: mass tourism, mass consumption, mass-marketing, global homogenization. Where photojournalists had habitually concentrated on the Third World and the starving, Parr observes the First World: the over-stimulated and the overfed. When Parr joined Magnum in 1988, he was a controversial choice. To many of the members Parr was the antithesis of the 'concerned photographer'. Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of Magnum's founders, described Parr as being from 'a different solar system', and it was true. Parr was photographing a country, Britain, that had changed so rapidly it barely resembled the one even he had grown up in. But few of us who live there could fail to recognize it now.

Selected permanent collections:

Arts Council of Great Britain, UK

Museum of Modern Art, New York

Philadelphia Museum of Art, USA

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles, USA

Tate Modern, London

Selected solo exhibitions;

1999 - 'Common Sense', toured to 43 locations worldwide

1995 - 'Small World', Photographer's Gallery, London

1995 - 'Small World' and 'From A to B', National Centre of Photography, Paris

1992 - 'Signs of the Time', Janet Borden, New York

1986 - 'The Last Resort', Serpentine Gallery, London

Selected group exhibitions:

1999 - 'Our Turning World: Magnum Photographers 1989-1999', Barbican Art Gallery, London

1994 - 'European Photography Award 1985-1994', Kultur Zentrum, Bad Hamburg, Germany

1991 - 'British Photography from the Thatcher Years', MOMA, New York

1990 - 'The Past and Present of Photography', MOMA, Tokyo, Japan

1979 - 'Three Perspectives on Photography', Hayward Gallery, London


Think of England, Phaidon, 2000

Common Sense, Dewi Lewis Publishing, 1999

Boring Postcards, Phaidon, London, 1999

The Last Resort, Dewi Lewis Publishing, Reprint of 1986 version, 1998

Small World, Dewi Lewis Publishing, 1995

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