Tag Archives: Martin Parr

Daniel Meadows

Daniel Meadows series June Street was made in 1972 together with fellow student, Martin Parr.  June Street, Salford was originally the street where soap opera Coronation Street was filmed. The street was earmarked for demolition and Meadows and Parr were curious about the inhabitants of the actual houses vs the inhabitants of those in the soap opera.

The images feature the families living in June Street at that time.  I found a familiar nostalgia while watching the video below and also looking at the images online (and I’m not British). Certain elements in the photographs were familiar to me and brought back recollections of my youth: the reproduction portrait of a beautiful Latin-looking femme fatale (we had a similar one in our house – I remember my father loved the picture so much that he even named the woman Tina);  the old oil heaters; the prints of the big-eyed sad children on the verge of tears; straggly rubber plants; the octagonal mirror; and of course the garish wall paper, not to mention the style of furniture and carpets. In some of the images evidence of laundry can be seen hanging to dry in the sitting room. My favourite image has to be the one with the pair of pantihose hanging next to the fire place held in place by a statuette on the mantel. The pantihose are the punctum to this otherwise rather formal portrait.

It is amazing how similar the houses are in contents and decor.  The point of view is very similar in all the photographs. Most of the photographs feature the focal point of the room, i.e. the oil heater or fire place with the family posed next to it. The poses are rather formal as if they were taken in a photographic studio, but the inclusion of the weekly wash, pets and budgies belies that fact.

Daniel Meadows explains the whole project in the video below. Please click on the image to access the video.

Click on image above to play video
Click on image above to play video
Reference List

DEVELOP Tube (2013).  June Street – by Daniel Meadows [user-generated content online] Creat. Daniel Meadows. 13 January, 2013.  5 min 13 sec Available at: https://vimeo.com/57256051 (Accessed 25 September, 2016)

Magnum Photos (1972) Martin Parr – GB. ENGLAND. June Street. 1972 [online]. Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/Catalogue/Martin-Parr/1972/GB-ENGLAND-June-Street-1972-NN162445.html [Accessed 30 September, 2016]

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Reflection – Parr vs Wood

Parr and Wood were photographing new Brighton at the same time during the early 1980s. Parr claimed ‘I am a documentary photographer, and if I take a good photograph in the process, that’s a bonus.’ Wood stated ‘I’m interested in good photographs, and if they document something, so much the better!’ (Wood, 2005, p.33).

Which of these approaches most closely reflects your own experience?

Course manual p. 46

After watching the video on Tom Wood I think that my own experience definitely leans more towards that of Tom Wood than Martin Parr. When doing street photography I tend to go out and try and get interesting photos. I don’t always realise it at the time, but when I get home I do sometimes find that I have some images that would fit into a documentary category. But I really just start out with a blank slate in my mind and go with the flow of whatever is happening on that particular day and try and have some fun.

Puerto Vallarta - Lynda Kuit 2016
Puerto Vallarta – Lynda Kuit 2016

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Martin Parr

Gerry Badger1 describes Martin Parr as “not quite an out-and-out modernist, not quite a postmodernist.” Parr is someone who is a successful photojournalist, who also works conceptually and exhibits in galleries and museums. He is comfortable working in all facets of life, in all cultures, but is probably best known for his tongue-in-cheek photography about modern culture. When Parr switched from doing black and white photography to making colour photos in the 1980s his vision changed  from “gritty romanticism to hyaline realism2.”

Martin may deploy humor, in a typically English, somewhat mordant fashion, but at root he is commenting upon modern mores, from a sharp, edgy, ironic, critical, yet consistent political point of view.

Badger, Gerry3 (2010 :9)

Parr is a critical observer of consumer culture which he uses to playfully and ironically depict his subjects.

In his series Japanese Commuters which the course material points us to, we can see that Parr has photographed all his subjects unaware. The fact is they are all asleep. The set of images is a humorous typology of Japanese commuters on a train, all but one, almost doubled over in their sleep, as if deep in prayer. They are definitely not flattering portraits: the subjects’ vulnerabilities on show for all to see. We notice the thinning hair on some, noses that appear distorted or even almost non-existent. Only a few of the subjects have visible mouths.

How often have I not sat on the bus watching my fellow Asian travellers take a seat and within a minute of the bus moving off from the stop find them nodding off into oblivion. Or be in the unlucky position (or seat) of having such a person sitting next to me and have him/her nodding off on my shoulder! Take it from me – it is not a pleasant experience! So in my mind’s eye I am watching Parr’s subjects for clues as to which way they are going to lean when the train changes direction around a curve or comes to a halt at the station.

What a difference in style from Walker Evans’ subway portraits to Martin Parr’s Japanese commuters! As Geoff Dyer4 (2007: 7) states in The Ongoing Moment “To see if style could be identified in and by … content. The only way to do this was to see how different people photographed the same thing.” Evans shows us engaged passengers or passengers deep in thought in their own private world in the context of the carriage. Parr shows us obscure angles of people’s heads, rendering them almost featureless and totally anonymous, completing overflowing the frame. The lone figure in Parr’s set who is not doubled over in sleep is sitting upright, but we cannot see his face. Parr has cut off his head at mid neck level and all we see is the gold knot of his silk tie, the pinstripes of his dark suit and white shirt. He becomes even more anonymous than his sleeping counterparts. We can make out no context whatsoever in Parr’s images and have to rely on his captions to anchor the context of his images.

At the level the literal image, the text replies … to the question: what is it? The text helps to identify purely and simply the elements of the scene and the scene itself: it is a matter of a denoted description of the image … the caption helps me choose the correct level of perception …

Barthes5 (1977, p. 39)

Reference List
  1. Badger, Gerry (2010). The Pleasures of Good Photographs, Essays by Gerry Badger, published by Aperture in June 2010 [online]. Available at: http://www.gerrybadger.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/ParrByBadger.pdf [Accessed 19 July, 2016]
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Dyer, Geoff (2007). The Ongoing Moment. New York: First Vintage Books Edition
  5. Barthes, Roland (1977). Rhetoric of the Image in Image, music, text. London: Fontana Press
  6. Parr, Martin (1998) Tokyo Commuters [online]. Magnum Photos. Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2S5RYD12J76K [Accessed 20 July 2016]