Monday, 18 October 2010

Pearls from Parr

At the weekend, I attended a Royal Photographic Society Event, called 'Getting Personal', at which the presenters were Martin Parr & John Darwell.  In general, I would have to say that the programme did not strictly address its title in a very direct or structured manner, but that did not detract from the enjoyment.  Martin Parr, in particular, is great value for money and listening to him talk about his career, his work and his approach, was a joy.  I have pulled out a few interesting points from the notes I took on the day:
  • Parr says that he photographs his prejudices (and hinted that he has a few; and that they are often strongly held).  You can see why such an approach would lead to strong images.
  • Specifically, he said that he likes to photograph the inherent vulnerability and ambiguity of British pomposity.  (I gained the feeling that he is, in the end, a subversive - though, I suppose, now part of the photographic establishment, perhaps.)
  • To be a photographer, he said, you have to be an obsessive.
  • Photography is inherently subjective and is always exploitative.
  • He mentioned two particular influences - American photographer Roger Minick and John Hinde's postcard photography (especially the Butlins postcards).
  • Says he does 'serious photography disguised as entertainment'.
  • He stresses the importance of 'throwing yourself' into the connection with your subject; also that many people spend too much time theorising rather than getting out an taking photographs.
  • He has a collection of more than 12,000 photo books (I think that was the right figure) - and it struck me that this is also his own 'output', the photobook as a work of art, compared with, say, Gursky, Wall and the like, who will produce a single, monumental piece of art in a single structured image.
Whilst not necessarily specifically about 'People and Place', there is some useful material here.  I like the notion of photographing you prejudices.  I can't instantly think how I would apply that; perhaps I don't have enough prejudices!

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