(screen grab from Martin Parr’s website © M Parr)
Our great chronicler of consumer culture was another big highlight of the LOOK3 festival of the photograph for me. Love him or hate him, I believe M. Parr to be a great advocate of photography. At LOOK3, he also proved himself to be an articulate speaker whose vision has method to its madness. While I don’t think words are necessary to understanding a photograph, they often augment, and I find it maddening when photographers can not speak engagingly about their work. Here, in no particular order are some nuggets from ParrWorld:
1. I disguise my images with humor. I am a concerned photographer. I feel a responsibility to not photograph nostalgia. To make it palatable you bring in irony to make it susceptible.
(for my own part, I call this the Mary Poppins/spoonful of sugar method – a method I attempt to employ in some of my own work, most notably Consumed & Off-Season)
2. You’ve got to change and push forward – you can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again. Commercially yes, but not the work you do for yourself.
3. Photographers are inspired by books, [and the book as an object is ever more critical today]
Truth be told, I will never love any of his work more than The Last Resort, but I appreciate his worldview and his obsession with collecting. When pursuing some of my projects, I often think of myself as a detective, locating clues that will unravel a larger mystery. Parr follows a similar avenue, looking at his picture taking as a kind of collecting.
OK, I lost the rest of my notes, but I’ll leave you with the one nugget I was able to claim from the train-wreck that was Gilles Peress conversation:
“As a viewer you process the image and make it yours.”
and another one I just found online, when searching for his non-existent website (who needs one when you have Magnum?)
“I don’t care so much anymore about ‘good photography’; I am gathering evidence for history”
Well that modality may work for a photographer emeritus like G. Peress, but I strive to both gather evidence for history and am very concerned with making a good photograph (whether or not I am succesful or not I will leave it to you to decide since you are the viewer processing the image and making it yours). I guess it just depends on how you define a good photo and your POV. I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive, history making and good photography. Comments, pro and dissenting, as always are welcome.