On 17th February 2011 we went to see Martin Parr give a lecture about his work and how he became the prolific photographer that he is today. My knowledge of Martin Parr was very limited, I know he is a photographer and that he photographed a woman by a petrol pump - other than that I was simply clueless.
The trip was compulsory and free so we had to go. It was at the Galpharm Stadium in Huddersfield, it is a rugby or football stadium which I have never and probably will never step foot in again - with not being a football or rugby fan and all that.
The lecture began with Martin Parr talking in front of a powerpoint presentation about how he was influenced by his uncle to start taking photographs. He showed us some of the pictures from the beggining of his career, looking at these images it was clear that people interest him and that they are at the forefront of his work. The photographs he began with were of a group of bird-watchers, including his uncle, the images like much of his work didn't include birds, but people instead.
He went on (quite a bit) to explain about some of his favourite projects, they included peoples living rooms and a period where his black and white film photographs were laboriously hand coloured. I enjoyed listening to him talk so enthuisiastically about his love for photography and determination to capture the moment. There were a lot of highlights from this lecture, I was pleasently surprised to see that his first solo exhibition was not conventional at all - the way he laid it out was more like an installation, it was a reconstruction of a living room complete with shoddy wallpaper and tacky photo frames from Woolworths, it injected humour into what could have just being another arty-farty-poncy run of the mill exhibition.
Another highlight was an on going project 'Auto Portrait' where he travels the world having his portrait taken, in Russia he had his photo taken with Vladimir Putin - it was a back-drop, not the real deal unfortunatley. The bizarre and interesting customs of world portraiture are represented within these works and it is delightful to see them embraced rather than shunned as is stereotypically presumed with the British tourist. In the Parrworld segment he told us about his collection and fascination with 'odd' memorobillia, for instance he has amassed a lot of Saddam Hussein watches, he exhibited these during his Parrworld exhibition. I also found the Boring Postcards rather witty - Boring is a town in the USA, so he played on the name and created an ecclectic book with postcards of a 'Boring' town.
The lecture was topped off with a question and answer session, I didn't feel like subjecting him to my monotone voice; although one girl asked, 'What if people don't want their picture taken?', to which Martin Parr replied, 'The good thing about this country is we have the freedom to take pictures unlike places such as France', this wasn't a good enough answer as she responded with, 'But that doesn't make it right!' - the microphone was then swifty taken away from the girl. Martin Parr's response was much better than what my GCSE photography teacher told us - Just tell them to fuck off and take it anyway.
Picture courtesy of The New York Times