Thursday, March 18, 2010

On Parr


I have known Marin Parr for almost 20 years and during that time I have observed his career with interest. He is an unusual photographer in the sense that he has always shunned the values that Magnum was built on. Not for him any of our concerned ‘finger on the pulse of society’ humanistic photography. He preached against us and was bold enough to deride us in print while his career as an ‘art’ photographer mushroomed…When he applied for associate membership I pointed out that our acceptance of him into Magnum would be more than simply taking on another photographer. It would be the embracing of a sworn enemy whose meteoric rise in Magnum was closely linked with the moral climate of Thatcher’s rule. His penchant for kicking the victims of Tory violence cause me to describe his pictures as ‘fascistic’ … Today he wants to be a member. The vote will be a declaration of who we are and a statement of how we see ourselves. His membership would not be a proclamation of diversity but the rejection of those values that have given Magnum the status it has in the world today. Please don’t dismiss what I am saying as some kind of personality clash. Let me state that I have great respect for him as the dedicated enemy of everything I believe in and, I trust, what Magnum still believes in.
-Phillip Jones Griffiths

Which pair of eyes would you trust?

Traditionally the portrayal of poverty has been the domain of the ‘concerned photographer’, but I photograph wealth in the same spirit.  -Martin Parr

Like Parr, the best "concerned photographers" are also just as enthusiastic and "concerned" with getting as artistic an image as possible- although admittedly, their subject matter isn't quite as prone to ridicule, scorn or outright contempt. The irony in "concerned photography" is based on how so called civilized society can deal with and often allow such injustice, inequality and atrocity. The irony in Parr's Luxury essay is in how the rich and wealthy carry themselves about so totally self absorbed and self centered, and that despite their wealth and education, are none the wiser parodies of the under educated and often equally  materially obsessed "lower classes" they pridefully raise their noses at. And Parr certainly doesn't mind letting his dayglo color images of the rich and richer gently sway and twist in the wind at their own expense. No, he'll never be mistaken for your traditional concerned photographer, but he certainly can, at times, balance the same equation.

The only people I could empathize (and sympathize) with in Luxury.

1 comment:

Mark Page said...

It's true you do get real equality of class when it comes to 'piss taking' from Mr Parr.