My Blue Period

Martin Parr: seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary

One of my favorite photographers is, without a doubt, Martin Parr.

Martin Parr is a British photographer well-known for his anthropological and strongly satirical photography. What I madly love about him, is the fact that his apparently casual shots are actually a portrait of the modern society and Parr’s personal vision of it. Knowing this, a photograph becomes even more interesting. We naturally ask ourselves: “what is the photographer’s thought about this?” or “what do he want to make us notice through this shot? What is wrong? What should we criticize?”. Clearly the beauty of an image doen’t lie only in its possible meaning. The photographs of Parr are, in fact, unique. They seem exaggerated, almost grotesque, hyper colored and often badly set. But they are true. They depict what normally happens under our eyes. The only difference between us and Martin Parr is that we don’t pay attention to what is “usual”, while Martin Parr sees pure beauty in it. Here’s the genius: seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.

One thing I personally learned by studying street photography in New York, is being more attentive to what surrounds me. If you start paying more attention to the environment, to people walking around you, to their gestures and faces, you will start to discover beauty in them. Anyone can be the perfect subject for a shot, everyone is beautiful in his own way and is able to make unique a “click”.

But street photography, however unique, is also very complex. “I wouldn’t like to be photographed” you could say. In fact it’s just like that. A lot of people are annoyed at the idea of being “flashed” during their daily activities, maybe the only morning they didn’t make themselves presentable. I personally had a bad experience with a lady in Chinatown, New York, who annoyed by my repeated shots decided to throw me some cherries. So…how we can be good in that? Martin Parr gives us some tips.

  • First, do not despair if your subjects don’t smile, on the contrary, be happy. The shots with people not posing are more natural and objectively the better ones. “Don’t get everyone to smile; otherwise you’ll end up with the same old family propaganda.”
  • Get close. Don’t be afraid of reactions, no one, in theory, will punch you in the nose for it. “I go straight in very close to people and I do that because it’s the only way you can get the picture. You go right up to them. Even now, I don’t find it easy. I don’t announce it. I pretend to be focusing elsewhere. If you take someone’s photograph it is very difficult not to look at them just after. But it’s the one thing that gives the game away. I don’t try and hide what I’m doing, that would be folly” British Journal of Photography interview, 1989
  • Be fearless. Being confident and convinced of what you are doing infuses confidence in people.
  • Think differently.

I think that Martin Parr is truly a “big one” and has a lot to teach us about photography. He is one of the most creative and unusual artists I have met during my studies.

If you are curious and interested in him, I leave you the link to his website HERE.

ITALY. Positano. 2013.LON6977LON6978LON8701

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