Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Martin Parr's British Cities-RELOADED.......

When I first started this blog one of the rules I set myself (and there weren't many) was that I would refrain from "slagging off" other photographers work. I didn't think it was fair, and anyway what's the point. No, if I didn't like their stuff I just wouldn't put it on the blog. As far as I know and correct me if I'm wrong, so far I have upheld that rule.

Until now that is. I figure though that Martin Parr is big enough and acclaimed enough that nothing I could write on my silly little blog could effect him or his career anyway.

I have already posted about his "British Cities" series last Sunday, but to be honest I only really skirted around the work asking Well what do you think? I've spoken to friends about it, (god I must bore them) and on the whole they were unimpressed, and then I got sent this comment on the post:
Mishka has left a new comment on your post "Martin Parr's British Cities.":
Mark, where's the critique of Parr's work on Manchester? I thought it was awful. I too looked forward to seeing it and he seemed to be way off with his vision. There was nothing to the images, nothing revealed, little humour, cynicism or incisiveness that characterizes much of his work. I keep going back to the supplement trying to work out why it's so awful. For a start, it's so lazy. There's so little to go off. The racquet club? What kind of a subject was that to pick? Or the guy reading a book along the canal? These images are so mediocre they would sit comfortably on Flickr, not in a well-paid Guardian commission that's trumpeted as something we should all be keenly waiting for or investing in a boxed set. I'm looking at these images wondering if Parr's lost the plot.Who's to blame? The picture editor who put it together or Parr himself? With Parr's reputation, I doubt it's the former.

I thought I would respond to these points and look at it in more detail, as I think the first time I had a nasty dose of the "Emperors new clothes". (By the way if you've not seen the work I apologise and I'll see you tomorrow because I doubt this will make any sense to you.)

When I first saw the work on Saturday I was very excited, wow Martin Parr has done a feature on Manchester, and what's more one of my friends has had her portrait taken by him and never said. So what of the work. Well it's not what we would typically associate with Parr. None of his usual wry humour, his cynical eye his great comedy timing bum,bum. Lets face it, it wouldn't be hard to find a rich seam or two of "people making arses of themselves" his usual subject matter in our fair city, would it?

So front cover of supplement on Manchester, Bury bus station. OK. Third picture, Stockport market. Fourth picture, at last Manchester, what? B of the fucking Bang! Nobody round these parts likes B of the fucking Bang, that's why they stuck it next to Cities "council House" Have you not read our papers or spoke to anyone?

"Yes Martin, I know you were only here for a week, first time in thirty-five years and now you've got to sum up our big stupid, complicated, historical, groundbreaking awkward, friendly, violent drunken, stinking, passionate and original city, in twenty-nine images, but you took the fucking job. We could have got a couple of our regular city photographers if we wanted dull unimaginative and safe pictures, (you know who I mean). I was glad you were over your making "the working classes look like c***ts" stage, when you brought out "Boring Postcards" loved it! and you were making a few quid with it, what with the reprints, but old ladies buying buttons? we're not pearly kings that's the bloody Eastend. Oh yeah and you know that picture of a lad doing that Manchester thing of walking and reading at the same time well just a small point but that's the Leeds/Liverpool canal not the ship canal, What kind of a ship could you get up there you dick. Every Friday night since 1457 hundreds if not thousands of Mancs have crossed the turbulent seething waters of The Irwell, heading to Salford to play RAQUET BALL. FC United?
When you took Ruth Ibegbuna's picture did you not speak to her? Did you not pick up on the fact that she is one of the most passionate, intelligent, genuine bubbly people you could meet. Or did you just tell her to "look sad" I don't know Martin, I'm asking you. Anyway it's done now.
However perhaps next time you could consider these, topics: United, City, drinking, posh shops, China Town, Trams, Piccadilly Gardens, no gardens, mugging, charity runs, The Gay Village. Castlefield, Mancunian way, The Arndale, old pubs, wank bars, Print Works, Channel & Aldi less than 500 yards apart etc etc etc. Well Martin it's no use crying over spilt milk. Maybe next time your here"

Well, said my peace and never mentioned Tony Ray Jones once. DOH!

8 comments:

Mishka said...

To me, the most pertinent thing Parr hit on was the dominance of the supermarkets and the demise of the small trader. I know where he was going with the Trafford Centre, maybe looking at the rise of the nouveau riche - but there are so many other places he could have got far stronger material from. The Chill Factor next door? The food court in Selfridges (battered cockroach on a stick anyone?), the Maserati and Lamborghini showrooms? Whenever I go into Manchester, I have this desire to love the city for all its maverick history, but soon get jolted back to reality when I realize so much of it has simply become the seductive, vacuous consumer paradise you find everywhere else. Everywhere you see/hear him, Parr preaches that this consumer world is and should be the new front-line for documentary photographers to work in. And when you see his work in Dubai, Moscow and the China auto fair, I think he does a great job. But sadly, he couldn't do it in Manchester - maybe because he has affection for the place, I don't know.

At one point in the supplement, Parr even says (and I quote) "the well-liked Urbis exhibition centre." Well-liked? By whom? It's a white elephant that can't hold on to its tennants. Elsewhere, Parr goes on about how he wishes his work created more controversy, the way it used to. Well, the controversy here isn't about his work, but about the lack of it. Again, I put it to you your honour, that Parr invested little in this commission and possibly had his mind on other more seductive matters such as the upcoming New York Photo Festival.

Either way, to me this whole thing does reek of the Emperor's New Clothes.

TomRS said...

wish I had seen the work...

Mark Page said...

Tom,
Funny really but nothing much about it on web, just on that flickr martin parr thingy. Not even anything about it on Guardian site? Look out though in Saturdays Guardians as I'm sure he must be doing London. Different city each week (I think)available only in that city, again I think. To be honest the whole things a bit odd.Like you blog by the way, will link to it when I've got the fact that the MIGHTY REDS are kings of Europe (pray) out of the way! Until then everyone click on toms name top left of his comment for a very interesting London photo blog........ Nice one....

Anonymous said...

Martin Parr : provocative as ever.

Mark Page said...

Nah, just dull this time.......

Anonymous said...

I went to a talk given by Martin Parr a few months back in Manchester. I used to quite admire his work and his style, but I've lost all respect. He is rude, arrogant (through being utterly bored and with his ever-increasing 'I'm so far above this' attitude), I was really disappointed.
His work is becoming more and more lazy. His shots are dull, they don't say or mean anything. His old work is OK, but now, he seemingly just holds the camera and clicks. In every new picture I see there's so much of an 'I'm Martin Parr so it's bound to be great' attitude.
Erm, no...
You're Martin Parr and you need to get off your high horse and stop being such a wanker!

TomRS said...

Thanks for the kind words Mark ... and the heads up regarding Guardian this weekend... like you, I can't find anything regarding Parr on the Guardian site etc...

Mark Page said...

ere, ere, your only ever as good as your last project..........