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!