Magnum Photos Photographer Profile

Martin Parr 

British, b. 1952 (Member) 

With photography, I like to create fiction out of reality. I try and do this by taking society's natural prejudice and giving this a twist. ” 



Martin Parr is a chronicler of our age. In the face of the constantly growing flood of images released by the media, his photographs offer us the opportunity to see the world from his unique perspective.

At first glance, his photographs seem exaggerated or even grotesque. The motifs he chooses are strange, the colours are garish and the perspectives are unusual. Parr's term for the overwhelming power of published images is "propaganda". He counters this propaganda with his own chosen weapons: criticism, seduction and humour. As a result, his photographs are original and entertaining, accessible and understandable. But at the same time they show us in a penetrating way that we live, how we present ourselves to others, and what we value.

Leisure, consumption and communication are the concepts that this British photographer has been researching for several decades now on his worldwide travels. In the process, he examines national characteristics and international phenomena to find out how valid they are as symbols that will help future generations to understand our cultural peculiarities. Parr enables us to see things that have seemed familiar to us in a completely new way. In this way he creates his own image of society, which allows us to combine an analysis of the visible signs of globalisation with unusual visual experiences. In his photos, Parr juxtaposes specific images with universal ones without resolving the contradictions. Individual characteristics are accepted and eccentricities are treasured.

The themes Parr selects and his inimitable treatment of them set him apart as a photographer whose work involves the creation of extensive series. Part of his unusual strategy is to present and publish the same photos in the context of art photography, in exhibitions and in art books, as well as in the related fields of advertising and journalism. In this way, he transcends the traditional separation of the different types of photography. Thanks to this integrative approach, as well as his style and his choice of themes, he has long served as a model for the younger generation of photographers.

Martin Parr sensitises our subconscious – and once we've seen his photographs, we keep on discovering these images over and over again in our daily lives and recognising ourselves within them. The humour in these photographs makes us laugh at ourselves, with a sense of recognition and release.

Introduction text above by Thomas Weski


Martin Parr was born in Epsom, Surrey, UK, in 1952. When he was a boy, his budding interest in the medium of photography was encouraged by his grandfather George Parr, himself a keen amateur photographer.

Martin Parr studied photography at Manchester Polytechnic, from 1970 to 1973.

Since that time, Martin Parr has worked on numerous photographic projects. He has developed an international reputation for his innovative imagery, his oblique approach to social documentary, and his input to photographic culture within the UK and abroad.

In 1994 he became a full member of Magnum Photographic Corporation.

Martin developed an interest in filmmaking, and has started to use his photography within different conventions, such as fashion and advertising.

In 2002 the Barbican Art Gallery and the National Media Museum initiated a large retrospective of Martin Parr’s work. This show toured Europe for the next 5 years.

Martin Parr was Professor of Photography at The University of Wales Newport campus from 2004 to 2012.

Martin Parr was Guest Artistic Director for Rencontres D'Arles in 2004.

In 2006 Martin Parr was awarded the Erich Salomon Prize and the resulting Assorted Cocktail show opens at Photokina.

In 2008 Martin Parr was guest curator at New York Photo Festival, curating the New Typologies exhibition.

Parrworld opened at Haus de Kunst, Mucich, in 2008. The show exhibited Parr’s own collection of objects, postcards, his personal photography collection of both British and International artists, photo books and finally his own photographs. The exhibition toured Europe for the following 2 years.

At PhotoEspana, 2008, Martin Parr wins the Baume et Mercier award in recognition of his professional career and contributions to contemporary photography.

Martin Parr curated the Brighton Photo Biennial that took place in October 2010.

In 2013, Martin was appointed visiting Professor of Photography at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland.

More recently Martin has been working on a 4-year project documenting the Black Country, an area of the English West Midlands, in conjunction with Multistory. Phaidon publishes the third volume of the highly influential History of the Photobook in Spring 2014 and Martin is also working on a book about the History of Chinese Photobooks to be published by Aperture in late 2014.

Martin Parr has published over 80 books of his own work and edited another 30.

Selected Exhibitions

1974c Home Sweet Home, Impressions Gallery, York, and Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol
1976 Beauty Spots, Impressions Gallery, York and subsequent tour
1977 Photographer's Gallery, London
1978 Fotomania Gallery, Barcelona, Spain
1981 The Non-Conformists, Camerawork, London
1982c Rural Irish Photographers, Neikrug Gallery, New York
1984 British Photographic Art, Geology Museum, Beixing, China
1984c A Fair Day, Orchard Gallery, Derry and tour
1986 Point of Sale, Salford City Art Gallery
1986c The Last Resort, Serpentine Gallery, London
1986 Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
1986 Arles Festival, France
1987 Spending Time, National Centre of Photography, Paris
1988 Kodak Gallery, Tokyo and Osaka
1989c The Cost of Living, Royal Photographic Society, Bath and tour
1991 Janet Borden, New York
1993c A Year in the Life of Chew Stoke, Chew Stoke Village Hall, Bristol
1993c Bored Couples, Gallery du Jour, Paris and subsequent tour
1993c Home and Abroad, Watershed Gallery, Bristol and international tour
1994c From A to B, 27 Welcome Break service stations, UK
1994 Curitiba Photo Festival, Brazil
1995c Small World, Photographer's Gallery, London, UK
1997c West Bay, Rocket Gallery, London
1998c Ooh La La, National Museum of Photography, Bradford
1999c Common Sense, 43 locations worldwide
1999c Benidorm, Sprengel Museum, Hanover
2000 Japonais Endormis, Kunsthalle, Rotterdam
2002 Martin Parr: Photographic Works 1971-2000, Barbican Art Gallery, London
2002 Rose Gallery, Los Angeles.
2003 Studio Trisorio, Naples
2003 National Museum of Photography, Copenhagen
2003 Renia Sofia, Madrid
2005 Kamel Mennour Gallery, Paris
2005 Retrospective, MEP, Paris
2007 Retrospective, Seoul Arts Centre
2007 Retrospective, Kulturhuset, Stockholm
2008 Dubai, The Third Line, Dubai
2008 ParrWorld, Haus der Kunst, Munich
2008c ParrWorld, Breda Design Museum, Netherlands
2009c Planete Parr, Jeu De Paumme, Paris
2009 Luxury, GunGallery, Stockholm
2009c ParrWorld, Baltic, Gateshead, UK.
2010 Playas, Centro de la Imagen, Mexico City
2010 Working Men’s Clubs, Earlswood Working Men’s Club, Cardiff
2010 Black Country Stories, The Public, West Bromwich
2011c Assorted Cocktail, DOX, Prague, Czech Republic
2011c The Goutte d’Or, Institut des Cultures d’Islam, Paris, France
2011 Luxury, Bogota Photography Festival, Colombia
2011 Small World, Guernsey Photography Festival, Guernsey, 2011
2011 Albania 1990, Common Sense & Small Word, The National gallery of Arts, Albania
2011c Bristol and West, M Shed, Bristol, UK
2012c No Worries, Western Australian Maritime Museum, Australia
2012c Souvenir, CCCB, Barcelona, Spain
2012c Life’s a Beach, Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon, France
2012c No Worries, part of Fotofreo, Western Australian Maritime Museum, Freemantle, Australia
2013 Martin Parr / Retrospective, Galerie Paris-Beijing, Brussels, 2013
2013c Only in England (The Non-Conformists) with Tony Ray-Jones, The Media Space, London, United Kingdom

Selected Group Exhibitions

1972 Butlins by the Sea, Impressions Gallery, York
1978c Art for Society, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
1979c Three Perspectives on Photography, Hayward Gallery, London
1985 Quelques Anglais, Centre Nationale de la Photographie, Paris
1987c Mysterious Coincidences, Photographer's Gallery, London
1988c A British View, Museum fur Gestalturg, Zurich
1991c British Photography from the Thatcher Years, MOMA, New York
1997c Zurich, Kunsthaus, Zurich
2000 At Sea, Tate Gallery Liverpool
2005c Eurovisions, Pompidu Centre, Paris
2006 Making History, Tate Gallery, Liverpool
2006c Click Double Click, Haust der Kunst, Munich
2007c How We Are, Tate Britain
2008c Street & Studio, Tate Modern
2009c Rencontres d’Arles
2010c Dreamlands, The Pompidou Centre, Paris
2012 Picturing the South, High Museum of Art Atlanta, USA
2012c Glam! The Performance of Style, Tate Liverpool, United Kingdom

Curated Exhibitions

1986 British Contemporary Photography, Houston Photo Festival, USA
1989c The Actual Boot, curated with Jack Stadiak, exhibition of British early photographic postcards. National Museum of Photography, Bradford, United Kingdom
1991c Hindesight, Retrospective of John Hinde studio, Curated with David Lee and Declan McGonagle, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, Ireland
1996 Young British Photography. Gallery du Jour, Paris, France
2002c Martin Parr’s Postcards, including Butlins images by John Hinde. Arles, France
2002c Our true intent is all for your delight. The John Hinde Butlin’s Photographs, The photographers Gallery, London, United Kingdom
2004c Arles Festival, France, Artistic direction by Martin Parr, 23 exhibitions and 3 evening shows.
2005 Keld Helmer-Petersen, Arles Festival, France
2006c Retrospective of David Goldblatt, Arles Festival, France
2007 Colour Before Colour. Early colour photography from Europe, Hasted Hunt Gallery, New York, USA
2008 New Typologies, New York Photo Festival, USA
2010c Brighton Photo Biennial, Brighton, United Kingdom
2011c From Here On, Arles Festival, France, curated with Clement Cheroux, Joan Fontcuberta, Erik Kessels and Joachim Schmid.
2012 Painted Photographs, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, United Kingdom
2012 Richard Simpkin and Simone Lueck: Richard & Famous, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, United Kingdom
2013c Only in England, The Media Space, London, United Kingdom

Selected Collections

Arts Council of Great Britain
Museum for Fotokunst, Odense, Denmark
Victoria and Albert Museum, London
George Eastman House, Rochester
Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo
Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Irish Arts Council
Australian National Gallery
Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Tate Modern, London
Archive of Modern Conflict
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, USA
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, USA
Guernsey Museums, The Channel Islands

Selected Publications

Bad Weather: A Zwemmers, 1982
A Fair Day: Promenade Press (self-published), 1984
The Last Resort: Promenade Press, 1986
The Cost of Living: Cornerhouse, 1989
Bored Couples: Gallery du Jour, 1993
Signs of the Times: Cornerhouse, 1992
Small World: Dewi Lewis, 1995
Common Sense: Dewi Lewis, 1999
Think of England: Phaidon Press, 2000/2003
Martin Parr by Val Williams: Phaidon Press
Mexico: Chris Boot, 2007
Witness Number Three, Nazraeli Press, 2007
Guardian Cities Project: The Guardian, 2008
Playas: RM and Chris Boot, 2009
Luxury, Chris Boot, 2009
Martin Parr in India, 1984-2009. PHOTOink
Parr by Parr, Editions Textuel, 2010
No Worries, T&G Publishing, 2012
Up and Down Peachtree, Photos of Atlanta, Contrasto, 2012
Life’s a Beach, Aperture Foundation, New York & Xavier Barral, Paris, 2012.
The Non-Conformists, Aperture, 2013
Black Country Women, Multistory, 2013

Artist Books

Home Sweet Home: Self Published, 1974
Benidorm: Self Published, 1997
West Bay: Rocket Gallery, 1997
Cherry Blossom Time in Tokyo: Eyestorm, 2001
Souvenir of Maroc: Self Published, 2001
Boring Oregon Photographs: Self-Published
Stars and Stripes (New York): Self Published, 2001
Cruise Memories: Self Published, 2002
Knokke: Frank Bordas, 2002
Love Cube: GUN, 2007
Chinese Wedding Album: Self Published, 2010
From Tintypes to Teatowels, 2011
Aperture Remix, Aperture, 2012
Instant Parr, Goliga, 2013

Prizes and Awards

1986 3rd Prize European Photography Awards.
1995 Wilkins Photography Prize.
2003 Photo Espania book prize for “ Martin Parr, by Val Williams.”
2005 Honorary FRPS. Royal Photographic Society.
2006 Eric Solomon Award for Photojournalism, Photokina.
2006 Moscow House of Photography, International photography prize.
2006 Honorary Masters degree, University of Creative Arts, Farnham.
2007 Krasna Kraus book prize for “ Photobook, A History, Vol 1&2” with Gerry Badger.
2008 Photo Espania Award for Photographic achievement.
2008 Japanese Photographic Society, International Award for contribution towards promoting Japanese photographic book publishing.
2008 Centenary Award, Royal Photographic Society.
2008 Honorary Degree, Manchester Metropolitan University.
2008 Photo Espania lifetime achievement prize