Martin Parr

Martin Parr (born 1952) trained in photography at Manchester Polytechnic.

Described in the past as Margaret Thatcher’s favourite  photographer, Parr caused a stir when he tried to join

Magnum Photos. The issue was one of integrity. Photographers within Magnum’s ranks guarded their territory jealously and felt that the work that Parr offered was voyeuristic, titillating and
meaningless. Parr was eventually accepted at Magnum in 1994 and went on to become one of the leading authorities on photography in the UK.

Parr has an ability to turn the snapshot into art. There is however something of the satirical about this work – many of the images raise a smile. Parr worked mainly in colour and his approach was to over-light with fill-in flash, causing a frozen moment in time to be even more false yet far more real.  His work is quirky and opportunistic. He makes no bones about the latter; invited to an event, he takes the opportunity to produce images that will lead to further projects. His approach is direct. He doesn’t ask permission and if someone sees that he is photographing them he will continue on the basis that it’s his job to photograph them, record their reaction, etc. The characteristic Parr style is still there 30 years on.

Listen to Martin Parr talking about his images and practice:

 

Parr has produced a wide range of work.

  • Last Resort: Photographs of New Brighton (1986). One of his first
    major colour pieces.This style was to become synonymous with Parr and his ability to create from the ordinary. The little girl could be the focus of the image but the boy is also interesting. The car and the lighthouse are both essential to the composition.
  • A recent project in the suburbs of Paris depicts ordinary
    life within a diverse, mainly immigrant, community.
  • St Moritz series shows the rich at play in a way that only people who work there would normally get to see.
  • Luxury – a recent Martin Parr project where he looks at the rich and their pastimes.

The Parrworld (2008) show exhibited some of Parr’s extensive collection of kitsch souvenirs and other disparate paraphernalia: a watches with pictures of Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, bubblegum pop pin-up wallpaper. He compares photography to collecting: the world is out there for the having.

Parr has edited three volumes of his collections of postcards:

  • Boring Postcards (1999)
  • Boring Postcards USA (2000)
  • Langweilige Postkarten (2001).

The subjects within Boring Postcards are what we judge to be mundane or prosaic, such as motorways, service stations, tower blocks, school and other modernist municipal buildings – structures that we take for granted and might even consider to be ‘eyesores’. They weren’t necessarily photographed for their beauty in any traditional sense, but because of their novelty value as photographic subjects. [Many of the images in the UK edition are attributed to the Frith photographic company.] They are in fact often quite unusual and remarkably intriguing.

 Exercise: Getting the Parr ‘feel’

For this exercise, photograph people engaged in a fun or social activity outdoors. For example, you could go to a seaside resort and photograph people having a good time. Or photograph people at an outdoor party or function. Try to capture the Martin Parr ‘feel’.
Use your camera flash or a flash gun to balance the daylight. You need to take light readings from the ambient light and then set the flash gun to produce a small amount of flash – not enough to turn the scene into night – running the camera at a slower speed than the flash would normally synch at.
Getting the flash /ambient light balance right is the key to the technical side of the whole look.
This is the camera’s reaction under normal circumstances. A slower shutter speed than the recommended flash setting may help a lot.
This will work very differently for a range of cameras and you may need individual support and advice for this relative to your personal camera equipment.
Produce a set of eight colour images. Ensure that the colour is bright and reflects the nature of Martin Parr’s work. How does this lighting effect change the nature of your images? Make
some notes in your learning log.

Francis Frith

Francis Frith postcards website

edited from Wikipedia article

Francis Frith Images

Francis Frith  (1822 –1898) was an English photographer of the Middle East and many towns in the United Kingdom. Frith was born in Chesterfield, Derbyshire.  In 1850 he started a photographic studio in Liverpool, known as Frith & Hayward. A successful grocer, and later, printer, Frith fostered an interest in photography, becoming a founding member of the Liverpool Photographic Society in 1853. Frith sold his companies in 1855 in order to dedicate himself entirely to photography.

Frith was “recorded” as a Quaker minister in 1872 (at this time there were little more than 250 recorded ministers in England and Wales). He served on numerous committees, and frequently spoke in favour of pacifism and abstinence.  In 1884, he published (with William Pollard and William Turner) A Reasonable Faith, a highly controversial pamphlet which challenged evangelical orthodoxy by questioning the factuality of the Bible. Francis Frith and his co-authors who began the liberalisation of the Quaker movement and paved the way for the philanthropic and educational reforms for which the movement is well known today.

Middle East Travels

He journeyed to the Middle East on three occasions, the first of which was a trip to Egypt in 1856 with very large cameras (16″ x 20″). He used the collodion process, a major technical achievement in hot and dusty conditions.

During his travels he noted that tourists were the main consumers of the views of Italy, but armchair travellers bought scenes from other parts of the world in the hope of obtaining a true record, “far beyond anything that is in the power of the most accomplished artist to transfer to his canvas.” These words express the ambitious goal that Frith set for himself when he departed on his first trip to the Nile Valley in 1856.

Restored albumen print of the Suez Canal at Ismailia, c. 1860

The Hypaethral Temple, Philae, by Francis Frith, 1857; from the collection of the National Galleries of Scotland

 

He also made two other trips before 1860, extending his photo-taking to Palestine and Syria.

In addition to photography, he also kept a journal during his travels elaborating on the difficulties of the trip, commenting on the “smothering little tent” and the collodion fizzing – boiling up over the glass. Frith also noticed the compositional problems regarding the point of view from the camera. According to Frith, “the difficulty of getting a view satisfactorily in the camera: foregrounds are especially perverse; distance too near or too far; the falling away of the ground; the intervention of some brick wall or other common object… Oh what pictures we would make if we could command our point of views.” An image he took known as the “Approach to Philae” is just one example which elaborates his ability to find refreshing photographic solutions to these problems. (cited from “A World History of Photography”)

Survey of Britain and Francis Frith & Co. 

When he had finished his travels in the Middle East in 1859, he opened the firm of Francis Frith & Co. in Reigate, Surrey, as the world’s first specialist photographic and postcard publisher, a firm that became one of the largest photographic studios in the world. In 1860, he married Mary Ann Rosling (sister of Alfred Rosling, the first treasurer of the Photographic Society).

The same year he embarked upon a colossal project—to photograph every city, town and village in the United Kingdom; in particular, notable historical or interesting sights. Initially he took the photographs himself, but as success came, he hired people to help him. Frith’s ‘views’ were predominantly of places with social or historical significance but also included a great number of more mundane but equally valuable street scenes.

Frith died in Cannes, France at his villa on 25 February 1898.

The ten-part BBC series Britain’s First Photo Album, presented by John Sergeant, was first shown on BBC2 in March 2012 and takes a look at the history of Francis Frith’s pioneering photographic work. A 320 page book also entitled Britain’s First Photo Album has been published. The Frith and Co. brand continues today, and it’s possible to purchase prints and other merchandise from the online store.

Graham Clark (1997, p.73) remarks:
“… the landscape photograph implies the act of looking as a privileged observer so that, in one sense, the photographer of landscapes is always the tourist, and invariably the outsider. Francis Frith’s images of Egypt, for example, for all their concern with foreign lands, retain the perspective of an Englishman looking out over the land. Above all, landscape photography insists on the land as spectacle and involves an element of pleasure.”

 

The Tourist Perspective

Before photography landscapes for mass market were available as etchings. Postcards were invented in the late 19th Century – objectifying places into commodities that could be consumed and collected for a reasonable price. People often collected postcards of places they could never travel to. By the 1870s Americans could buy photographic prints of faraway places in their local shop or mail order (Snyder in Mitchell, 2002 p179 q Alexander 2013 p89). Stereoscopic cards also became available. In order to create the 3D illusion these reinforced traditional views of separation of landscape focal planes into foreground, middle ground and background.

See posts:

More recently, with the development of mass tourism since the 1950s, postcards were mass produced as souvenirs of places people visited and to send home ‘Wish You Were Here’. The main emphasis is on enjoyment and selling particular places as destinations that yet more tourists will want to come. They include very cheaply produced and printed cards, sometimes with landscape as the backdrop to humorous pictures of people enjoying – or making fools of – themselves. Some are also ‘boring’ both in subject matter and treatment – and in this way become quite intriguing.

There are also more expensive quality up-market colour images of sunsets, buildings and landscapes – particularly in more ‘exclusive’ destinations. Some of these follow ‘picturesque’ convention. Others seek to distinguish themselves from other postcards on the rack or nearby shopd by seeking new angles and composition. Some use new ways of digital processing that avoid earlier oversaturation and try to interprete views in a novel way for a more ‘discerning’ customer.

Increasingly, standard photographic postcards produced by local photographers seem to be giving way to artists’ cards and a trend for self-processing where people produce cards from their own images so they can record their own personal impressions.

 3.2: Postcard views

Lake District photographers

Photographers found from a Google Search on Lake District Photography.

Brian Kerr

These ones are my favourites from the search. Particularly the misty lakes and sunsets are beautiful. Colours have been altered but not over contrasty or just standard use of warm up filters. The images are very sharp. Subjects are often placed centrally using wide angle lens, instead of conventionally on rule of thirds. Probably done with a medium or large format camera?

Matthew Priestley

A photographer from Manchester who goes out fell walking with colleagues a few times a year. He uses a digital compact because of its portability and processes in Photoshop and Lightroom. He produces images focusing particularly on plays of light. Some of the views are very appealing, but the images are less sharp and sometimes over-contrasty. Possibly because of the use of a compact camera.

Dave Lawrence

These are picturesque postcard images, rather than beautiful.   Slow shutter speed waterfalls. Zig zag compositions of walls on dale hillsides with sheep. Blue lilac colours, and free use of warm up filters. Pretty touristy and unnatural colours.

He is really strong on marketing with dowloadable screensavers. Photobox Pro Galleries. Zazzle for other merchandise eg mugs. Greetings Cards. Red Bubble for calendars etc.

Heart of the lakes photography holidays website has a lot of rather standard sunny, but rather washed out panoramas of Castlerigg and well-known vantage points.