First off apologies for the crappy images in this post. I was holding a pile of Martin Parr books (yet to be autographed) while single handedly taking photos with my iPhone. Luckily I wasn’t the one who was told by Parr to take the lens cap off his Leica film camera after he had taken a photo of Parr with the lens cap on. The good many there had a great laugh at the man’s expense. Without missing a beat Parr said: “All good photographers throw away their lens caps.”
I learned a great deal on this guided tour about the photos on display and about Parr’s approach to photography. He professes that he takes “many more bad photographs then everyone in the room.” Yes and he definitely takes a lot more good ones as a result. The “happy accidents” are the fruits of a disciplined work ethic which produces a prodigious amount of good photos. Although he’s too humble to say a good sense of the moment and eye for composition also helps.
Parr is reluctant to talk about the meaning behind his photos. According to him, his first priority is to entertain. The “agenda biting at you underneath” is for you to figure out. Regarding the “Hong Kong” series of photos Parr explains they were commissioned by the Blindspot Gallery and some of the photos address the relationship between Hong Kong and mainland China. In particular the enormous amounts of wealth on display by the mainland Chinese in Hong Kong shopping for luxury items and expensive condos.
A few more interesting tidbits were offered up by Parr during the tour:
- He always goes to Happy Valley (race course?) every time he is in Hong Kong
- Each good photo has some sort of twist or story behind it
- He uses very light flash to make the colors pop
- When the subject looks at the camera it usually destroys the photo
- Sometimes when the subject looks at the camera it works
- Parr never hangs his photos at home and prefers to display works from others
- He has over 800 prints from other photographers