6 months ago

Artistic License: Martin Parr

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“Only Human” is celebrated photographer MARTIN PARR’s current exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery in London. As a portrait of Brexit Britain, it couldn’t be more apropos …

Nice, France, 2015

Surprising, provocative and insightful, Martin Parr has been photographing people since the 1980s. He has captured his subjects on beaches, socialising or at sporting events, for instance, capturing their eccentricities and in the process silently commenting on the universality of experience. His verdict – we are all “only human”.

His new exhibition – curated by Phillip Prodger – comprises unseen photographs which examine the idea of national identity with portraits of people from around the world. As well as Britain in the time of Brexit, the exhibition also focuses on expatriates and celebrities. More than anything Parr likes to document social classes and the British “Establishment”.

The Queen visiting the Livery Hall of the Draper’s Livery Company for their 650th Anniversary, London, England, 2014.

Parr has photographed celebrities throughout his career including Anna Wintour, Zadie Smith and Ai Weiwei. The new exhibition features designers Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith as well as artists Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry.

Vivienne Westwood, designer, England, 2012.

In addition, Parr also includes a series of self-portraits made throughout his 30-year career. He has visited photo booths, studio photographers and street photographers and the series of “Autoportraits” raises questions about portraiture showing the range of settings – from the odd to the humorous.

Martin Parr

Parr of course has a strong affinity with Ireland. In addition to being Visiting Professor at Ulster University, he lived in Boyle, Co Roscommon during the 1980s, documenting daily life in an exhibition “So Near, So Far” (2016) and in his book A Fair Day. He has recently photographed the Gucci SS18 watch campaign and the fashion house is one of the sponsors of this exhibition.

Sorrento, Italy, 2014

Need to Know: “Only Human: Martin Parr” is at the National Portrait Gallery, London until May 27, 2019. Tickets cost £18; www.npg.org.uk.

Penny McCormick

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