Palazzo Strozzi

"Russia. Moscow. Fashion Week", 2004
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

"France. Paris. Haute Couture", 2007
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

"England. Epsom. The Derby", 2004
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

Unlike most of his colleagues, Parr has little interest in the great themes of photographic reporting, such as the documenting of war and poverty. Working around the world, he finds his motifs in everyday life. At the beginning of his career, he focused in particular on the observation of people from lower middle class backgrounds engaged in different activities, in the context of themes such as consumption, communication and leisure. He has left it ambiguous as to whether these pictures of his are charged with critical overtones or intended to serve as a mere means of social documentation. Through this approach to his work, Parr has developed a highly distinctive and almost unmistakable style marked by dazzling colours obtained by the use of flash on top of natural light. Parr takes his camera near people and their social milieus, creating images that appear grotesque or exaggerated at first. Their motifs, which often coincide with moments of everyday life, are shot from unusual perspectives.
The feeling these pictures convey is that of being spontaneous photos, similar to snapshots. Only under closer scrutiny you understand they have been skillfully construed and arranged. While always highly charged and taking widespread social stereotypes as their starting point, Parr's images are never banal. The perspective they convey stands out for the way in which it takes viewers by surprise and for the ironic detachment with which the photographer turns to his subjects.
According to Parr, his photographs never fail to elicit extreme emotions because they always show some truths: "We are so used to digesting pictures that are pure propaganda, that people are surprised when someone like me shows them images that are closely tied to reality. I, at least, don't lie". The photographer's gaze takes the viewer into his confidence, leading him through the pictures to discover the absurdity of what we deem normal. Gathered in large series regularly published in volumes, these shots transcend the irony of individual images to concentrate on the analysis of a given social milieu.
The Luxury series portrays personages from the international jet set, photographed in different settings around the world - from the Miami Art Fair to horse races in Durban, from polo tournaments in Dubai to the Beijing Auto Show. With these images, Parr has intentionally moved away from his previous subjects to focus on the life of the upper classes: for, as he himself has noted, the main problem the world is facing is not poverty but wealth - excessive development and prosperity. These photographs offer the perspective of an external, noninvolved observer, whose gaze is drawn towards minor details that usually find no place in the common representations of these events.
The centrepieces of these photos are the superficial clichés that the people participating in the events adopt as tokens of their upper-class identity. The pictures fix moments in which this enactment reveals itself to be so fragile or so exaggerated that the people involved become extras in a comedy - one that the photographer's eye has fallen upon, finding interest not in individuals as such, but in their belonging to a given social system with all its rules and values.

Martin Parr
Installation view, Centro di Cultura Contemporanea Strozzina, Firenze
Photo: Valentina Muscedra

MARTIN PARR (United Kingdom, 1952)

Martin Parr describes himself as a "chronicler of our times". In his photographic series he records the behaviour of people of different social classes in different contexts, searching not so much for mutual differences as for what brings human beings together when they find themselves in certain roles.

"France. Chantilly. Chantilly Races", 2008
Pigment print
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

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