Own Research – The Ceremony of Life: Early Works by Martin Parr The Photographers Gallery April 2017

As mentioned before I am a bit Martin Parr-ed out, but when the opportunity comes available to view his work that’s what you do!

Whilst visiting the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize 2017 and Roger Mayne exhibition I popped downstairs to the Print Sales Gallery which had on show The Ceremony of Life, an exhibition of rarely seen black and white prints by Martin Parr and presented in collaboration with Rocket Gallery, London.

These early works – taken in the 1970s and early 1980s – reveal a gentler, less critical lens, unearthing a young photographer with superlative observational skills, passionate about capturing the unsung rituals of everyday life.

The exhibition features images from Parr’s first major series’ and photo books, including, Bad Weather (1975-1982), Fair Day (1980-1983) and Non-Conformist (published in 2013). the vernacular of people and landscapes across Yorkshire, Sussex, Dublin and the west coast of Ireland.

Parr once said that ‘black-and-white is certainly more nostalgic, by nature,’ and that his early ‘black-and-white work is more of a celebration and the colour work [is] more of a critique of society.’

The images on display are definitely a gentler reflection of British values exploring quieter moments:  shots of businessmen waiting at train stations in the fog, men fixing door-frames, at the Steep Lane Baptist Chapel buffet lunch, Sowerby, Calderdale, West Yorkshire, a refined middle-aged woman carefully sugars under the watchful eye of Jesus at the last supper. Here we can see the beginnings of Parr’s commentary on what it means to be British. Offbeat and eccentric for their time, these works display the quirkiness that would later hallmark his distinctive style.


What did I take away from this exhibition?

  • that you can change style and still be successful!



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