Martin Parr: Parr’s World:
I am not a big collector of things. This is probably because I have moved quite a lot during my working life. I moved to Africa for a number of years and had to store my possessions. When one has to pay per square meter for storage and one is earning very little as a volunteer, the mind becomes very concentrated as to what is really important. My African experience instilled in me a desire to travel lightly through life. I try not to accumulate ‘things’ but to leave behind ‘memories’ for my grandchildren.
Martin Parr is not my favourite photographer but I did find his short talk about his collections on this YouTube (1) presentation. interesting. Why would anyone want to collect kitch on Bin Laden or Afghan rugs with the planes flying into the twin towers, The fact that Parr collects and exhibits this kitch further deepens my distaste for him and his work.
- Gather a selection of postcards (6-12) that you’ve either bought yourself or received from other people. If you don’t have any, then try to borrow some from other people, or see what you can find on an internet search. Write a brief evaluation (around 300 words) of the merits of the images you find. Importantly, consider whether, as Fay Godwin remarked, these images bear any relation to your own experience of the places depicted in the postcards.
This exercise has been really interesting for me. I make postcards for sale in the craft shop in which I work during the Summer months. As I said elsewhere in this blog I started about sixteen years ago with aesthetic notions of what I could sell to tourists that visit this beautiful area. I was quickly knocked down to size by the local grocery shop owner when I asked him to take some of my cards. In good West Cork parlance he replied “Girl, I couldn’t sell any of those. People only want postcards with boats, blue skies and people in them”. I persevered the first year in our own craft shop but my sales were not great. Second year I went out and photographed some local ‘beauty’ spots.
When I photographed these I had in mind the man who made postcards in Ireland from 1956 until about 1986. He was an English man, John Hinde, and he made images of Ireland with azure blue skies and freckled faced children and he managed to sell 50,000 cards per year. I made the following card
for which I was shortlisted for the John Hinde prize. This was ironic as I do not like this style of postcard. It certainly fits Fay Godwin’s remark that the image has very little to do with my experience of this place. But I managed to sell several hundred every year. Over the years I have tried to introduce a couple of cards which I feel have a little more aesthetic quality.
So of the cards I chose from the small collection I keep I would say that No. 5 of Iceland is very reminiscent of my Icelandic experience. The Irish ones are in the style of John Hinde (No 2) and even older (N0.3 ), neither would be my experience of coastal Ireland. It is the dramatic Irish, threatening, coastal skies which are more familiar to me. I have annotated in my physical log book. So I would say that few postcards would fit my experience of the places I have visited.
1.YouTube. 2018. Martin Parr Parrs Advice – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg6VTRjIXmk. [Accessed 15 April 2018].
2. Write a brief response (around 200 words) to Graham Clarke’s comments:
“… 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.”
Do you think it’s possible not to be a ‘tourist’ or ‘outsider’ as the maker of landscape images?
It depends on what is being photographed as ‘landscape’ as to whether the photographer remains either a tourist or an outsider.
As a photographer I am acutely aware, when in a foreign landscape, that I am both an outsider and a tourist. I have travelled a great deal and have always photographed the places I visited.
In South America I travelled the full length of the country on buses. Photographing from a moving bus is something only visitors do. While walking in the Torres del Paine I was conscious that almost everyone on the trail was a foreigner. Hence my images were those of a wide-eyed, albeit deeply interested, tourist. In Japan my size, as well as my facial features, marked me out as a foreigner and a tourist. I was deeply drawn to the old wooden dwelling houses in the rural countryside as well as the fairly primitive living conditions. I made many images of these. I cannot imagine a Japanese rural dweller making too many images of these landscapes. My work was that of a tourist.
Living in a very picturesque French village surrounded by the Luberon mountains one is drawn to make images of them. In this case, because I live and work here I do not feel my images could be classified as those of an outsider or a tourist. This is my home.
In conclusion I would say that one is sometimes an outsider and/or a tourist when photographing landscapes,but not always.
An interesting article (1) on the subject.
1.Stranger on the Road. 2018. Slum Pictures – Let’s talk about ethics – Stranger on the Road. [ONLINE] Available at: http://strangerontheroad.com/photojournalismethics#comment-149. [Accessed 19 April 2018].