Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2002/09/29

[Author Prev] [Author Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Author Index] [Topic Index] [Home] [Search]

Subject: RE: [Leica] Martin Parr
From: "Tim Atherton" <>
Date: Sun, 29 Sep 2002 13:20:47 -0600

> In my case, I rate compassion in photography highly, and find
> Parr's mocking
> and rather contemptuous view of the world disturbing.

Mocking, yes, contemptuous - not really. Ridicule maybe and humour,
certainly, (even if the humour is rather biting and dry). Both views are
certainly justifiable, as both N American and British everyday society as a
whole do tend to take themselves much too seriously, while acting, living,
dressing, vacationing etc in ways which are often wide open to pointed
humour and even ridicule.

While I agree that there isn't often too much compassion about, I think it
can be highly over rated in photography - it can lead to either a deadly
earnestness, or sentimentality - neither of which Parr could be accused of.
He's a photographer who can laugh at himself, as well as the world around
him, while at the same time making those who view his images think hard
about what they see (and he's also one of the true modern masters of
colour). I don't see "niceness" as a prerequisite to good photography - in
some ways, quite the contrary.

My experience is that most photographers who might perhaps view their work
as "compassionate" would not be too happy being described as voyeurs - even
though most photography is inherently voyeuristic. Interestingly though,
it's s description Parr embraces. I think it's an approach that frees him to
do what he does. The rest of us would often generally prefer to ignore the
fact that we watch, observe and take, that our work is essentially
voyeuristic in nature, and we get satisfaction from encouraging our viewers
to do the same, vicariously, through us.

> technique, he has married his flash methods - which were so stunning when
> they first appeared - to a serious program of cultural critique. I'd just
> have liked to see him go much deeper in the tourism work, for
> instance - he
> seemed to elaborate the _signs_ without really digging down to what they
> signified.

However, he is a photographer, not an anthropologist or sociologist - even
Salgado, who likes to bring up his background as an economist, really
doesn't do much more digging than you see in Parr's work. It's still very
much on the surface (and certainly infused with deadly earnestness). For me,
the whole point of the Tourism work was to display how much of a shallow,
surface phenomena it is - something it succeeded in doing.


- --
To unsubscribe, see