12 September 2007

Meeting Martin Parr (part 1)

We met Martin Parr for a short interview the day before the opening of his exhibition “Martin Parr Photographs 1971-2000”, Kulturhuset, Stockholm.
This is the first part of the summary of our conversation.
Joanna Kinowska (also picture of M. Parr), Ulf Fågelhammar

MP: it’s the most interesting, urgent, democratic, relevant art form we can possibly have. There are more and more people appreciating photography,there is a bigger market for photography, than never before. I’d talk about people on sites like Flickr, which have an enormous number of people contributing to it, and are extremely important to the way the whole discourse on photography is undertaken. (...) Clearly you’re one of the people making a contribution to the fact that there’s a dialogue on the internet about photography, an intelligent one.

Photographing people
MP: I photograph people without guilt and that’s the secret. Most photographers feel guilty approaching people. And if you feel guilty then people get tense and nervous. But I am doing it with much confidence. Of course, I’m always on the look out for problems.And there are problem people who can’t be photographed, and if that’s the case, you usually pick up on that and move on.
They may argue with me, they may choose to argue with me. One of the benefits of digital photography is that you can look at the picture and just delete it. Instead of sitting there for hours, as has happened occasionally, when the policeman and try to get the film out of you. Well that has happened only once – it was in the Middle East, where there is a problem in terms of photography, especially with women in the Middle East.

Martin Parr, Auchan hypermarket, Calais, France, 1988, from "One Day Trip"

MP: I enjoy being in Magnum, because they are very good at finding different channels to show your work, so I’m very happy when I’m published in newspapers, magazines, but you know I don’t feel this sort of mission, to show my pictures to everybody, or even more I don’t think that they could have any effect on them. You’re creating in the end an entertainment, and photography is a part of the entertainment industry and I’m very happy that through this industry I can survive on my work. I have the ability to pursue the ideas I want to pursue.

In the terms of the way and type of photography, Magnum’s vocabulary has expanded; the range of photography has expanded a lot since I joined. And this is the aspect of Magnum’s open form. We have people like Alec Soth who has probably the most successful photoblog in the world. If you look at my Magnum in Motion (MiM) you’ll find it is without music. I don´t want music in my MiM, because I don´t want any Hollywood values, and I feel some of them have. So that’s a personal choice. I’m not opposed to a music accompanying photographs if it’s done well and intelligently and that can be achieved, but to do that takes a lot of time, …. So, therefore it’s not something I gave priority to, I wanted to make the point of not having music in my MiM when I was given the chance to do a MiM.

I do enormously lot of assignments for Magnum and for myself. It’s just change from what it was 30 years ago, but there’s no point living in the past, the whole industry and the whole face of photography is changing quickly and it is important to embrace change and not fight it.

MP: I think I am clear about my intentions. I work in projects. For each project I can explain to you what is contributing to the bigger picture. Within that project there will be individual pictures, which may or may not make much sense. It’s only when you take them and put the series together you see how successful they are in contributing to the statement of what the project could be.

So yes, I think every project has a very clear intension. An overall intension is there as I mentioned briefly earlier and I think it’s all very clear and logical if you choose to inspect it that way.

Any message to the F Blog readers?
MP: Yes, yes, take better pictures, don’t do cliches, be yourself, be passionate, and that’s all.

Le Blurb - by Svend Videbak

Le Blurb
These pictures are just as much about drawing and painting as they are
about photography.
In a couple of cases I have finished a photographic print
by hand, to "dress" it with colour and form
in ways that I thought were needed.
In other cases I have started with a large sheet of watercolour paper, marking

out a square and filling it by drawing and painting with great speed and
spontaneity without fixating upon a
subject -- I have tried to let my hand and
heart rule, keeping my brain out of it.

Then I have taken the result,
taped it on a wall in a darkened room, and
photographed it by painting on it with a hand-held
halogen spotlight, shaping
the light with my hands during a long exposure with total spontaneity.

The results are generally an impenetrable mess. A mess, however, that begins
to come alive when I look at it on the computer after scanning the
Or not. Usually, not. These pictures, however, did come to life at least for me.
I hope they live for you as well
in a continuing flash of recognition.

Pictures and text: Svend Videbak
Titles from top:
Anatomy of a breakdown (1)
Anatomy of a breakdown (2)
Angel of mercy
Golden Jade
Just married
Portrait of a shy girl