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Discussion in 'Philosophy of Photography' started by olli, Apr 26, 2011.
A great piece by British photographer Martin Parr on photographic cliches. Worth a read.
That settles it, I'm going out to find and shoot the bent lamp posts that we have so many of here in the USA!
Interesting thoughts. I don't know most of the photographers that Mr. Parr mentions and it may be just as well because I surely wouldn't want to be influenced by them. Yes, my tongue is in my cheek... I did laugh at #8. Though again I don't know the photographer he mentions, his description puts me in mind of Sally Mann, though I like many of her photographs...and find that I take an awful lot of photographs of my family... I will say that I did not graduate from Yale...though my father did...and I also promise never, ever, to post any photos of my family unclothed!
In all seriousness, it's always good to think about things regarding emulation and familiarity. I am glad, however for his second to last paragraph which I will not quote from because it's better if those who are interested read the whole article.
To put his thoughts in context you should also go to his website and look at the galleries under 'Recent'.
There are many of us, myself included, who think that Martin Parr should have something unspeakable done to him, for crimes against photography. His desperate urge to document people and the world in the ugliest way possible and to contrive to construct his pictures in such a way so as to make us laugh at his subjects (victims?) is actually quite offensive. He fires flashguns in peoples faces, makes them look terrible and calls it art. Cartier-Bresson tried to stop him joining Magnum but was outvoted. He described him as being "from another planet" which is somewhat more polite than my words for him.
Just thought I'd put another point of view.
Hmm. Thanks for that link olli.
I'll just say that I think it is difficult for anyone give advice without sounding like a know-it-all. I'm thinking about what I've just read from the clichés piece and now from looking around at Mr. Parr's website. The introduction would almost seem to go against what Mr. Parr says in his own blog piece - with regard to emulation...as apparently he is emulated by many young photographers. This sort of intro in which someone writes a lauding description is always full of pitfalls - very difficult to pull off well.
Now I'm laughing at your post, David. Clearly you've got much more experience with Martin Parr than I!
I read his piece. So there are many "cliches" in photography. Michael Freeman addressed this in his book "The Photographers Mind". In many cases, the only way to make an image work is to follow the cliche. I'm not sure if we should go out of our way just for the sake of not being a cliche. Sometimes imitation is the best form of flattery. Sometimes the imitators do it better.
So to my point, after looking at some of his photos, is, that I'm rather confused.
If you are interested BB there is a good piece from the Sunday Times a couple of years back on Parr's work and the responses it generates, both sympathetic and hostile.
Thank you for that olli, it was an interesting read. I'd have to look at a many more of his photographs to come to a personal conclusion about what I really think. Provocateur is certainly a good adjective for him, that much I think I feel pretty safe in saying. I enjoyed the article very much.
I'm with BB. A great read, irrespective of Martin's requirement to "poke the hornet's nest". Reassuring to see that my macro flower and bee shots are still considered innovative....as are my study of driveways
At least he didn't use the cliches - and particular bugbears of mine - "evocative", "ethereal" and "narrative".
My way of responding to Parrs photographs is to ask people how they would feel if they or their families were the subjects of his camera. We all have the capacity to appear other than what we are, and to present pictures of people being cartooned and lampooned, strikes me as despicable. What exactly have the people in his photographs done to deserve this photographic equivalent of being called unpleasant names?
Concepts of dignity and respect don't seem to figure in Parrs sensibilities, if he has any. He takes the easy route, and it is indeed easy to present people in the worst possible light. His work, if it can be called that, is no better than inept paparazzi.
I don't trust him an inch, I don't trust his motives and I don't believe there is any truth in his pictures. But what disturbs me most is their lack of compassion. Does he take pictures with peoples permission, or does he just shoot his flash gun at people and run off? If he engages with his subjects does he inform them as to how they will be depicted? I personally despise what I see as a lack of respect, a lack of sensitivity and I regard him as a self-serving charlatan.
A few days ago, on this site, I was introduced to the wonderful work of Vivian Maier, and nothing could be more different. Yes there is humour, and observation of the occasionally absurd, but Maiers work shows a warmth towards her fellow human beings, whereas Parr seems to revel in being the school bully, picking on people who he obviously regards as deserving of such treatment with his camera. By depicting them the way that he does its pretty obvious how he views them.
That this is portrayed as fine art (I always think that phrase has 3 letters too many when applied to stuff like this) is both absurd and vaguely obscene. Who would want to put these mocking, arrogant, contemptible snapshots on their wall escapes me.
The fact that he's photographically inept is even more disturbing. The Kings new clothes lives on in the photographic art world, it seems. That people follow him, and ape his style shows that there are plenty more people seeking to produce similar shallow, judgemental, and to the eternal shame of people who buy them, lucrative, images. He should be ashamed of himself and offer a public apology for foisting this callous excercise in self aggrandisement upon us, but no, he sets himself up as some kind of photographic guru, criticising all and sundry as if he had some god given right to demonstrate his assumed superiority.
My usual reaction when I see his name followed by the word photographer is to describe myself as something else, an image-maker or digital visual recorder, because I want nothing that connects me to him and anything that he stands for. I have always made sure that when I photograph people I don't know (and indeed people I know) I first treat them with respect, and secondly photograph them with respect, to do anything else is to give myself an undeserved sense of importance and turn me into the photographic bully that I believe Parr to be.
David, you clearly have seen enough of Parr's pictures to have very strong feelings. I've only looked at his website...the ones taken at St. Moritz seem like cartoons to me and it is clear that he is mocking his subjects, at least for all but maybe one? In looking at his other photos, I'm don't really see any that bowl me over one way or the other. I did notice some decidedly unflattering photos without, for me, any real impact behind them. I also saw many which did not excite me. Obviously, this fellow has a big reputation in some places with a real love/hate attraction. I realize that we all have different tastes in many things, so I don't mean to denigrate someone else's view of of Parr's photographs. *While saying this, I have to add again that I have only seen what was on his "recent" section on his website.
I rarely take photographs of people I don't know, though I would like to feel more comfortable doing so if I feel compelled to. I am with you 100%, David, with your views on respect for another living being. I'm going to edit this a bit to say "for another being" just to be clear that I mean the living as well as the dead.
David, you took the words out my mouth.
Thanks, ya saved me some typing...
I could not agree with you enough.
I clicked on the images of Machu Picchu with high expectations, and came away wondering why he bothered going there. Travel Photography FAIL. I seriously don't understand what he was trying to portray.
"Lack of compassion" (soundinageplus) says it all. In a world as full of trouble, pain and suffering as this one, a photographer who uses the camera as if it were a weapon is engaged in an indefensible practice. It may be that there are no rules when it comes to composition, and such, but there must be some regard for people. Compassion is never out of fashion.
I've never heard of Mr. Parr, don't know his work, and don't have an opinion on him. I have my own set of photographic cliches and pet peeves, but I try not to go on about them - just because they seem cliche'd to me doesn't mean squat about how other people view them. And I've seen others describe stuff that's near and dear to me as cliches, so if I don't like that, who am I to judge what others like. There are certain types of photography that just flat don't appeal to me and so I generally avoid looking at it, and when I stumble on some without warning, I generally avoid commenting on it. Except in that very rare situation where the photographer transcends the genre and makes an amazing image out of otherwise boring (to me) subject matter. In which case I tend to praise it effusively because mine is a tough bias to overcome and if someone manages to, I consider that a hell of an achievement!
Life is full of cliches and if there wasn't something of value behind most of them, they never would have gotten to BE cliches. So I try to give 'em their due.
Agreed. Photography used as a way to bring our attention to injustice, persecution and exploitation is a decent and honourable thing. To use it to condemn the cruel, the bigoted and the vicious is also something to be applauded. To use it to mock and ridicule people who are doing nothing more than be who and where they are and then exhibit and sell those images to enhance a "reputation" and a bank balance strikes me as a kind of pornography.
Did you mean...Parr..nography?