What I learnt from Martin Parr
I went to a lecture by Martin Parr earlier this week which has set my brain whirring.
I’ve tried to record as much as I could remember from the lecture which was full of great advice.
In addition I’ve watched an unhealthy amount of Martin Parr video on Youtube this week and harvested some more wisdom which I’ve added here too.
The notes are rough so excuse that, but the advice is gold!
Have a story to tell
Don’t worry about having to develop a style, decide to take interesting photos and your style will take care of itself
Photos are always exploitative to some degree, acknowledge that fact and use it responsibly
Make time to get to know subject first
People smiling is not what you want
Give people prints of their photos
He picked people’s leisure time as his subject, because people are their true selves outside of work
Be interested in people
People will always be interested in people, making them a good subject to shoot!
Think about what story you are telling and what you are trying to communicate with the pictures
He uses colour and flash to fill the shadows, a similar approach to advertising photos, deliberately garish so they stand out
Macro lens and a flash is another technique he uses
The effort you put into a photo will always come through in the final image
He likes cliches, he was popular in France because he played on their preconception that the brits eat terrible food so when French saw images that reinforced their preconceptions they loved them
He is mischievous and knows it, he takes a cliche and subverts it which makes it interesting
He finds subjects that he knows the viewer will be familiar with (like an iconic shot of Machu Picchu) and then shows the reality of what is actually like there which the viewer automatically contracts with the ‘classic’ version of that shot in their heads
Photos that seem mundane at that point in time will be interesting in the future as fashions change and we realise just how awful our taste was, keep the boring photos!
He wants to see things at their extremes, like tourist destinations at their busiest
Leisure pursuits, hobbies, national stereotypes, the establishment, the beach are great subjects
Identify the cultural stereotypes and things that people will use to judge themselves against
He doesn’t do any of his post processing, people do it for him who know his style. Only do the things that other people can’t do (outsource the rest) he takes the photos and does the talks (only he can do this!)
Doesn’t seem to care about kit although completely committed to digital vs hassle of film
He focussed on the middle classes as the rich and poor were well documented, hence moving to Bristol as its a middle class strong hold!
Tech aspects of photography are easy now (cameras are so advanced), the hard bit is making a connection with your subject that has any vitality or meaning to the viewer
Your connection and view of the world is unique but finding the language to express it in your photography is the tricky bit to master
Most of the photos he takes he describes as ’crap’, take more crap photos to increase your chances of taking some great ones
You have to make what you are communicating so powerful that people get it immediately
Why don’t people take photos at funerals? What other socially defined rules can you find and play with to result in interesting photos?
A good photo must communicate the quality of the connection you’ve made with a person, place or thing and it must communicate that without you being there to explain it
He subvert cheap, garish and nasty subjects and tries and convey a serious message
The secret is all about telling stories and conveying them effectively through photography
It’s better to be controversial and not liked by some people than to be ignored completely
Manifesto from Tony Ray Jones — talk to people, be patient, stay with them, vary composition and angles & don’t take boring pictures!
Peculiar English habits that are fascinating
It’s a calling, you want to photograph because it’s how you express yourself
“My ultimate goal is to try to make the ordinary look extraordinary”
Identify where the energy source or hotspot is within a image and concentrate on that
It’s all about having something to say and communicating it well
Start with cliches, subvert and explore them
Be nosy and explore everything
Go to a place, explore it and take photos to record it
Introduce an element of mischief, show contradictions that you see in modern society,
Don’t let people smile in portraits
Look for stories in the world around you to shoot