Martin Parr reflects on the varying notions of 'play’ within Magnum photographers’ work
For this year’s PHotoESPAÑA, Magnum nominee Cristina de Middel has collaborated with Martin Parr to curate a group exhibition that examines the many forms of ‘play’ that can be found within Magnum’s vast archive. Here, Martin Parr discusses the many ideas of ‘play’ that can be read in the exhibition.
Sometimes, when I have an idle moment, I will open up the Magnum site and see what my peers and colleagues have been up to, checking out the stories that are constantly being loaded onto the site and on the front page. But also checking who has been where and — if I am in a certain country or city – what images have come before my own visit.
"The great thing about this word is that it can mean so many different things"
- Martin Parr
"Music is also important"
- Martin Parr
This process had a certain sense of urgency when Cristina de Middel and I were asked to curate a show for PHotoESPAÑA around the theme of ‘players’ from the Magnum archive. Putting this keyword into the Magnum system produced many thousands of photos, and the search was on. The great thing about this word is that it can mean so many different things. If you also account for the huge variety of styles and visions of accumulated Magnum photographers the choice and range become enormous. ‘Players’ may first of all call to mind the world of sport: football, golf, baseball. But music is also important, and we show the wonderful jazz images by Guy le Querrec.
There is also the more general idea of people engaging in pleasurable activities — children playing in the street, people involved in card games, the permutations are endless. We also accumulated some sequences of images that work well together in grids. Take, for example, Thomas Dzorvak’s now famous Pokémon pictures, which proved to be the most popular set of images ever loaded onto the Magnum site. Then we have Jonas Bendiksen’s images of Norwegian heavy metal musicians, in a state of high excitement, long hair swishing around their faces. Another sequence to note is Bruce Gilden’s images of New York marathon runners, in a state of total exhaustion after completing the grueling 26-mile run. Strength in numbers as they say.
Sport is never far away, and we include some notable examples of British eccentricity. A cricket match played once a year on the Bramble sandbank, off Cowes in the Isle of Wight, between the Royal Southern Yacht Club and the Island Sailing Club. The match only lasts one hour, the time that — in very low tides — this patch of ground is revealed. We have also included Peter Marlow’s photos of the Eton public school pupils playing the famous wall game.
"Get out there and join in the fun, and become a contributing player"
- Martin Parr
We have many images of football, the most popular sport on the planet, but these are just as likely to feature street kids playing in Africa as a top-flight game. Within this collection, you will find iconic images such as Bruno Barbey’s wonderful cyclist in the water or Bruce Davidson’s image of the Brooklyn Gang girl, checking out a mirror. Such is the strength and diversity of the Magnum archive many images will be unfamiliar, and yet all unite in their depiction and their message: to get out there and join in the fun, and become a contributing player.