Martin Parr Goes Paris

The British photographer is all over the French capital during Paris Photo.

© Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

There is a collector’s impulse to everything that Martin Parr does, whether he is observing life from behind the camera, making his own pictures, or obsessively bidding on eBay for some obscure object from popular culture, such as a Margaret Thatcher teapot, or a Saddam Hussein watch.

“I have a very strong collecting gene,” writes the photographer in Parrworld, the two-volume book that accompanied his 2008 exhibition at the Haus der Kuns in Munich, devoted to the postcards and objects he has assembled over the years.

“It started early. When I was very young I gathered together a museum of items such as pellets (balls of fur and bones, spat out by birds of prey), fossils and birds’ nests in the cellar of our semi in Chessington, Surrey. Over the years, these collecting habits have shifted and become more refined. I have collected stamps, bus tickets, Victorian pennies and, my biggest collection to date, photographic books.

“By applying some order to our chaotic world, and assembling things into categories and ultimately into a book or a show, I can make a more coherent statement about my relationship to the world.”

He is, of course, also an avid collector of other photographers’ work, from the world-leading collection of 12,000 photobooks he sold to Tate in 2017, to the book dummies and prints he’s amassed from photographers including Tony Ray-Jones, Sunil Gupta, Rinko Kawauchi and Garry Winogrand, not to mention some of his Magnum colleagues, such as David Hurn and Gilles Peress.

With this in mind, and to celebrate the collective’s 75th anniversary, Magnum asked Parr to curate its booth for this year’s Paris Photo (November 10-13), drawing on the agency’s historic archive. “Over the years when looking at my colleagues’ work, some images have really stuck in my mind,” Parr says. “Curating the booth this year gives me a chance to share these iconic images with the visitors to the Magnum stand.”

County Kerry, Ireland, 1988 © Harry Gruyaert/Magnum Photos.
A man taken into custody in a police car, New York City, USA, 1978 © Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos.
Bombardopolis, Haiti, 1986 © Alex Webb/Magnum Photos.
Welsh Miners, 1965 © Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos.
Congo, 2014 © Paolo Pellegrin/Magnum Photos.
Al-Minya, Egypt, September 2013 © Bieke Depoorter/Magnum Photos.
© Bruce Gilden/Magnum Photos

Both vintage and modern prints will be featured in order to illustrate the span of Magnum Photos archive and its historic place in the world of photography. Parr will celebrate Magnum’s early members as well as its newer generation of photographers who, over the past 75 years, have challenged the traditional distinction drawn between photojournalism and art. Featured artists include Bruce Davidson, Ernest Cole, Harry Gruyaert, Alessandra Sanguinetti and Bieke Depoorter, among others.

The promenade at the elegant seaside town of Tenby, South Wales, 1974 © David Hurn/Magnum Photos.
Guerrero, Mexico, 2021 © Yael Martinez/Magnum Photos.
From the series, The Teds, 1976 © Chris Steele-Perkins/Magnum Photos.
© Raymond Depardon/Magnum Photos
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. being greeted on his return to the US after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Baltimore, USA, 1964 © Leonard Freed/Magnum Photos.

This curation will coincide with Magnum’s current Paris gallery exhibition, Déjà View: Martin Parr and The Anonymous Project (at 68 Rue Leon Frot until November 19), which places a selection of Parr’s photographs alongside strikingly similar images by amateurs.

In addition, a selection of Parr’s work will show alongside his one-time Magnum colleague – and supposed nemesis – Henri Cartier-Bresson. The exhibition, titled Reconciliation (November 7 to February 12, 2023), pairs the two photographers and their work – taken two decades apart – from the same part of northern England, matching a recently discovered commission shot by the Frenchman with Parr’s 1984 classic, The Last Resort, and his more recent series, Black Country Stories (2009/10).

The show, which is the first at the Foundation’s new space, The Tube, is accompanied by the book, Les Anglais, published by Delpire in France and RRB in the UK.

Stay in touch
Learn about online and offline exhibitions, photography fairs, gallery events, plus fine print news and activities, on a monthly basis.
Get fortnightly tips and advice articles, find out about the latest workshops, free online events and on-demand courses.
Stay up to date every Thursday with Magnum photographers’ activities, new work, stories published on the Magnum website, and the latest offerings from our shop.