I finally got to see ONLY HUMAN Martin Parr at the National Portrait Gallery (3 days before it ends – phew!).If you visit my site often you’ll know I am a fan and this for me was a must see. It still is. I thoroughly enjoyed the exhibition.
The photographs were brilliant and the collections contained within were all really well curated, humourous, thought provoking and a great record of modern human society.
What was even better was the way the exhibition had been constructed.
It starts with an exhibit of paraphernalia which includes tatty souvenirs all with the Martin (Fucking) Parr brand.
It was no surprise that this was opposite the gift shop which very much felt like part of the exhibition.
You could pick up ONLY HUMAN sticks of rock, tote bags featuring the queen, cake stands featuring photos of cakes, feet flip flops…. I could go on.
The exhibition included photographic works and some three dimensional works that Parr had comissioned of works of himself in various guises.
There was also a screen displaying the BBC One Oneness indents. It was great to see them in their original format and their entirety. There were also many photos taken during the recordings which gave a particularly poignant capsule of modern Britain.
I particularly enjoyed the ident which captures a steel band at the Plymouth Hoe Lido (where I grew up).
In the middle of the exhibition was a cafe.
Not a normal museum cafe but a naff, greasy spoon cafe as featured by Parr in his works during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s.
In the corner was an old portable colour TV playing the Pet Shop Boys London video on loop. This was directed by Parr.
Cleverly this was next to the Brexit portion of the exhibition. A room which gave you the choice to leave, or remain.
I wonder how many others noticed the subtle tones of Neil Tennant singing we were in London, let’s break the law, as they wandered around the Brexit section?
I could not help be amused by Martin Parrs eye. There was a photo of a well to do woman at the races in front of a sign labelled Class judging. This sign was intended for the horses but put next to the woman at the start of this section was really poignant.
His photos appear to be shot wide open and even some of the celebrity portraits didn’t appear to be focussed where you would expect them to be. That didn’t distract from the impact of the photos as the subject matter grabs your attention.
Parr also appears to use flash a lot which I believe is quite brave given the subject matter and closeness of his subjects in certain shots.
I followed the same approach the Photo London and took some shots (with my Pixel 3) of people attending the exhibition rather than of the works themselves. I thought I’d take my own Parr-take on the exhibition.
I’ve since imported them to Lightroom and created my very own Martin Parr preset.
It’s bright, high contrast and saturated. A stark difference from the black and white photos of last weekend.
Here’s my Martin Parr homage, complete with Parresque selfie.
This exhibition closes at the end of May but if you get the chance, I highly recommend you visit.
Even if you don’t like Martin Parrs’ brash style, this is a brilliant capsule of humanity and all walks of society in the 20th and 21st century.
(Sadly this time I did no bump into Martin in the flesh!).