Martin Parr

12th October 2019

You can see many examples of fill-flash in Martin Parr’s photographs at

OCA Foundations in photography Course Folder pg81
Martin Parr – GB. England. New Brighton. From The Last Resort, 1983-85

Because I come from a creative/ conceptual art background I do not know much about photographers in the public eye. I may have come across those that produce paintings, drawings, sculptures etc… as well, but not those people who purely are photographers. This course has opened my eyes up to a whole new world, one in photography that I am finding increasingly interesting and stimulating.

I have always taken photographs since that first camera my wonderful nan and grandad Lake had bought me as a child. Then at art college it became more academic and technical and then finally as an artist in my mid-forties I began to use photography’s a means of communication, trying to put across such concepts as domestic violence.

Martin Parr has been the new eye opener. Yes I have known his name but have never looked up his work until now. All I can say is I absolutely love his work, the subject matter, how he shoots it, the flash work and he collects postcards and has books printed with some of his collections in. I also collect postcards in themes with the intent of having themed exhibitions in which I relate them to modern life with my own photographs and artwork. Here is a photograph of just some of my collection which have not been put into categories and boxed accordingly as yet.

Uncategorised postcards

The categories that I collect are:

  • Advertisements
  • Architecture
  • Artworks
  • Domestic Violence advertisements
  • Graphic designs
  • History
  • Illustrations
  • Landscapes
  • Mental Health advertisments
  • Objects
  • Photography works
  • Religion
  • Seaside Slap and tickle
  • Victorian and other era Lowestoft

I have also decided to research a little more about Parr’s use of flash as I would love to do this in my street photography to see what the outcomes are like. I have never owned a flash until now and literally bought it for this course, so now I have one I can research flashes and their uses – quite exciting, something new and more research! Yay!

When you look at the flash work in daylight it gives an out of this normal world look, sometimes quite saturated, garish even but they make the subject vibrant and seem more alive.

Also the subjects he shoots are daily scenes we all know, take for granted and many of us do not think twice about as we walk past them. I do, only because of the creative in me but I never stop to make art from it, creative photography that is, I shoot and go – in fact I do not even think of them in terms of a series, but one of shots recording an image.

The example photograph below is great. I love the way the flash brings the foot out of the photo like an early 3D effect and also how the colours in the background, especially the blues, are so vivid. Another thing that caught my eye is how the horizon line is at an angle and looks like everyone will be sliding off to the right any minute.

On the beach in Nice in the south of France, 2015. Magnum Photos photographer Martin Parr is known for his saturated and brightly lit documentary style. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 Compact Macro lens. © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

An interview extract from the website about the use of flash in Parr’s photography:

Were other photographers using daylight flash at the time you started using it? 

“I saw hints of it. Chris Killip was using flash at the beginning of his career. Andy Earl, another British photographer, also used flash and colour very early on. I remember seeing his pictures from places like Ascot and being very interested in that technique. So yes, it was around, but it wasn’t as popular as it is now.

“I also took the language of commercial photography, where the subject was brightly lit and colours were saturated. It was about picking up on this language we’re surrounded by in advertising and fashion and applying it in a documentary sense. This was new, but I’m not going to claim any exclusivity on it. Many other people were experimenting in this territory. I just particularly made it part of my mantra and it worked out very well.”

Did other people use ring flash for documentary work, like you later did? 

“There were a few examples of ring flash being around in the 1990s, but it wasn’t at all dominant. When I discovered the combination of using a macro lens with ring flash, it was very exciting to see what it could offer. It enabled me to think about clichés like food as a subject matter and demonstrate that subjects like that can say as much about the world as anything else.”

What were the benefits of using ring flash? 

“The real benefit was that flash gave things a surreal look and feel, which I very much enjoyed. When I was using slow ISO50 colour negative film, the ring flash gave intense colours. At the time I really liked that sort of ultra-saturated palette. I’m creating fiction out of reality, so in a sense it helps to distance the reality from the photos. Even now I still often use the combination of a wide-angle lens and a ring flash. For me, it’s not so much a technical thing, it’s more an aesthetic thing.”

Interview extract by David Clark

So I have learnt that he uses a ring flash and also that there isn’t one you can purchase for my camera…. sad to say, so I will experiment in other ways…

The four following photographs can be found within the book by Martin Parr – GB. England. New Brighton. From The Last Resort, 1983-85. They are four of my favourites although it was very hard to choose some to show on this blog. However I will be purchasing this book as I feel it is absolutely amazing and I would like to hopefully collect most of Martin Parrs books over time, as I can say he is now one of my favourite photographers. I have much more research now on parr, his techniques and his works, but I feel this indeed will be a very inspirational journey. I dislike most colour photography having always been drawn to black and white from the earliest times that I can remember, which also includes good old black and white movies. As a child I was thought of being odd, nothing like a nine year old who was admiring the black and white photographs in the magazines and watching classic films instead of the likes of ‘Grease.’ But Martin Parr seems to show colour in another dimension and my eye finds his use of colour and flash very attractive and intriguing.

There is a very good article here called ‘Photographer Martin Parr’s breakthrough series The Last Resort.’ It can be found on the website public Public Delivery is a not-for-profit arts organisation established in 2011 in Seoul, South Korea. 

I have enjoyed this research!!

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