Martin Parr | A great nonconformist

“I should have stayed in this town just like in a tedious waiting room”

– Jorge Teillier.

We could say that the isolation does not obey a geographic problem, but how the right hemisphere of our brain face monotony, creating big universes in small worlds. Just like Martin Parr (1952) did, who managed to see in Hebden Bridge inhabitants, a small textile town in Yorkshire (England), Los Inconformistas, people of self-sufficient and working nature that makes routine (harvests, factories and mines) a way of life in which Methodist and Baptist churches determine their spirit, marked by a fervent traditionalism and above all by that initiative of these “non-conformist chapels” that at that time traversed the whole countryside to attract parishioners. That fact drove the young photographer to begin a journey that today is presented in Corporación Cultural de las Condes, with about 70 pictures captured from 1975 to 1980 by this prominent photographer of the Magnum Photos cooperative, who for five years captured freezing daily stories in a timeless and provincial aura.

He has just finished their studies at The University of Manchester, when together with Susie Mitchell, his future wife, decided to head for covering all the community that would end up being an important enclave in a piece of work that happens in the drink factory in Lydgate, the Clivager Coal Company, the Hebden Bridge cinema, visiting forest rangers in the Lord Savile’s ranch or the nostalgic methodist chapels in Crimsworth Dean, only a few places that marked its inhabitants’ life that to survive they fought for conserving their traditions, recovering their faith and avoiding the exodus from the new generations to major cities.

A repertoire that arises from the spontaneity and a germinal register in which the author has not unsheathed his characteristic stiletto of ironies yet at his own risk. “Some people see me like a humorous photographer, but how can I not be like that? where the world is a funny place and people is funny. However, this piece of work emerges from the deep contact with the community, specially with that range of offices and persons that solace with these small moments, daily lived by rats and pigeon breeders, the hunters of the red capercaillie or the parishioners of the restaurant of “Lady” of Willie Sutcliffe. Simple people devoted to mould these laconic and beautiful universes kept in the melancholic rigor of black and white, primarily influenced by the Garry Winogrand and Tony Ray Jones’ glasses (1941-1972), as a slip-up far from the chromatic reverberation applied by Parr in the 80s, where was attracted by color and the work of William Eggleston and Stephen Shore as well, and to make this sarcastic tone worse in his iconic series The Last Resort (1986), caught in the coast of New Brighton (Liverpool), and observed by the critical eye of David Lee: “The working class would appear big, simple, with no style, tediously conformist and unable to any individuality, an enjoyment for a more sophisticated audience”.

GB. England. West Yorkshire. Halifax. Reflecting Roadstuds Ltd. The cats’ eyes are sprayed silver numerous times. 1975.


Of course, Parr takes license not only to make pedestrian something that attracts attention, but it exceeds passivity of what household is, through a traditionalist radiography of who is able to bridge the gap between the archetype and an open-ending story.  The favorable space for honesty and charm to get together to develop a dossier in human scale, whose poetic aura is detached apart from the authenticity of those communities absorbed in its reality, the beauty of a world (as yet unknown) places the author as the precursor of the “new documentalism”, and as one of the most recognized photographer of our time, with such important awards like the Erich Salomon of the German Society for Photography (2006), The PhotoEspaña award (2008) and recently, the Contribution to Photography, of Sony World Photography Awards (2017). This is without including the countless exhibitions throughout the world for the current commissioner and president of Magnum Photos, Martin Parr, a great nonconformist, who despite the success, he keeps feeling like a common person: “In a so socially stratified country like England, I feel as an average citizen”



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