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Death by Selfi | Martin Parr
Death by Selfie © Martin Parr

Martin Parr

My black-and-white work is more of a celebration, and the color work became more of a critique of society

– Martin Parr

Martin Parr is a British documentary photographer, photojournalist, and photobook collector. He is known for his photographic projects that take a critical look at aspects of modern life, in particular provincial and suburban life in England. He is a member of Magnum Photos. With over 100 books of his own published, and another 30 edited by Parr, his photographic legacy is already established. Parr also acts as a curator and editor. He has curated two photography festivals, Arles in 2004 and Brighton Biennial in 2010. More recently Parr curated the Barbican exhibition, Strange and Familiar. Parr has been a member of the Magnum agency since 1994 and was President from 2013 – 2017. In 2013 Parr was appointed the visiting professor of photography at the University of Ulster. Parr’s work has been collected by many of the major museums, from the Tate, the Pompidou, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Martin Parr established the Martin Parr Foundation in 2017.

Born in Epsom, Surrey, Parr wanted to become a documentary photographer from the age of fourteen, and cites his grandfather, an amateur photographer, as an early influence. From 1970 to 1973, he studied photography at Manchester Polytechnic. He married Susan Mitchell in 1980, and they have one child, Ellen Parr (born 1986). He has lived in Bristol since 1987. Parr began work as a professional photographer and has subsequently taught photography intermittently from the mid-1970s. He was first recognized for his black-and-white photography in the north of England, Bad Weather (1982) and A Fair Day (1984), but switched to color photography in 1984. The resulting work, Last Resort: Photographs of New Brighton, was published in 1986. Since 1994, Parr has been a member of Magnum Photos. He has had almost 50 books published, and featured in around 80 exhibitions worldwide – including an exhibition at the Barbican Arts Centre, London. In 2007, his retrospective exhibition was selected to be the main show of Month of Photography Asia in Singapore. In 2008, he was made an Honorary Doctor of Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in recognition for his ongoing contribution to photography and to MMU’s School of Art.

Parr’s approach to documentary photography is intimate, anthropological, and satirical. Macro lenses, ring flash, high-saturation color film, and since it became an easier format to work in, digital photography, all allow him to put his subjects “under the microscope” in their own environment, giving them space to expose their lives and values in ways that often involve inadvertent humor. For example, to create his book Signs of the Times: A Portrait of the Nation’s Tastes. (1992), Parr entered ordinary people’s homes and took pictures of the mundane aspects of his hosts’ lives, combining the images with quotes from his subjects to bring viewers uncomfortably close to them. The result of Parr’s technique has been said to leave viewers with ambiguous emotional reactions, unsure whether to laugh or cry.

This image is shot as part of his Death by Selfie, taken around the world. Quoted from Parr’s artist statement, “Here is an unproven statistic: India is the world leader for selfie-taking. The only potential competitor would be China, with a similarly large population. However, if you refer to the  ‘Death by Selfie‘ statistics, India is so far ahead and there is no real competition.  It is probably wise to assume that if more people are killed by a phenomenon, then more of this activity must be taking place. In 2015, as many as 27 people died taking selfies. In both 2016 and 2017, 68 were killed by selfies. Many of the deaths occurred when other people stepped in to try and rescue the selfie-takers who were washed away by freak waves. People also die by going too near a raging fire, or by stepping backward off a cliff edge. The other observation I would make is that very rarely do selfies come singly; a typical sequence would have many dozens of options perused, and sometimes these extended sessions can take a good ten minutes.  I am not sure how the editing takes place, or indeed if these selfies get saved and downloaded. Another novelty for me is that people often request to have a selfie with me because I am a Westerner and of course I agree. So there must hundreds of images of me floating in Indian cyberspace, untraceable autoportraits that will never be recognized.”

Published on January 16, 2021
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2021-04-07T13:15:59+05:30
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