Finding Martin Parr Foundation was a little like finding Nemo. Once I had spotted a small sign attached to a lamppost saying Paintworks I knew it must be close. Turning into the vast complex of buildings adorned by huge coloured Paintworks signs I felt this was a special location to have set up an exhibition space, library and archive.
This was a day out for Falmouth Flexible MA Photography students arranged and lead by the head of the course and a tutor. About 10 of us attended from all cohorts including those who had just begun to one recent graduate. Louis our host was generous with his time and was extremely knowledgeable about the photographers whose work is now in the archive and library as well as the development of the Foundation and the work of Martin Parr himself.
The current exhibition ‘In Your Face’ by Paul Trevor 26-09-18 to 22-12-18 stems from work he completed 1977 to 1992 in the City of London and Brick Lane. Notable for the close proximity of the camera and photographer to the subjects, the work was considered radical at the time it was made and is now highly regarded within the genre of British documentary photography. I understood how the proximity brought the viewer up close and made a very a personal connection with the subject. I appreciated the quality of the images and how they had been printed. However this style is not one I would wish to engage in as it felt a little intrusive (and there will no doubt have been people who refused this ‘up close’ approach) and was largely devoid of context which would facilitate an understanding of time and place. Mind you the clothes and hairstyles that could be seen were pretty indicative of their periods. We heard how the images were intended to be attempted with a fixed distance from subject to camera of 12 inches (if I recall the measurement correctly).
Being permitted into the storage archive felt like an honour and privilege. Entering a cool room (literally a cold storage facility) full of wooden crates, metal chests, archival boxes and framed and packaged items which looked as though they were off on tour or had recently returned, was an eye opener. Not only that but a small room at the end which was even cooler housed box upon box of original film negatives. We quickly learned that Martin Parr is a prolific photographer of all sorts of subject matter taking up opportunities to use his cameras as experiences unfold before him (as evidenced by the variety in the publications he has for sale in the shop). Louis showed us work donated to the archive and stored in these chilly conditions to preserve them. Chris Killip and Graham Smith being two examples.
While a large section of Martin Parr’s archival material is in the Tate in London, there was still much to see in the library. This houses a wall on photography in Britain and two others. All contain work of photographers that has either been bought by the foundation or donated by the authors, with glass doors on one section denoting irreplaceable or very expensive items. It was within this sacred place I found a little dummy book no bigger than my hand about Plymouth, made by Robin Maddock. Louis immediately produced the final book ‘God Forgotten Face’ (published in 2011) for me to compare the dummy with and ‘III’ his 3rd book shot in three US cities and published in 2014.. This showed me that no matter how small and ‘roughly’ the DIY dummies may be done they can be very important in visualising the layout for the published product. In addition, thinking about my project I found some appeal in his images of individual items such as a pair of shoes and a sheet of paper.
I also made two further discoveries, names I had not come across before. Masafumi Sanai and his publication in 1998 ‘Wakaranai’ (I don’t know) and Hiroshi Yoda’s 1994 book ‘Obsession’ and 1986 book ‘Tea for Two’. Both attracted me with their use of colour either of the subject or as a complimentary background. Hiroshi Yoda also presented images of deterioration which resonates with my beach debris project and showed me that colour can enhance as effectively, if not more so in some instances, as a background setting for the focus of the image thereby broadening my thoughts for experimentation beyond black or white.
Oh and how did I forget to mention being permitted to visit the studio and of course browsing the wares in the the shop!
Now I know how to find the Martin Parr Foundation I will certainly visit again and be much more focussed in accessing the archive and using the library for my project work. Thank you for setting up this marvellous facility Martin.
MADDOCK, Robin. Available at: https://www.robinmaddock.com/gff [accessed 01/11/18].
MADDOCK, Robin. 2011. God Forgotten Face [online]. Available on: https://vimeo.com/91401789 [accessed 01/11/18].
MARTIN PARR FOUNDATION. Available at: https://www.martinparrfoundation.org/ [accessed 01/11/18].
SANAI, Masafumi. 1998. Wakaranai. Available at: https://www.photobookstore.co.uk/photobook-wakaranai.html [accessed 01/11/18].
YODA, Hiroshi. Available at: https://www.hiroshiyoda.com/ [accessed 01/11/18].