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Martin Parr – Early Years 2
Butlins Filey, North Yorkshire, England, 1972 © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

Unseen black and white photography from Martin Parr’s early years

A new book shines a light on the lesser-known aspects of the British photographer’s career

Martin Parr is one of Britain’s most recognisable photographers. For more than four decades, he has been lensing the sights of Britain’s rural communities, seaside towns, and the working-class, often showing his subjects in a surreal or satirical light. What is less known is the early black and white work he created during 1970 and 1984. 

Now set to be published by RRB PhotoBooks and The Martin Parr Foundation, Martin Parr – Early Works will share images from series made by the photographer during this period; The Non Conformists, Bad Weather and A Fair Day – many for the first time ever.

It was within these series that the first traces of Parr’s wry humour had begun to show – people fed up in the local supermarket or a husband and wife with their fluffy dogs. The Non Conformists saw Parr documenting the market town of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, England. Whereas Bad Weather was the photographer’s debut monograph, featuring photographs of the British and Irish population dealing with typically English weather. A Fair Day was made in Ireland in the early 90s, juxtaposed the mining industry’s decline with the country’s new build housing. It also contains images of Parr’s time spent in India, China, and the British Isles in the mid-80s.

In the book’s introduction, fellow photographer Jeffrey Ladd writes: “The American photographer Garry Winogrand often stated the belief that ‘once the work exists, the artist is irrelevant’ – meaning, only concern yourself with what is within the picture before you... To the horror of most historians, I agree with Garry, so I will arm you with the bio I find appropriate for looking at the pictures that will follow; Martin Parr was born. We, and the medium, are far better off for that.”

Martin Parr – Early Works will be available from RRB PhotoBooks and The Martin Parr Foundation from 16 October 2019