I am a huge fan of Martin Parr. He excels at taking photographs that capture the idiosyncrasies particular to the lifestyles of the social strata in his native Britain. His ability to see extraordinary detail and capture humorous juxtapositions in the most mundane of moments is a special gift. In addition to the satirical commentary carried through his images, the photographs are aesthetically compelling and distinctive. Unafraid to get up close, Parr often works with a macro lens and a ring flash, giving the images an uncanny clarity and luster. The visual effect is commonly seen in fashion photography, (recall Viviane Sassen’s work I wrote about earlier this year), takes on a disconcerting quality when applied to the types of subjects we are not used to seeing in such proximity— overweight, middle-aged white folk lacking the protective coatings and disguises of professional models.
I am well acquainted with Parr’s photographs of resorts, beaches and hot-spots of mass tourism, but the Signs of the Times series is new to me. These photographs were taken in the early 90′s, when Martin Parr was asked to be the stills photographer for a BBC documentary of the same name. A collaboration between BBC, Nicholas Barker and Martin Parr, the show set out to documents the décor and tastes of 50 diverse British homes. Now, the series is exhibited in a solo exhibition for the first time at London’s Beetles + Huxley, in association with Parr’s representatives, Rocket Gallery. Humorous, awkward and kitsch, the photographs uncover some painfully twee florals and frills, accompanied by a frightful assortment of carpets. Hilarious quotes from the home-owners feature as the photograph’s titles, framing each image with a personal insight.
Let’s face it, we all love a good nosey into the lives of our fellow human beings. If you can’t make it to Beetles + Huxley, you can satisfy your voyeuristic urges and 90s bad-taste nostalgia by viewing more photographs here.