I saw the superb show of the work of the British photographer Martin Parr this past week at Boston College's McMullen Museum and recommend it highly. Fellow photographer and teacher at Boston College Karl Baden has brought us a large sample of Parr's photographs made over his career. Cleanly and with excellent text that contextualizes the work, we go from the late 70s up through 2005 or so and are shown specific projects along the way, from early days with small analog black and white prints up through medium format large color inkjet prints. We are taken on a journey of Parr's interests, including many pictures from Ireland, unflinching and in-your face-pictures of demonstrations, family get-togethers, people on the street, a visit by the Pope, and photos of monuments and famous tourist destinations made with a wry sense of humor.
Excuse the hyperbole but I found the work in the show to be a confirmation of photography itself. Parr's pictures affirm that, although it may feel like the world is going to hell in a handbasket, there is good in the world, for his spin is mostly positive. That things aren't perhaps as bad as they seem.
Parr's role as acute observer takes great discipline and this show presents us with work that speaks to his efficiency and wonderful ability to find things that hold our interest in unexceptional circumstances. For Parr, pictures are everywhere.
Parr is a commentator on our human condition, with a decidedly British take.
Take a practiced and perceptive photographer, put him/her in front of places of interest peopled with a broad cross-section of humanity, add in some wit, irony, a strong sense of design and a fine color sensibility and you might have Martin Parr, clearly one the very best working today. I only wish the show gave us more current work, for what is there seems to stop about 2005.
Many photo shows these days leave me angry and frustrated, feeling that photography has lost its way, missed its inherent capabilities and attributes while being taken up by artists that bend it, mold it to make imagery that I don't have a clue about, personal and political pieces that I don't relate to. But there is wonderful work to see. So far this year I have seen this and the Frank Armstrong show at Fitchburg Art that confirm that photographs are being made that are superb.
Thank you to both Frank Amstrong and Martin Parr and the curators that brought them to us.
through June 5