Wish you were her?

18th February 2000 at 00:00
(Photograph) - English people being English. This is what photographer Martin Parr takes pictures of. Car boot sales, cafes, aerobics and day trips, that kind of thing. It's a bit of an obsession. He takes a lot of photographs of people on holiday. This woman was on the beach in Benidorm.

Can't get much more English than that.

He did a whole book about tourists once. All about how they're everywhere these days and everywhere they go is just the same. Called it Small World.

Bloody tourists - always traipsing round, taking snaps. Just like Martin Parr. So what did he do? He took pictures of them taking pictures.

Thing about his pictures is, they look like ordinary snapshots. Only more so. They're bigger, with brighter colours. This woman's orange, for God's sake. She's glowing, but not in a healthy way. All dressed up in red lipstick and jewellery, and what's that on the bridge of her nose? Looks like two teaspoons stuck together. And her skin, well, you can see every pore. Close up detail, that's one of Martin Parr's trademarks.

People that don't like his pictures say they're patronising. But I say what about all those photographers taking moody black and white pictures of scruffy kids hanging around on council estates? The photographer goes home to his nice house, sells the pictures to a Sunday supplement and forgets all about the kids. So who's patronising? But you go to any seaside town on a summer's day and what do you see? People eating fish and chips, wearing silly hats and getting sunburn.

He likes everyday things does Martin Parr. Always has done. When he was a kid, he used to be a trainspotter. He collected all sorts of stuff. " became fascinated with things that are ordinary," he says. So he doesn't mean to be patronising, he likes people.

That Henri Cartier-Bresson, now he's a photographer. Very classy. What he doesn't know about composition isn't worth knowing. Helped set up Magnum, the most famous photographic agency in the world. Him and Parr are chalk and cheese, photographically speaking. Anyway, a few years ago, Martin Parr wanted to join Magnum. Now they don't just let anyone in - you've got to be good. They have only about 60 members, see.

Cartier-Bresson wouldn't have it. He said to him: "You are from another planet." And he is a bit mad. Martin Parr, that is. He's got a collection of Seventies wallpaper at home. And he did another book called Boring Postcards. Got loads of old postcards with pictures of roundabouts and flyovers and grass verges and stuck them in a book. I ask you, is that normal?

Anyway, the Magnum members had a ballot and he got in - by one vote. "I tend to photograph in a hyper realistic way. So hyper that it sometimes becomes surreal," is his excuse. Calls himself a "cultural commentator with a camera". Like John Motson with an instamatic. Nice work if you can get it.

websitesBenidorm council and others,in Spanish: www.gva.es magnum: www.magnumphotos.com best beaches in the world: www.oneweb.cominfoctrsbeaches.html History of the original package tour operators: www.thomascook.comaboutushistory.html This week's and last week's Big Picture are part of a touring exhibition of Magnum's work, currently at London's Barbican Art Gallery until March 19, and published in magnum, Phaidon Press pound;39.95.

Photograph by Martin Parr

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