Not everyone can be as composed and proper like the subjects of The Sartorialist blog. Even in the best places for cultural erudition, tourists on vacation can sometimes stand out like a sore thumb. This is where photographer Martin Parr does some of the best (or some would say the worst) candid photography.
Martin Parr is a photojournalist famous for his social documentary photography. Although his work sometimes focuses on eccentricity of modern life in his native England, his images resonates with the cultures of other countries around the world.
His first major work was Last Resort: Photography of New Brighton. The collection of colors and characters caused a lot of stir in the photography world when it came out in 1986.
Parr's work has been described as many things: truthful, obscene, dispassionate, voyeuristic, gaudy, ironic, ridiculous, among many, many other things. Over his more than three-decade career, his work has earned him all of those descriptions, and his notoriety hasn't gone unnoticed in the higher echelons of the photography world.
In 1988, Parr joined the prestigious Magnum Photos (founded by legends such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa). The quality of his photographs was so controversial that members were divided as to whether or not to admit him to the esteemed organization. In the end, Parr got in with a margin of only one vote.
Parr's works are as diverse as the countries that he has visited. In his seminal book The Last Resort, he collects images of vacationers set against the backdrop of the bleak British seaside. In Small World, he travels outside to the most popular tourist attractions of the world where the tourists have become attractions themselves.
His recent book Playas finds Parr on the sunny beaches of Rio where beauty is mostly skin deep, but character isn't in short supply. In contrast, the book Luxury shows of the wealthy of the world in all their extravagance and how unreservedly ridiculously the upper class can be.
Ultimately, the "love him or hate him" extremes that most viewers respond when confronted with his pictures has only helped to keep his name alive, which is a good thing as he has had the guts to stick to his photographic style.
Many of his images are anything but beautiful, but every now and then, you find one that is humorous and more importantly representational of today's society. His is a world that is filled with bizarre characters that are up to their necks in flamboyant consumerism and minimal culture. But that it is precisely the irony he presents; the insignificant and indulgent rituals that thousands of people perform as tourists or locals have become in themselves a cultural phenomenon.
Martin Parr has a website and blog that are both regularly updated. Among his many books, most of the photographs shown above are in Small World, The Last Resort, and Common Sense.