Martin Parr’s rise to fame
The Last Resort is an unwavering series of photographs that featured the working-class seaside resort of New Brighton, situated in Merseyside, as the primary subject.
The series of photographs is what helped to bring Martin Parr to broad public attention during the mid-1980s. Since the launch of the Last Resort, Parr has since grown to become one of the most influential and important voices in British photography.
The Last Resort & Mixed reviews
When Parr’s photography book was published, released and exhibited back in 1986, it was so prolific that it divided both critics and audiences with dissenting opinions. Some saw it as a great achievement that helped set the standards for colored photography, while other critics saw it as an abnormality and a deviation from the norm.
Video: Martin Parr – Photography is a form of therapy
Parr’s switch from black-white to color photography
Martin Parr was well-known for using exclusively black and white prints. It was not until he witnessed Peter Mitchell’s exhibition, a known British photographer, that he changed his approach to colored photography. Parr was also influenced heavily to switch to color photographs by the works of other American photographers such as Joel Meyerowitz and William Eggleston.
Which camera did Martin Parr use?
For The Last Resort, Parr switched from his 35mm camera to a medium-format Plaubel Makina rangefinder 6x7cm camera. Using the medium format camera allowed him to shoot images with much sharper detail. The Plaubel Makina rangefinder was also a lot lighter and more compact than the 35mm camera that he was utilizing initially.
Today, The Last Resort is seen as a classic that is often highly sought after by photographers and aspiring artists. Steering a risky course between impartiality and voyeurism, Parr observed the slowly decaying and crumbling town of New Brighton as well as the holidaymakers that frequented the town with a new and disturbing perspective.
To represent his perspective, he opted to capture his images in color, which was something quite different, unexpected and unique at the time.
The New Brighton photographs were captured between 1983 and 1985. Most of the images included in the book were powerful single images that had meaning on their own. The compositions were strong, well-executed in terms of framing and featured a wonderful color aesthetic, which was made even more beautiful by using the flash during the day.
For some critics, his photographs seemed cruel and cold as they captured the working classes of people desperately trying to pursue their holiday adventures surrounded by pollution thanks to the consumer ridden society. For some, Parr’s images displayed a bitter satire of Britain during the Thatcher era.