Manchester Art Gallery

Martin Parr: Return to Manchester

Martin Parr shows how the lives of Mancunians have changed but also reveals how there is continuity in how we live.

Manchester Art Gallery
Friday 16 November 2018–Monday 22 April 2019

Free

Martin Parr chronicles our times. He has developed an international reputation for his colourful photographs which capture how we all live our lives – whether it is the food we eat, the fashions we wear, what we buy or our leisure activities. His images present the familiar in a new and wry way.

Starting his career in Manchester, Parr studied at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University) from 1970-73. The city had a profound effect on him as it was so different from his childhood home in suburban, affluent Surrey. It sparked his curiosity about people’s lives, what it is to live in a Northern, largely working class and diverse city and he embraced his new context with enthusiasm. After his tutor’s intervention which stopped him being expelled from the Polytechnic after his first year, he began making cohesive documentary projects which explored a particular subject. One of the first of these was Prestwich Mental Hospital in 1972 where he spent three months photographing the patients and their surroundings.

I remember so well arriving into Manchester in 1970, having travelled from the safety of suburban Surrey. It was exciting and felt very real. Having been a regular visitor to the Bradford area to stay with my grandparents, I had tasted the north and always liked the friendliness and sense of community that was so difficult to find in Surrey.

Parr has revisited the city many times over the last 40 years to document the lives of Mancunians. The exhibition brings together a selection of Parr’s Manchester photographs. Ranging from black and white images of June Street, Salford in 1972 and Yates Wine Lodges in 1982-3, to colour photos of people shopping in 1986 and 2008, his work shows how the lives of Mancunians have changed but also how there is continuity in how we live.

New commission

We have commissioned Parr to make a new body of work – a portrait of the city and its people in 2018. Parr has made a number of recent visits to Manchester, meeting people shopping, in hairdressers, in Mosques, in cafes, at markets, in factories, at parties, playing sport and in the gay village. He has captured scientists doing ground-breaking research at Manchester University, fans of the city’s world famous football teams and the state of the art facilities at the BBC in Media City. The images reveal the diversity and inclusive nature of our city and the breadth of activity which takes place. They uncover people’s passions, skills, relationships, quirks – celebrating the humanity of the everyday. A selection of these prints will enter the gallery’s collection.

A new publication to accompany the exhibition will be released in October.

Biography

Martin Parr is one of the best-known documentary photographers of his generation. With over 100 books of his own published, and another 30 edited by Parr, his photographic legacy is already established. Parr also acts as a curator and editor. He has curated two photography festivals, Arles in 2004 and Brighton Biennial in 2010. More recently Parr curated the Barbican exhibition, Strange and Familiar which came on tour to Manchester Art Gallery. Parr has been a member of the Magnum agency since 1994 and was President from 2013 – 2017. In 2013 Parr was appointed the visiting professor of photography at the University of Ulster. Parr’s work has been collected by many of the major museums, from the Tate, the Pompidou and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Martin Parr established the Martin Parr Foundation in 2017.

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Image
Martin Parr Manchester, 2018.
© Martin Parr / Magnum Photos / Rocket Gallery