Planète Parr

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Parrworld: the Collection of Martin Parr

Martin Parr (Curator: Thomas Weski) :: Exposition :: Jeu de Paume, Paris :: 20/06 to 27/09/2009

The Jeu de Paume groups together photographs and collected miscellaneous articles by the prolific British Magnum photographer Martin Parr. Besides the humorous time-stamped (mostly) kitsch miscellany of Saddam Hussein watches and postcards of highways, his own collection also groups together photos of both well-known and unknown photographers which inspire him. Of his own work, we are presented with three series: One on luxury (“Luxury”), one on tourism (“Small World”) and finally an urban portrait series of the UK made in conjunction with the British newspaper The Guardian.

Luxury

In the section on Luxury, Martin Parr looks at the wealthy over the last 5 years “showing their wealth”, as he puts it. The pictures have been taken at horse races in Durban, Ascot, Longchamps and Dubai, and at a Millionaires’ fair in Moscow and surprisingly enough at the Oktoberfest in Munich. He sees his pictures as a record of a period of rapid growth before the current credit crisis set in. He talks of wealth as a global phenomena, yet you can clearly see the differences between the pictures he presents. Sometimes ‘luxury’ seems to be little more than a brand name, at other times it is a market, at other times it is elegance and again at other times just a state people find themselves in.

Let us take a look at two of them. The exhibition’s poster, taken from a picture in this series (from the Moscow Fashion week) shows a young woman wearing a colorful body-warmer, with an air of contented and fascinated greed. This light andhappy obsession, strikes a completely different chord to an unflattering one taken at a charity event in the USA (here), where we see opulently dressed guests being fed food on sticks. Because of their dark sunglasses, it is almost as if they are being fed blindfolded, as we see the hand on the left already handing them another helping, as if the food is being shoveled into them. This gives us a more cannibalistic image of wealth, and one far removed from the fascination of the young fashion victim at the fair, even if, in the same series, they could be seen as follow-up events…

Small World

Parr by dorsserAs you walk through the gardens of the Tuilleries in summer, with the thousands of tourists around you, Matin Parr offers you a critical and humorous glimpse of the very industry which brings all those people there: tourism. This is an industry built around selling experiences. To lift out two images, consider the funny and quite formal picture of someone taking a picture of a row of tulips (at the Netherlands?) wearing a red-yellow-blue coat which matches the colours of the flowers in the picture he is taking.

The lightness of the picture could not contrast more with the one taken out of a moving jeep out in the African bush, with a group of children running after them. On close inspection, we see a worrying determination in the eyes of the children running after the jeep. Then we notice the somewhat scared little white girl looking down at them, wearing an Egyptian souvenir T-shirt. If we sense some tension in the air already, then our prejudice is confirmed when we see that there is a man standing on the back of the jeep, in what looks like a military shirt. We can suppose that we are witnessing tourists touring a war-torn or impoverished nation being escorted through the zone. To finish off our feeling of discomfort, we see the man on the left take a picture of the running children, reminding you that the photographer himself is also on that jeep taking the picture of the running children, passively using the lives (or distress) of others as a source of his livelihood. A very uncomfortable thought.

If you happen to pass by the Concorde with little time, take in the “Small World” pictures which are shown in the open air. Seeing the critical and funny images of perhaps the worlds biggest industry and one which both surrounds us and in which we partake, is unique. If you have a little more time, go on in to see the rest of the collection – it’s a unique opportunity.

http://www.martinparr.com // www.jeudepaume.org

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