Our next Artist You Need To Know is Martin Parr.

Parr is a British documentary photographer, photojournalist and photobook collector : Parr is best  “known for his photographic projects that take an intimate, satirical and anthropological look at aspects of modern life, in particular documenting the social classes of England, and more broadly the wealth of the Western world.” (from here)

His major projects have been focused upon rural communities, including The Last Resort (1983–1985), The Cost of Living (1987–1989), Small World (1987–1994) and Common Sense (1995–1999). Parr’s photography captures British culture and peoples with a mix of affection and satire, straddling art and journalism in a manner that also acts as a form of social history.

“Unless it hurts, unless there’s some vulnerability there, I don’t think you’re going to get good photographs.”

The works below are from one of his more recent series and book Death by Selfie.



Parr was born in 1952 in Epsom, in the United Kingdom: he would attend Manchester Polytechnic (1970 to 1973) where he studied photography. In the mid 1980s, he began to work primarily in colour photography instead of his previous focus on black and white. In 1988, Parr would join the well known and impressive collective of Magnum Photos. Parr has produced nearly 40 photobooks while also working in film and more mainstream fashion photography and editorial work. His photographs have been featured in approximately 80 exhibitions around the world. Significant exhibitions of his work have included the show ParrWorld which toured internationally and a major retrospective of his work which was mounted at the Barbican Arts Centre in London in 2002.



Cultural critic Dan Rule has commented that “Parr’s signature is his ability not only to isolate the most evocative of human details, but to elevate such visual fragments to that of the wider societal signpost or glyph.”

The works below are from the series A Year in the Life of Chew Stoke Village (1992) which is a village on the outskirts of Bristol, in England, where he lived and participated in the community, all while documenting the people and events.



“Martin Parr thinks of his photography as an ongoing investigation of human interaction, leisure, and context. Parr is interested in how people live and present themselves to others, particularly in how they display their values. His subjects have included the spectators of a championship polo game, everyday tourists and inhabitants of Switzerland, and goings-on at one of the oldest schools in England. He has a knack for capturing events that are both quirky and mundane, and in attitudes both critical and humorous.” (from here)



In 2014, he founded The Martin Parr Foundation which is located in Parr’s hometown of Bristol : the space has a gallery, as well as acting as the archive for his own work and his collection of British and Irish photography by other artists, especially as it pertains to the history of the United Kingdom. It’s also a fine online resource to explore more of Parr’s photographs and documentarian work.

Parr has earned a number of significant awards over his career. These include being an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society (HonFRPS), Royal Photographic Society (Bath, UK., 2005): Honorary Masters Degree, University for the Creative Arts (2006): Dr. Erich Salomon Award (Germany, 2006): Centenary Medal, Royal Photographic Society, Bath, UK. (2008): Lifetime Achievement Award, PhotoEspaña (2008): International Award from the Photographic Society of Japan (2008): Recognition for Significant Contribution in the Field of Visual Arts, Royal Academy of Arts, London (2016): Outstanding Contribution to Photography prize, World Photography Organization (2017) and in 2021 Parr was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).




Parr lives and work in London, U.K. : his photographs can be found in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, The Art Institute of Chicago and the Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin, among many others. A more extensive listing of his exhibitions and accomplishments can be seen here.

He is also a teacher, having been a visiting lecturer at West Surrey College of Art & Design (now University for the Creative Arts) in Farnham, Surrey. Parr was a professor of photography at the University of Wales, Newport, and later (as of 2013) he has been a professor of photography at Ulster University in Belfast.



His own site can be enjoyed here, with extensive documentation of his past works in both photography, photobooks and documentary journalism. Parr is a very prolific photographer and this is just a sampling of his practice.

Curator Thomas Weski has offered the following about Parr’s images : “Martin Parr is a chronicler of our age… Leisure, consumption and communication are the concepts that this British photographer has been researching for several decades now on his worldwide travels… Parr enables us to see things that have seemed familiar to us in a completely new way.”