Story by Jack Foley
EPSOM-born photographer Martin Parr is currently the focus of attention at two separate London venues. The Barbican (see link below) is exhibiting a retrospective of his three-decade long career, while Rocket, at 13 Old Burlington Street, W1, is highlighting some of his most recent project, The Phone Book.
Sound engaging? Well, Parr has spent three years photographing people using their mobile phones and the results are surprisingly compelling - particularly at a time when almost every other Londoner seems to be walking around with a phone attached to their ear!
The Phone Book comprises 20 perspex-boxed photographs from the full
series of 141 images, all of which can be seen as mocking the fashion afflicted
(see photo for example). Other examples include a Chinese girl with
matching pink mobile, lips and eye shadow, an Austrian man chatting into his
cuddly bunny-covered phone, and a Belgian wearing his sunglasses on the back
of his head while chatting into his handset.
Perhaps more striking and more pertinent, however, are Parr's photographs of New Yorkers using their phones after September 11 - when mobile phone sales went through the roof in America. It is moments such as these when the value of owning a 'mobile' becomes particularly essential in modern society.
To accompany the exhibition, the gallery has produced a limited edition tome, The Phone Book, which - somewhat typically - is described by its producers as an 'anti-coffee-table book'. Cleverly, it is printed on the same paper as the telephone directory and contains all 141 photographs in the series.
Born in 1952, Parr is probably best known for his 1980s exhibition and TV documentary, Signs Of The Times, which featured a series of naive victims proudly displaying and discussing their ' tasteless choices' in interior decor.
He developed an interest in photography from an early age, a hobby which was encouraged by his father, George, himself a keen amateur snapper.
Martin went on to study photography at Manchester Polytechnic from 1970 to 1973 and, since that time, has worked on numerous photographic projects, developing an international reputation for his innovative imagery, his oblique approach to social documentary, and his input to photographic culture within the UK and abroad.
In recent years, he has developed an interest in film-making, and has started to use his photography within different conventions, such as fashion and advertising.
Martin Parr: The Phone Book can be viewed until May 18, at Rocket, 13
Old Burlington Street, W1 (Tuesday to Saturday, from 11am to 7pm). Entry:
Click here for a link to Martin Parr's official website to discover more about the photographer
Alternatively, for details of Parr's exhibition at The Barbican, click here.