Would you want Martin Parr to take your portrait? You might say its a brave soul who goes in front of his penetrating lens, but it’s part of a portfolio of benefits the Martin Parr Foundation is launching in its Membership Scheme.
Parr set up the Bristol-based Foundation in 2014 to house his archive, but in October 2017 it opened to the public in a purpose-built space, offering free access to much more – a rolling programme of exhibitions, a large photobook library, and a growing collection of prints. Parr’s used the opportunity to hone in on British and Irish photographers, as well as work taken in the British Isles by others, and put the focus on their documentary work – an area which he believes is still underrated.
Founded in 1997 the Pingyao International Photography Festival is China’s most prestigious photo festival, featuring images from more than 50 countries each year in indoor and outdoor venues across the UNESCO-listed ancient city. This year it includes a huge exhibition called Distinctly, which is curated by Open Eye Gallery’s Tracy Marshall and which will travel to Merseyside in 2019 as one of the main exhibitions of LOOK International Photo Biennial.
Featuring work by 12 documentary photographers – Martin Parr, Chris Killip, Daniel Meadows, John Myers, Markéta Luskačová, Tish Murtha, Ken Grant, Paul Seawright, Niall McDiarmid, Robert Darch, Elaine Constantine, and Kirsty MacKay – the exhibition “takes a unique approach to the depiction of Britain and its distinct landscapes, industries, social and economic changes, cultural traditions, traits and events” over the last six decades says Marshall. “The exhibition looks at the gentle, the humorous, the starkness, the beauty, and the realities experienced and captured by the photographers around their lives living and working in Britain,” she adds.
“The term ‘Britishness’ has changed so much over the last ten years, I don’t really know what it means anymore to say ‘I’m British,’” observes Scottish photographer Niall McDiarmid, who has spent almost a decade photographing people in the street across Britain. In 2011 he started work on his latest series, Town to Town, which has just been published as a book and which will be shown at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, UK from 31 January-12 May. Initially focussing on London, it soon expanded beyond the capital city and ended up covering 200 towns, tracing a journey around Britain and its diverse inhabitants.
Martin Parr has found a permanent home for the foundation he set up in 2014, giving visitors access to his archive and to his formidable collection. “I’ve been very lucky,” he told BJP’s Gemma Padley. “I have secured a very good living from doing this, and so the foundation is a great way to feed some of that back into the system.”
“Individually these photos represent the moment that we crossed paths, but collectively they represent my portrait of London – a confident city, a city of the future, a city I call home,” says Niall McDiarmid, who has been shooting portraits on the streets of Britain’s capital for the last six years.