‘Martin Parr is a chronicler of our age… His photographs are original and entertaining, accessible and understandable. But at the same time they show us in a penetrating way how we live, how we present ourselves to others, and what we value.’ – Thomas Weski
Over the last four years Martin Parr has been working on a commission for Multistory photographing the Black Country. It was an area he knew little of, other than its reputation as a densely populated, post-industrial area; one in decline. Many of the industries that once made the Black Country great have declined, but numerous small factories and manufacturing businesses remain in good health. A degree of regeneration has also come as a result of the many immigrant communities that have made the Black Country their home. The region is now populated with many different communities – Polish, Sikh and Somali to name but a few.
Parr has explored workplaces, temples, churches, shops, clubs and societies. Wary of neglecting the day-to-day experience, he also photographed in the Merry Hill Shopping Centre, in shops such as Tesco, in bars, clubs and nightclubs as well as in leisure facilities such as gyms, sports centres and spas. One particular focus of this new series is on portraiture, an aspect of Parr’s work that has really blossomed through the project.
For Parr, it was a welcome return to the notion of being a community photographer, something he last did in the late 1970s in the Calder Valley in and around Hebden Bridge – connecting to the community, giving back prints to the subjects and ensuring that the photographs are shown locally before being launched on an International stage.
Martin Parr has developed an international reputation for his innovative imagery, his oblique approach to social documentary, and his input to photographic culture within the UK and abroad. He has published more than 80 books of his own work, edited a further 30, and exhibited in every continent. He has curated innumerable exhibitons and has acted as guest Director at Rencontres D’Arles and the New York Photo Festival. Parr is also well known for his enthusiasm for the photobook and is co-author with Gerry Badger of the internationally acclaimed three volume series ‘The Photobook: A History’.
Martin Parr's Black Country Stories was commissioned by Multistory with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, New Art Gallery Walsall and Walsall Council, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Wolverhampton Council, Sandwell Council and Arts Council England.