The National Portrait Gallery, London has staged a major new exhibition of works by Martin Parr, one of Britain’s best-known and most widely celebrated photographers,
Only Human: Photographs by Martin Parr, on view now through 27 May 2019, brings together some of Parr’s best known photographs with new work by Parr never exhibited before, to focus on one of his most engaging subjects – people. Featuring portraits of people from around the world, the exhibition examines national identity today, both in the UK and abroad with a special focus on Parr’s wry observations of Britishness. Britain in the time of Brexit will be the focus of one section, featuring new works, which reveal Parr’s take on the social climate in the aftermath of the EU referendum. The exhibition will also focus on the British Abroad, including photographs made in British Army camps overseas, and Parr’s long term study of the British ‘Establishment’ including recent photographs taken at Christ’s Hospital school in Sussex, Oxford and Cambridge Universities and the City of London, revealing the obscure rituals and ceremonies of British life.
Although best known for capturing ordinary people, Parr has also photographed celebrities throughout his career. For the first time Only Human: Photographs by Martin Parr will reveal a selection of portraits of renowned personalities, most of which have never been exhibited before, including British fashion legends Vivienne Westwood and Paul Smith, contemporary artists Tracey Emin and Grayson Perry and world-renowned football player Pelé.
Other new works reveal the quirks of leisure activities today, a subject Parr has explored since the 1980s. Parr photographs trips to the beach, tennis tournaments – from Wimbledon to the US Open – and a day at the races, to reveal the eccentricities of everyday life. These images will take the visitor on a colour-saturated journey through places where public and private worlds intersect. Other photographs capture the infectious joy of dancing, an everyday activity enjoyed by people across the globe.
The exhibition will also feature the unforgettable self-portraits Parr has made throughout his career. For over thirty years, Parr has visited studio photographers, street photographers and photo booths across the globe to have his portrait taken. The resulting Autoportraits raise questions about portraiture and the business of portrait photography, showcasing a range of fascinating and often humorous settings employed by professional portraitists.
Works on display include his Photo Escultura, a group of shrine-like carved photo-sculptures, based on Parr’s likeness and commissioned from the last remaining traditional maker in Mexico City, which have never been exhibited in the UK before.