Martin Parr is a British documentary photographer, photojournalist and photobook collector. He is known for his photographic projects that take a critical look at aspects of modern life, in particular provincial and suburban life in England. He is a member of Magnum Photos.
Born in Epsom, Surrey, Parr wanted to become a documentary photographer from the age of fourteen, and cites his grandfather, an amateur photographer, as an early influence. From 1970 to 1973, he studied photography at Manchester Polytechnic. He married Susan Mitchell in 1980, and they have one child, Ellen Parr (born 1986). He has lived in Bristol since 1987.
Parr began work as a professional photographer and has subsequently taught photography intermittently from the mid-1970s. He was first recognised for his black-and-white photography in the north of England, Bad Weather (1982) and A Fair Day (1984), but switched to colour photography in 1984. The resulting work, Last Resort: Photographs of New Brighton, was published in 1986. Since 1994, Parr has been a member of Magnum Photos. He has had almost 50 books published, and featured in around 80 exhibitions worldwide - including an exhibition at the Barbican Arts Centre, London. In 2007, his retrospective exhibition was selected to be the main show of Month of Photography Asia in Singapore. In 2008, he was made an Honorary Doctor of Arts at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) in recognition for his ongoing contribution to photography and to MMU's School of Art.
Parr's approach to documentary photography is intimate, anthropological and satirical. Macro lenses, ring flash, high-saturation color film, and since it became an easier format to work in, digital photography, all allow him to put his subjects "under the microscope" in their own environment, giving them space to expose their lives and values in ways that often involve inadvertent humour. For example, to create his book Signs of the Times: A Portrait of the Nation's Tastes. (1992), Parr entered ordinary people's homes and took pictures of the mundane aspects of his hosts' lives, combining the images with quotes from his subjects to bring viewers uncomfortably close to them. The result of Parr's technique has been said to leave viewers with ambiguous emotional reactions, unsure whether to laugh or cry.