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Street and Documentary Photography and Personal Influence

I am blessed to live by the sea, and when it comes to a place to practice my street photography skills, I am fortuitous to live in a popular tourist resort. On the often-breezy east coast of England, Cleethorpes has been my hometown for all my 44 years, an abundance of summertime visitors and wintering residents have provided me with an ideal playground to fine-tune my street and documentary photography.

Street photography as a genre can be described as recording the common and everyday life of people and humanity in public places, a style of documentary photography specific to the streets. As most street photography is taken candidly the subject is most often unaware that they are being photographed, thus enabling the photographer to capture the non-posed natural elements of day-to-day life.

Living as I do, almost by the sand, it is no coincidence that one of my favourite photographers and influences is Martin Parr. Parr has worked extensively at the seaside, both home and abroad, capturing life on the beach, promenade, and in amusement arcades. Parr’s tendency to exhibit and publish photobooks paved the way for his breakthrough work, the photobook The Last Resort (1986), a farcical insight into day-trippers to New Brighton. The book is one of the most influential pieces of work to shape my photography to date, although I do continue to explore this genre. I do not emulate Parr, but I do model my ethos and technique in a similar fashion, trying to capture the mundane with an element of humour. Amongst his other work, Parr’s travels photographing tourists around Europe amuse me the most, and I must say, taking images of tourists is my favourite rapport with photography.

Gerry Badger wrote of the importance of The Last Resort and how it changed the direction of documentary photography.

‘It is difficult from a perspective of almost a quarter of a century to underestimate the significance of The Last Resort, either in British photography or Martin Parr’s career. For both, it represented a seismic change in the basic mode of photographic expression, from monochrome to colour, a fundamental technical change that heralded the development of a new tone in documentary photography. This shift in tone, with Parr as an important catalyst, was not confined to the island. It also marked the beginning of a period of vigorous revival in European photography, and the mode which came to be known as the ‘New European Colour Photography’ ‘ (Badger, 2012).

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(Parr, 2012)

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(Parr, 2012)

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(Parr, 2012)

Citation and imagery:

Parr, M. and Badger, G., 2012. The Last Resort. 3rd ed. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing, p.5.

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