You can own a limited edition Martin Parr print
Parr's pictures of Christians, street parties and equestrian events, record the changing nature of British society
In 1975 Martin Parr, then a recent Manchester Polytechnic graduate and nascent documentary photographer, moved to Hebden Bridge, a modest market town in West Yorkshire, in the north of England.
Parr and a few fellow photographers were drawn to this small, slightly antiquated place by the prospect of cheap housing, and the hope that, together, they might fashion some alternative, artistic community there. The newcomers did open a storefront workshop and darkroom in the town’s centre, yet Parr also trained his camera on Hebden Bridge’s established community, paying particular attention to its Protestant Christian Non-Conformist church-goers, who, in his eyes summed up the tough, traditionalist side of the town.
“There’s a certain independent spirit these Non-Conformists have, which not only gave the chapels their names,” says Parr, who is currently the President of Magnum Photos, “but was also very emblematic of the fading attitude of the whole place.”
This is captured in Parr's limited-edition print, taken at Steep Lane Baptist Chapel, in 1978, and printed in an edition of 100 in 2002. The image, signed and numbered by Martin Parr himself, is a perfect example of this early series, and captures the promise of his early work.
“It's easy to forget how quietly observational Parr was as a black-and-white photographer,” says the Guardian’s photography critic Sean O’Hagan. “There are scenes here in which you can almost feel the silence of a particularly English puritanical form of worship: severe-looking men and women seated in pews intent on their hymnals and bibles.”
It’s a type of worship that has all but disappeared from Britain today, as the photographer himself acknowledges. “We did this photographic documentation and that’s all that’s left,” Parr says. “Virtually everyone in the photographs is dead now. It was just another era. But that’s the great thing about photographs; they’re there forever.”
This little piece of photographic history costs £1,000 ($1,600; €1,300) measures 304 x 406 mm (12 x 16 inches), and is a silver-gelatin print, limited to 100 editions, each signed and numbered by Parr.
Parr also shot images in Hebden Bridge’s surrounding villages, some of which later appeared in his Bad Weather series. One of these, Jubilee Street Party, Elland, Yorkshire, 1977, is also available as a silver-gelatin, limited-edition print of 100 prints, signed and numbered by the photographer. Again, the image captures a bygone Britain, where communal, outdoor, Royalist celebrations remained a part of daily life.
If these two black-and-white shots preserved a side of English life that was in decline, Parr’s only colour image within our collector’s editions caught a side of life that was in ascendance. Badminton Horse Trials, Gloucestershire, was shot by the photographer at the 1988 edition of this exclusive equestrian event, which is held each year on the Duke of Beaufort’s country seat, Badminton House, western England. The image was included in his 1989 collection, The Cost of Living, a set of pictures that surveyed Britain’s new, affluent middle classes who had prospered under the first decade of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership. Unlike his 1970s Non-Conformists, the guy and gals in this photo remain a thriving part of British life. Parr’s genius lies in the way he spotted their rise, just as he recorded the Non-Conformist’s decline and fall.<!--[if gte mso 10]>