Martin Parr's Flag Day Stars and Stripes

The British photographer has a keen eye for how people around the world weave nationalism into their identity
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US Open, New York, USA, 2017, by Martin Parr
US Open, New York, USA, 2017, by Martin Parr

Martin Parr likes a flag. In the photographer’s pictures they’ve appeared on cakes, aprons, planted on beaches, strung up at parties, and stuck into sandcastles.

Many of those flags, including the Union Jack and the St George’s Cross, signify British or English identity. However, on 14 June, America's Flag Day, it’s worth remembering that Parr’s roving viewfinder has taken in the nation’s pennants in the past.

Back at the 2017 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York, he snapped this patriotic sports lover. It appears in our new book Only Human: Photographs by Martin Parr; back in 2001, in the same city, he captured the flag on top of this cake, which is reproduced in Martin Parr: Real Food.

 

Martin Parr, New York City, New York, USA, 2001 © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos. Real Food, Martin Parr, Phaidon
Martin Parr, New York City, New York, USA, 2001 © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos. Real Food, Martin Parr, Phaidon

Occasionally, Parr seems to offer a more pointed commentary on his patriotic pictures, such as in the section of Only Human entitled Britain at the Time of Brexit. Yet in other instances, the flags seem to have more to do with how nationality is interwoven into our sense of identity and self-presentation, particularly during our time off.

 

American Flag Day poster, 1917  courtesy Wiki Commons
American Flag Day poster, 1917 courtesy Wiki Commons

“Sports fans and office Christmas parties; days out with the girls and having a flutter on the horses; hen parties and pride parades and putting up with the weather,” explains the text in Only Human, “from country dance to pole dance, and from ball to bar mitzvah: our identities are revealed as much by how we play, celebrate and enjoy our leisure time as by our beliefs and convictions.”

 

Signed copies of Only Human by Martin Parr are currently available in our store

To see more of Parr's pictues, patriotic or otherwise, order a copy of Only Human here.


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