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
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.
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.
“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.”