Before Martin Parr's work exploded in a scream of saturated colour, he was a documenter in the more classic Magnum mode of stark black-and-white. But for a photographer whose work is almost certainly defined in the popular imagination by its mixture of bold colour and bold visions of everyday life, the chance to glimpse into his early work at The Photographer's Gallery is a rare treat.
Opening 3rd March, The Ceremony of Life unites rarely seen black and white images from Parr's first major series and books. The images in The Ceremony Of Life showcase a photographer more tender than you might imagine, but one whose eye is already wonderfully sharp, tuned into the magnificent potential of the unremarkable.
Tom Greenwood cleaning, Hangingroyd Road, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, England, UK, 1975. From The Non-Conformist
The exhibition takes in three series of work; Bad Weather, Fair Day and Non-Conformist, all captured in the late 70s and early 80s, and sees the photographer travelling across the the UK, from Ireland to Yorkshire, Sussex to Merseyside. It captures rain and snow, the races and the seaside, the fair and the street. It takes in the prosaic tribes of British life; pleasure seekers and religious non-conformists and the general humdrum of everyday business.
40 years on from Martin's first exhibition at the gallery in 1977, The Ceremony Of Life is a timely revisit to things the photographer does best, which is reflecting the most ordinary of British life in the most poetic of manners.
Mayflower Ball, Drumshanbo, County Leitrim, Ireland, 1983. From A Fair Day
Text Felix Petty
All photography © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos / Rocket Gallery