martin parr – walmart

Walmart by Martin Parr

 

Walmart by Martin Parr

Walmart is the biggest retailer in the world and as such should be documented seriously.
We would like to find out more about this large and impressive retailer. What sort of customer do they have, which is the biggest Walmart in the USA, what community initiatives do they undertake?

All these questions and more I intend to explore.

If we think about recent documentation of American society , you rarely see images from Walmart, yet they are a recent American success story and are now an integral part of American life. It is impossible now to think about contemporary America without considering this company. This should be celebrated and documented.


EDITORS NOTE:

i think Martin Parr needs no introduction….he is undoubtedly one of the most respected and popular (and imitated) photographers  of our time….and a true renaissance man excelling in making a mark in the publishing world, the commercial world, the art world, and the curatorial world….

my invitation to you now is to ask Martin Parr some well thought out questions…..he will join us  “live” in the next few hours, most likely 6pm GMT…..he will spend two hours answering the most thought provoking questions…..

…COMMENTING MAY BE CONTINUED….MARTIN  PARR  WILL JUMP IN ON THE DISCUSSION FROM TIME TO TIME

oh yes, by the way, Martin plans on shooting an extended version of his Walmart work exclusively for BURN….

-david alan harvey

 

Website: Martin Parr

265 Responses to “martin parr – walmart”


  • Do you ever shoot specifically for a young audience? A bunch of 11 year olds (I teach digital) saw your work reckon it is pretty crappy and that you don’t know how to take a proper pitcha except for the spaniel.

  • I am not sure if this is where to post questions, but here goes.

    In your statement you say: “If we think about recent documentation of American society , you rarely see images from Walmart,”

    I think this is mainly because they almost always refuse photographers access.

    As a newspaper photographer who from time to time has needed to do a photo in a walmart, and almost always being told NO by the powers that are in charge there (from the local manager to corporate), I was wondering how you are going to gain access.

    Just as a note, the access our paper was asking for was usually around Christmas shopping time such as Black Friday, to do a holiday shopping story. Nothing controversial. Their refusal to allow us in was never based on the fact that is was too busy of a time. It was always wrapped around the phrase “we do not allow news media to photograph our guests.”

  • If you weren’t part of Magnum, how would you try to sell your upcoming Walmart series?

  • Hi Martin,
    Many years ago (probably 20) I was up against you for a Eurostar campaign through Y&R london, needles to say you got the gig and I was relegated to obsurity……..

    Now I have that off my chest.

    With some of your images (the one above for example) it seems you seek the subjects permission, in such cases do you direct or let things unfurl before your eyes.

    With other images you seem to snap away drawing as little attention to yourself as possible and act as a fly on the wall. For example I seem to remember a series of pics done in Dubai at some arms conference or the millionaires show.

    Which is your prefered method and how do resolve the issues of model release.

    Cheers

    ian

  • Mr Parr

    You are member of the magnum agency one of most famous group of photographer working for press and magazines but simultaneously your name is famous in ART world. For me there are two different worlds, the press photography and the art photography. different audience, language, values.
    And my question is; don’t you feel little schizophrenic with it?
    Is it two-in-one or is it one-in-two?

  • I’m aware of towns currently opposing Walmart construction…
    even bumper stickers with the red circle with a line across Walmart….
    will you shoot any of the flip side?
    *
    Do you see a film with this?
    How do you combine your stills with your films? or do you?
    *
    thanks in advance martin, david… anton… etc…
    xox
    **

  • Wal-Mart – some of the stores (management) either accept or bar photographers from walking around the Wal-Mart fortress. On a newspaper assignment, in a small town that has lost small businesses because of such a re-tailed monster, i was quickly swarmed by the blue coats after a few minutes inside the store with a camera. However, after they found out the situation via press credential and my purpose, they seemed agreeable to let me walk around and photo the scenes needed for the article. Since this first encounter, as long as i check in with management, everything flows easy. At times management stated not to show customers (which seems impossible and awkward not to include in the frame), other times not to show specific products or prices, etc.
    So, they are simply protecting their corporate interests – but is seems once “the ok the ok the ok” to be inside with a camera (or just going renegade photo style) – there are scenes around every corner – interesting culture at the the 24hr stores.
    Be aware, because you and everybody else at a Wal-Mart, inside and outside, are on camera/s also…say “cheese”.

    Good composition from side to side and showing the security camera element in this burn feature photo.

  • Hello Martin

    Which of your series has been the most difficult to photograph and edit? Have you ever found yourself giving up a project because of the complications it could bring or brought?

    Thanks
    #1 Norwegian fan

  • does a style of work that seemed to be a reaction against perceived cliches, that could be argued to have figured out a different ‘new’ way of seeing, once upon a time, still retain its value when it itself can be argued to have become a cliche?

  • Hi Martin, thanks for talking to us today..

    The pairing of the use of your creative ability to examine idiosyncratic cultural character with your interest in society’s -isms is ideal for a documentary piece on the largest retailer in the world, and I look forward to seeing your completed piece on Wal-Mart.

    I agree with you that Wal-Mart should be “documented seriously” and there are certainly many fascinating elements of Wal-Mart culture that are ripe for examination. I have personally considered photographing a piece about the people who take advantage of the Wal-Mart company policy which allows Rv’ers to “boondock” or park overnight, at the majority of its locations. One RVer who has stays in their parking lots said “Wal-Mart has figured out how to get an otherwise under-used asset (the far end of the parking lot) to produce revenue by encouraging RVers to park. They know that we’ll almost always run into the store for some goodies. Smart, very smart.”

    And Wal-Mart is of course, smart, when it comes to making money and pleasing their loyal customers. But many have serious environmental and societal concerns about the impact Wal-Mart and its sprawl, which already occupy more than 75,000 acres in the U.S., have on their communities, land and economies. This dichotomy is exemplified in Jenny Mayher’s synopsis of the little film Ourtown:

    “When I heard that Wal-Mart wanted to build a SuperCenter in our town, it was as though everything I love about Damariscotta was threatened.

    In the fall of 2005 Wal-Mart announced plans to build a SuperCenter in a small coastal Maine town. The range of citizen responses soon created a fissure that divided the community. On one side were those who wanted convenience, jobs, increased tax revenues, and rolled back prices. On the other side were those who sought to protect the local landscape and economy from out-of-scale development and out-of-town corporate colonization. Ourtown follows the struggle of one community, challenged by the largest corporation in the world. Ultimately, the film asks the questions: what kind of town do you want to live in and who holds the power to determine the fate of your community?”

    You consider yourself to be a concerned photographer in the traditional sense and I wonder how you plan to use this responsibility to inform your audience in light of your notion that Wal-Mart is “a recent American success story” that “should be celebrated.”

    many thanks…

  • lovely, touching and inviting

  • Hi Martin,

    I love your strategy of presenting and publishing the same photos in the context of Art Photography, in exhibitions and in art books as well as related fields of advertising and journalism, transcending the traditional separation of the different types of photography. Is this something you did conscientiously or did it materialize on its own with the work?

  • Dear Mr. Parr,

    I heared that you make your portfolios in very short time.
    Do you take pictures by instant intuition or plans that you’ve already made?

    Thank you for Burn visit.

  • Thank you for your interest in Burn, thank you for the Walmart photo and thank you for coming in later today..no questions, will just sit and read..i admire you greatly.

    sincerely
    kathleen

  • I guess Magnum photographers get special treatment. The rest of us in the press get treated by Walmart like we have a communicable disease.

  • All of the above are excellent questions, I think, but the two things I would like to know are, first, how come Walmart will not employ native English speakers as cashiers, and second, where do all the mutant life forms you see shopping at Walmart at four o’clock in the morning come from and where do they stay during the daylight hours? All right, that’s three questions, not two, or even one, so please pick the most congenial and answer it. You will not be graded on this assignment.

  • That’s a bit harsh, isnt it? Well, let’s try again. “All right, that’s three questions, not two, or even one, so please answer the question most congenial to you.” Okay, that sounds a bit better, doesnt it?

  • (Jim, please do not lob softballs like that my way, it is so difficult to resist taking a swing …)

    Martin, so glad to see you working on this. No question, just a comment from a Northwest American. Walmart has become the center of American society in many places which, to me, is damning. When my wife was in her masters program in Seattle many in the class would harp on Walmart, for many reasons, but a class member from the midwest didn’t understand the more, as she put it, elitist liberal Northwest view of the retail giant. She said she grew up with Walmart as an accepted and vital member of the community – it is the new mickey mouse of America, a cultural icon and center of community where you can see and talk to your neighbors. I remember when it was the post office and the corner store (which most likely closed because of Walmart). So the choice of subject is brilliant, you may just have found the heart of the new homogenized America and, for many, the embodiment of what is wrong with the country. Thanks for hanging out at Burn …

  • In much of your work, I have felt as though you gravitate towards moments of ‘ridiculousness’, for a lack of a better word. The herdish activities of beach going folk, the type of food we eat that we shouldn’t, and more generally, the shortcomings of western culture (one of my favorite photographs of yours is the one of the girl with a mohawk asking for money, at what seems to be a funeral). Yet, you have photographed them seemingly without regard to their sociologies, politics, or economics. With such a weighted theme (politically, economically, etc.) as Wal-Mart, I am curious how you will approach this subject. Are you inclined to let the politics shine through, or will you keep the border-line parody approach, and let the results speak for themselves as far as implications are concerned?

    Thank you very much for this opportunity,

    Sean Hallisey.

  • Hi Martin

    It goes without saying that the options that a photographer has, be they emerging or established,
    for publication AND compensation for their efforts are rapidly diminishing.

    How do you see this unfolding and given that BURN is quietly being recognized as one potential
    avenue to help turn this tide (or at least hold it at bay) how do you see your involvement here, as a
    celebrity of sorts, as being something that will move BURN forward ?

  • Thanks for being a part of Burn I Can’t wait to see the finished project. I had the chance to see a show of yours in Chicago at the Stephen Daiter Gallery couple years back it was great to see the work up close. Color being such a big aspect of you work is there any chance you would consider working in black and white again such as you did for Bad weather ?

  • Mr Parr:

    Please forgive my second comment..i do have a question and it´s very important to my own work..you are so innovative and refuse to be hamstrung by ¨rules¨ so you are the only person i can ask:

    When you are shooting in ¨fly on the wall mode¨, and someone sees you..maybe they don´t know you are even taking a picture but notice you´re there just as the shutter goes off. How do you feel about that showing in an otherwise great photo? Do you immediately disregard the photo or do you shrug and think, ¨well that´s life, I was there, my presence was noticed¨?

    Thanks sooo much!

    Kathleen

  • Hi Martin!
    Your b&w work from Yorkshire which you took in the mid 70ies in Hebden Bridge and some other places shows that you had created most of your own photographic vision or let’s say “style” at an early stage in your career. If I remember correctly, you lived in one of the villages for almost a year. Strong commitment and enthusiasm! At the time you were an emerging photographer yourself.
    My question is: How do you look at your early work today and how has your work changed today? Do you feel you still have the same „edginess“ – daring, provocative and trend-setting mind?
    My personal favourites of your work are from the series „The Last Resort“ and of course „Signs of the Times“.
    Just had a quick look at my bookshelf and found only one of your books there: „Flowers“ from 1999 which is signed by you. I have book No. 559. A quick check and apparently it is worth some 450 $. A good investment it seems ;-)
    Good luck with Wallmart!
    All the best!
    Reimar

  • dear Reimar
    I look back with affection to my early work. Of course when I was working in black and white ( the town was Hebden Bridge, buy the way), the work was more a celebration than the critique of society it is now. My main challenge, is to keep fresh as it would be so easy to repeat and not take the work further. Sometimes I fail, and sometimes I succeed.

  • Hi, Martin. For this project, are you working with Walmart corporate HQ’s knowledge and consent or guerilla style without their permission? It’s a question not just of access but of editorial stance and your freedom to operate as you see fit. Thanks!

  • dear Imnants
    I like the idea that my photos can be digested by all ages, and indeed Common Sense is usually liked by kids.
    Sorry your particular group were so discerning. I will try harder.
    Martin

  • dear Pete
    I realise getting permission could be a problem. When I shot these pics for Fortune mag, I did get official permission. So what can be achieved once, has the potential to happen again.
    Martin

  • dear Brian
    I suppose for sales, I cannot imagine not being in Magnum.
    As I am sure you know , editorial is pretty tight right now, but where there is a will, there is a way.
    Martin

  • dear Ian
    There is an unwritten law that tells you when it is OK to shoot someone , and when there is a problem.
    about 1% of the population ( more if they are with kids) get angry when they see a camera. When I shoot, I have to appear very confident, as many photographers look guilty and attract problems. However I am constantly watching my back, and of course using body language to my advantage. I never bother with model releases, except in France, which s the worst place to shoot, for fear of being sued.
    Martin

  • dear Marcin
    I accept that the art world and photojournalism do not often overlap. However the great thing about photography is that it is so democratic, that it can be hi and low culture at the same time. I love to exploit this and keep a foot in both camps. However I accept I am very fortunate to have achieved this.
    Martin

  • dear Wendy
    If I get permission I would probably just do the stores as I think showing both sides is too fair. Fairness is often rather worthy. I have to work WITH Walmart if this ever to happen.
    The work , though would have an element of politics running through it, but it is up to the viewer to determine what that is
    Martin.

  • Mr. Parr,

    I was part of a conversation here on burn earlier about “exotic” destinations (such as India, where I have done a lot of shooting) vs “the backyard.” It seems to me that you often take what is in the backyard and elevate it, showing that the common IS exotic (using this word to connect the previous conversation to your work.)

    Could you please say something more from your experience on this topic…exotic vs common/ cliche vs original seeing. Thank you!

  • dear Chesham
    I think all projects are difficult and easy at the same time. The Walmart project may be the one that dies before it starts, if I do not achieve permission. It is interesting though, that even on this stream, many photographers have had different reactions from the company.
    Martin

  • dear John
    I take the point, so I guess when I was once young and radical, and now I am old fart.
    I do try my best to keep fresh, but sometimes it is tough. I guess at least I am still trying.
    Martin

  • dear Ecmd
    The only way I am going to get Walmart to agree to this project is to not start preaching at them. I am aware of the issues , and like everything in life there is both good and bad in this company. I especially wrote the small blurb, so that it could be read by Walmart. As I mentioned before, I imagine the response to these photos will confirm any of the set views that people bring to it.
    Martin

  • Will Walmart soon sponsor Burn?
    ;-)

    Jerome

  • dear Kyungee
    We cannot photograph everything in this world, so we all have to decide what subjects or areas we want to explore through photography. One of my motivations is to try and make images that tell us about what is happening now and not get too seduced by nostalgia. It is my intuition that drives this thinking.
    Martin

  • Hi Martin, I have no trouble seeing why you are much imitated: your work is very appealing – on many levels. It’s great you are here on Burn.

    I read in an interview you gave that you were interested in photographing wealth, and obviously your work bears this out. With the contemporary attitude in some circles that it is better/about time we photographed/turn a critical eye on our own backyards which is what you are doing I think, do you see any possible merit in a western photographer working in underdeveloped countries, building stories in an environment of poverty for personal projects, or do you see that as a bankrupt approach? Do you accept that there may still be room for a western/outside gaze in such places? Could you elaborate on your attitude/thoughts towards that broad approach, which is so very different from your own.

    It’s probably obvious that I ask this question because my main interest is in this domain and I note also there are still many other photographers doing the same, though of course it almost always comes across as more traditional than work such as your own. One can only strive to be more contemporary even working in these traditional locations.

  • dear Akaky
    Wow, you obviously know more about Walmart than I do.
    Can I answer this question, or at least one of them, after the project and not before.
    Martin

  • wow – firing out answers like a ninja martin..
    thanks for being here with us.

    there must have been a time when you ‘aspired’ to join magnum, and then a time subsequently when you ‘believed’ you could join magnum – with enough confidence to stand against the controversy which followed… so

    which project, or body of work, or personal connection lent you the confidence and self belief to apply to the agency?
    who were your biggest champions?

    good luck with walmart – trusting that you will find some provocative angles :o)
    david

  • dear Sean
    As this stream is quickly demonstrating to me, there is nothing as quirky or fascinating as people.
    So much of what we all do is ” ridiculous” I guess I am attracted to the surreal nature of everyday life, which is so easy to miss. As mentioned before , if this works, I will let the results speak for itself.
    Martin

  • dear Mtomalty
    I have discussed the whole issue of the declining market for magazines on a pdn interview quite recently. What I said then was that I disguise my serious photography as entertainment in order to help it get published, as the magazine market does not much like serious documentary/ photojournalism at the moment. So the ball should be placed back to photographers to be more cunning in how they promote their work and the subjects they choose. It is too easy just to knock the magazines, we are guilty too.
    Martin

  • Hi Martin.

    At which point in your life did you realise that you HAD to be a photographer?

  • dear Andrew
    Much that I love black and white, for me to deal with the modern issues, it just has to be in colour.
    Martin

  • dear Kathleen
    People looking at the camera is a nightmare as usually it ruins a photo. However like all rules in photography , just sometimes it can MAKE a picture. When I am reviewing folios this fault of allowing images in where it does NOT work, that someone is looking is quite common. Why do we not take them out , because we are too lazy and just do not shoot enough. So come you Burn people, take them out of they ruin the photo. Confront your inadequacies full on.
    Martin

  • When photographing, do you set out to find or to prove?

  • dear AndreaC
    I am about to publish a book called Luxury which shows wealthy people round the world, It now reads like an epitaph to the recent bubble. On your other point, I have no problem with wealthy westerners visiting and shooting anywhere. However I sometimes think that photojournalists, in particular, always look to other societies problems rather than confronting their own. It is too easy just to blame others.
    Martin

  • Mr Parr,

    Wait…I am a bit confused about your last comment. People looking at the camera ruins a photo? What are the two people in your photo above doing? What am I missing here? Do you mean someone who has the expression “Oh, I’m in this guy’s photo” in a way that’s out of character with the rest of the image?

    Please explain. This sounds like something I need to understand.
    Thanks!

  • dear Cathy
    This is a fascinating question. Why are there so many books on Cuba, for example ( Sorry David!) Because it is so nostalgic, all those crumbling buildings and old American cars, photographers get seduced. Why are they seduced because there is an element of laziness, and it is so much easier to identify with a crumbling old world rather than confronting the new. This is one thing that has driven me to think of Walmart as a good subject, but shooting in Havana is a lot easier!
    So in one sense I want the photos I take now to be about now, not about times that have disappeared. Having said that, I too sometimes am lazy and shoot old world, but at least am aware of this when I do it.
    Martin

  • dear Cathy
    The above photo just works with them looking, it is a hybrid between a portrait and a candid.
    Martin

  • Martin,

    You said above, “I do try my best to keep fresh, but sometimes it is tough. I guess at least I am still trying.”

    This sounds almost like a question for a bath soap ad, but, how do you stay fresh? You challenge photographers to do better and to think more. How do you apply those standards to your own work?

    Many thanks for raising the bar. Your two-volume Photobook series enlightened me to what can be achieved with photography.

    -andrew

  • So it’s not just being lazy :>))

  • Mr Parr,
    I was going to ask you whether you will allow BURN crowd come up with the topic of your essay but it did seem a tall order in the first place and you have already chosen the topic of our choice. Just kidding.
    How do you make the extraordinary in ordinary things? Or is it extraordinary to you in the first place?
    Haik

  • Sorry for second post, my question above is better stated as “Martin, what’s your beef with life?” :)

    Thanks,
    Haik

  • Interesting post for me, because I’ve been taking Wal-Mart pictures for years, mostly at the Wal-mart right here in Wasilla. And the posted image looks as though it could have been made in Wasilla. I have not taken so many Wal-Mart pictures recently, because I used to take them when I would drop my wife off for work and then pick her back up again, but she hurt herself in January and so could no longer continue her job there so I seldom go there, now. As for people looking at the camera, this can just as easily make a photo as break it. It all depends on what that look says and how it fits into the context.

  • ALL…

    Martin is off to dinner and a poker game….good exchange i thought….many thanks to all of you who participated and of course many many thanks to Martin Parr….

    cheers, david

  • Hi Martin,
    Big fan of your work!
    What I’m interested is if your work is a reflection of yourself? we westerners are of course tourists and consumers and I know you’re a collector and a frequent traveller. Of course all photographic work is a reflection of ourselves, but to what degree is it for you? Do you see yourself in your images?

    Cheers

  • Martin,

    Just got home…too late to ask a question….too bad…

    I want to thank you for the great talk that you gave at Look3. I have to admit that I was not a fan of your work before the festival but then… I laughed so much listening to you, really enjoyed the irony, the typical british sense of humour… I started to see your work differently after that and the photographs now speak to me a lot more…. Great to see you here on Burn and to take time to answer our questions. I also look forward to see how this Walmart topic will unfold…Just came back from living in the US and I was keen while there to do something on Walmart but never got around to actually do it… Can’t wait to see the final piece.

    Eric

  • David,

    Please thank Martin for us. It was a HUGE treat to be able to chat here with him.
    The bright spot in an otherwise gloomy day.

  • Hi All,

    I have been a lurker of Burn Mag for several weeks now, and love some of the photo essays that I have seen here. I had to post a comment regarding this post about Walmart. I’m in no way a pro photographer, but the hardcore documentation of Walmart has already begun at http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/.

    From the grainy photos of the cell phone cameras you can see “Real America” / “Real Americans” spending their money at this corporate retail giant. Is this the exploitation of Walmart customer? No it’s the side of Walmart that people try to ignore, The people that are not in the Walmart Ads. The poor, the less educated, and those that live pay check to pay check providing for their families buying imported goods from China.

    Go to “People of Walmart” and see what kind of customers they have there. The images that you see on P.O.W may not be the greatest, but there is no sugar coating and they are horrible but honest portraits of life in America.

    Walmart would be a wet dream for Diane Arbus or even Shelby Lee Adams.

    So what are you going to document Martin??

    I want to apologize for my writing skills and if I sound like an ass*ole.

  • I find Martin’s comment that “it is so much easier to identify with a crumbling old world rather than confronting the new” insightful. Pictures of Walmart today, or their parking lot with the boring new model cars that we see every day and can’t bear to look at in a photograph, will be evidence of a distant culture and quaint styles before long. In fifty years Walmart’s parking lot will look just like Cuba looks to us today. I appreciate the effort to get over that intellectual hurdle and accurately portray the present. A well composed photograph in Walmart will no doubt age just as well as a well composed photograph from any other place and time.

  • I don’t know why Martin’s doing this really — it’s already been done.

    http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/?paged=2

  • Funny how Walmart gets a pasting and ChuckDonalds is portrayed as misguided. Our version is Woolies but there are ways around going there.
    Walmart does stuff within what the buyers market tolerates as the sellers of Asia etc the wet markets there are no different, prices are fixed as vendors are grouped together. No vendor/ market gardener etc will undercut the others by a huge margin………. they all would be out of business.
    ps my vegies in the garden are not for sale, mind you the local possums usually take first choice.

    …other than that sure I am a lazy photographer, shit I even choof off to the photocopier for ideas. Now if only I had a water cooler……..

  • By the way Martin thans for the answer now I will tell the kids you play poker and your standing will skyrocket……or you could chuck a action as your Australian namesake does and they will flip out ……. http://www.dailyserving.com/2008/07/mike_parr.php

  • “I find Martin’s comment that “it is so much easier to identify with a crumbling old world rather than confronting the new” insightful.”

    Personally, I found the comment a little pompous. It is only his opinion, of course, but it came across as
    if he were trying to suggest what he shoots, in the style he shoots, as being more relevant or intellectual
    than what someone else might choose.

  • I think that’s exactly what he meant, Mark.

  • The Walmart site’s intent seems to be one of ridiculing the people that shop there

  • People of Walmart dot com..ohmy..i have found THE scanning antidote..that site is so addicting i had to make myself stop clicking when i got to page thirty four..34! The guy who writes the captions is one hell of a writer..the photos are, um, well..this site will put you in a walmart induced stupor. I really wonder how Martin can top this. Artistically? Sure. No question. But outdo the folksy (ok skeezy) quality of these photos of Walmart inhabitants? The horrid quality of cell phone pics seems so right for this subject matter, much of which is beyond the pale grotesque. A Fellini circus of freaks, clowns, acrobats, jugglers and soothsayers. Oh my. It will be VERY interesting to see how Martin treats this project. It really is almost as decadent and exotic a subject as any other crumbling old world. Except it is not old. But as you can see, it is crumbling. Oh boy, is it ever. And, as Haik would say, it has shopping carts.

  • Kind of a gutless approach with no attempt to document.
    As Imants said, the purpose is to ridicule.

    At least most of the subjects aren’t looking at the camera. Makes them good.

  • Mark

    Yes, it is a gutless approach with no attempt to document. These are just OTHER walmart shoppers capturing these unique people and moments. There’s no effort to refine technique or use better equipment or justify the ethics of their photos. This isn’t art. It is what it is. You can say it’s ridicule if you like, or you can say it’s commentary or satire, or farce. The writer is really too good for that site. Some of his comments are sublime. And he absolutely hates kids on leashes. He’s very serious about that. But the photos? You know, if there are people wearing see-thru shorts with depends under them, there will be someone who’s going to gape long enough to take the moment home with him on a cell phone. I think the site is a very refreshing change from the serious, uptight world of photography that we’re all traveling in. These photos are absolutely exciting to me…in their humble origins made on humble equipment of humble people being extraordinary in their own benighted way.

    I ask not what Martin will do with Walmart but rather, what Walmart will do with Martin.

    I can’t wait to see him wrestle this monster to the ground and bring home the bacon. c-a-n-n-o-t-w-a-i-t.

    kat/

  • “I think that’s exactly what he meant, Mark.”

    I have to say I think he’s largely right too. If he were talking crap, he wouldn’t have become so famous. That said, we all still have to do what we have to do, whatever that involves.

  • I think that Martin’s biggest hurdle is going to be access. He can be kinda scathing in his approach (photographic approach, not in his personal manner) to modern consumerism. And of course nothing says consumerism like Walmart.

    I’m not sure whether their PR dept will grant him access if in their minds it would denigrate their company (again; in their eyes). I’m sure Walmart is the poster boy for corporatisation and will do everything to keep up their “perceived” image.

    However I wish him the greatest goodwill, because I think the essay will be a cracker!!

    I watched a Magnum doco that showed Martin at work and it really opened my eyes as to how a confident but non-threatening approach works when photographing on the street. His “genial British-ness” and chatter seemed to put people at ease and allow him to photograph them at extremely close range! I learnt a hell of a lot in those ten minutes watching him at work.

  • I wish I’d new about it in time!
    I adore Mr Martin’s work, he’s pure genius!
    David I have a suggestion.
    Do you think it would be possible to send a mass email to us participants if a special event on Burn is taking place? This way we could plan our daily commitments around the Burn events.
    Just a suggestion.
    Thanks a lot
    Mimi

  • i think the crumbling old-world is easier because we are already awash with photographs of it.. the new is more difficult because by the definition of it being ‘new’ it is underrepresented and imitation is therefore difficult.
    really, it is just applying the same techniques but to different subject matter.. probably easier when you are not trying ‘too’ hard to build a reputation..

  • I do hope that Mr. Parr has coverage of the parking lot “scene”, which is where most of the excitement takes place at my local Wal-Mart. There is ALWAYS a car/truck or two parked at the end of the lot, trying to either sell or give away puppies. Our local recycling center has a drop-off point in the parking lot, and on summer weekends a local school or civic group will be having a fund-raising car wash. In winter, I find it fun to watch the migrating gulls squabble over fast-food food scraps in-between th parked cars. (Why someone would choose to eat his lunch in a Wal-Mart parking lot is beyond me.)

    OK, back to bed :-)

  • i guess looking at the old world is easier because the benefit of hindsight helps..
    it’s even difficult for us to know where we are personality until the time has passed, when we then see how happy / sad / lazy / drunk we really were.

  • personally, i mean.. clicked the wrong spellcheck suggestion.

  • MIMI…

    the only way we could send out a mass email would be if we sent it to the registered users here which would involve another whole layer of effort and we are already pretty maxed out with things to do (like preparing your essay)….i did announce several times on Burn, about 48hrs in advance, that we would have Martin “on” and a comment here reaches way more readers than any mass email that could only go to the registered writers here…also, these live chats are relatively spontaneous in nature….almost impossible to line it up too far in advance…after all i am dealing with photographers, who by nature are hard to pin down…i think you know!!!

    cheers, david

  • IMANTS…

    i am sure you know that Martin has often come under attack for allegedly making people an object of ridicule…i was quite surprised nobody asked a question of him in that context….Martin, of course, does not see it that way and merely sees himself as a documentary photographer of consumer culture in a world consumed by consumerism…he feels that he just shoots it straight up….perhaps when we see ourselves in the mirror as consumers it feels embarrassing or as satire….in any case, i am off to my local mom and pop shop corner store to buy some milk and Cheerios..they know me there…i like that…

    cheers, david

  • Great respect for Mr. Parr… but….
    Last time I checked, Cuba, with all it’s old cars, still exist, TODAY, undeniably part of the world. Contemporary, whether someone likes it or not.
    If we all pull our cameras away from the “old crumbling world”, as it seems that’s what Mr. Parr suggests, old crumbling world would be forgotten. But what is progress without memory? Surprising how someone who put together one of the most important books about photography (photobooks), could be so ruthless towards the old.

  • Yea, Martin’s a pretty smart cookie and knows how to put all the elements together and still retain that haphazard feel. That’s one of the things that heaps of teenagers get about his work that is isn’t just random shooting as well as the idea that he is having a lend of people.
    On another note Fred Hertzog was a master at arranging fragmented colours/haphazard notion in a frame something that Martin Parr is also very capable of doing.

  • VELIBOR…

    i do not think Martin is “ruthless” towards the old…he was just emphasizing an often valid point about photographers who go rushing off to the more dramatic picture situations and places without really understanding the true nature of the subject….Martin appreciates all sincere efforts i think…a short sentence here can oftentimes be misleading as to overall message…

    cheers, david

  • David… Yes, I believe that too… for he is very important to what happened to photography in recent decades, just this rush, online communication can be misleading… Also, ‘dramatic’ is a very debatable term, but on that some other time.

    BTW David, you don’t seem to be available on Skype… how do I get hold of you for a chat?

  • To photograph the same things that photographed Alvarez Bravo, Frank, Sander or… is not appropriate any more to let see which direccion the world is taking. Those things are dissapearing anyway. This doesn’t mean that is not good that some photographers document carefully dissapearing things, so the better they do. But the main question for me is, why so many people try to do that, why so many western people try to find and document traditionnel ways of live? Could it be that the reason is the desperate need for something else than our liberal-capitalist consumer society? The consequence of the fact that so many people try this, is that these same people become part of the process which destroys these traditionnel cultures. The circle is round.

    Now, the other options is to document straightforward our liberal-capitalist consumer society, seriously or with sarcasm. This option is very easy. As our society is becomming a caricatural image of itself, just throw your camera in a supermarket, make a good composition together with a good moment and there you have , a funny image which pretends to be a mirror of us, consumers as we are (remember Andy Warhol?)

    Those images become cult (martin Parr is the best selling photographer of Magnum), because people in the art market, smart publicity managers and the blase elite like what critisizes their conduct, without opening a road to another possible world. To open a way, one needs to go deep inside himself, under the layers consurism put on our brain, to dig in that, confront it with the world and create a new world, which opens minds if those minds are able to stand open for it. Therefore you need to have the courage of feeling dissapearing sand under your feet. As many minds are eager to be closed by consumerism and the confortable emptiness it provides, they gratefully accept sarcastic images of themselves. A bit of funny critic doesn’t do any harm anyone, does it? For one of the biggest mechanisms of liberal-capitalism to continue its game, is its ability to use the negative image of its system by throwing it on the same pile than other consumer goods.

    Sarcastic images of consumer society are a sign of the impossibility of our current culture to create new visions, of its fear for poetry and imagination. Our world is getting terrifyingly ugly. The images of Martin Parr only do confirm the same processes in our mind by which we buy those consumer goods. It is old content in a new box (Andy Warhol). Just like most of the conceptual contemporary art (Marcel Duchamp). Give us something new under the sun please, not an ugly image of an ugly burger. It only ads to a feeling of disgust we already have a long time. And so it doesn’t open to new horizons and to different ways of canalizing our animal desires. Consuming burgers or consuming repetitive images of burgers, cheap jewels and other goods, is the same overfed thing. It only adds to our spiritual fatness, which has to hide the empty void deep under.

    Those images confirm the way we think and behave now, the same way which brought us where we are. On the other side, images of dissapearing traditions only make us more sad. The only way out is to imagination and poetry.

    Martin Parr: “I have discussed the whole issue of the declining market for magazines on a pdn interview quite recently. What I said then was that I disguise my serious photography as entertainment in order to help it get published, as the magazine market does not much like serious documentary/ photojournalism at the moment. So the ball should be placed back to photographers to be more cunning in how they promote their work and the subjects they choose. It is too easy just to knock the magazines, we are guilty too.”
    Does this mean that in order to sell pictures and books (so we can make a living out of it), we have to succomb to the petrified desires of managers who carefully look at the biggest possible gains or should we try to alter these things which pervert our world at the risk of not making a living out of photography?

    Documenting a dissapearing world is one thing, documenting wallmart another. But in the ground the same if there is no poetry in it.

  • Right, got it.
    Thanks a lot David
    Speak soon

  • hi folks
    Just come back to catch up on the feedback and what an interesting set of responses. A couple of points.
    Firstly I do not claim , to be the only photographer that has worked in Walmart or supermarkets in the USA. Bruce davidson did some great images in B&W. I think Brian Ulrich’s work is excellent , especially his latest images on shops that have closed in the downturn, often shot at dusk.

    On the Crumbling old world discussion, I stand by my original thoughts. I believe if we are really trying to interpret and record the modern world, we should consider the zeitgeist, and not just select subjects
    that are ” visually interesting” So this is why we have many essays shot in mental hospitals ( yes I did that one too) and say, circuses. Of course the old world should be documented too, but be aware of the weakness in going down the easier path.
    Martin

  • So this is why we have many essays shot in mental hospitals …

    laughing….
    exactly Martin…
    enough with the abortions and HIV and cheap emotions…
    easy crap…
    its so hard to make people laugh…
    DRAMA is always easier than COMEDY….
    enough with all those PJ’s trying to “save” the world…
    enough with the “western sophisticated approach”…
    enough with the old school natgeo … enough with those cheap
    crappy propaganda newspapers…
    Thank u Parr for raising the bar…
    :))))))))

  • “…On the Crumbling old world discussion, I stand by my original thoughts…”

    please do Martin…
    thanks..
    please do…

  • … could be so ruthless towards the old….

    laughing again..
    Velibor, :)
    obviously Martin does not need me to his defense…
    but… but…
    i think u got it all upside down my friend…
    its the “old” that its ruthless towards the new…
    not the other way around, but its so easy to get confused…
    so easy, im afraid…

  • “… I never bother with model releases, except in France, which s the worst place to shoot, for fear of being sued…”

    …now u talking… tell it like it is….
    u made my day…:)

  • except in France, which is the worst place to shoot…
    ———————–

    I thought it was Bucharest! :-)))

  • laughing….
    Herve… u nailed it…
    thats what i thought too…

  • MARTIN…

    i think the so called “old world” of Cuba, for example, is in fact the “new world” of Cuba…if one spends years digging into the Spanish diaspora, then Cuba is certainly coming up as a place to visit for obvious historic reasons regardless of its current state…and ironically, Cuba is where i met you, as you may recall….

    cheers, david

  • Thank u Parr for raising the bar…

    ————————————

    Or, at least, for presenting the bar as entertainment so as to
    facilitate publication !

  • Velibor
    If we all pull our cameras away from the “old crumbling world”, as it seems that’s what Mr. Parr suggests
    ————————–

    Not a fat chance. I think that’s what martin meant, that it’s too much an unquestionned and ubiquitous choice of subject, a mere commentary, which is not quite the same as saying “don’t do it!”.

    I have a feeling future generations will tend to dig photos taken in the last decades ( let’s say, post family of man, or even post Vietnam war) that will show our world at this stage, not as static conditions (old, new), not as depicting classic emotions of ubiquitous events (war for ex. ), but as something about us that is moving on, that was happening as we shot it.

    In that sense, Martin’s stance seems quite acute to these changes, could be that Bendiksen’s global shantytowns essay might do that too, and definitely more than a few DAH glances on old-new (within the same frame) Cuba. Yet, it’s tough to predict. Maybe none of the above, after all. Maybe Martin’s might look pretty static, and just “ok” in 50 years. I think not, but I am not the next to next generation.

    Summing up, these generations might not consciously or uncnsciously ask of a photograph “how was it before?”, but rather “how did we get from there to here, then to now?”.

    My usual mildly educated clueless take on things…. ;-)

  • Herve…
    I think martin was trying to save
    India from all those retards exploiting
    the “exotic” world with their brand new 5DmarkIII
    with the 18-10000mm ultranonic White lenses..
    That spit faster than an Indian king cobra

  • Panos;

    “laughing….
    exactly Martin…
    enough with the abortions and HIV and cheap emotions…
    easy crap…”

    Respectfully; I think you are being a tad hypocritical when your own Venice Beach essay was hardly middle-income America; 2.5 kids, white picket fence etc. Images of people of people with bleeding heads lying on the floor certainly makes for more emotive pics too.

    Was that image a “cheap emotion”? I don’t think so because you were documenting what was happening around you. But it does show how easy it is to make blanket suppositions on other’s work.

    Don’t think that this is a dig, because I enjoyed your essay. But you can’t accuse others of shooting subjects with “cheap emotions” when you chose Venice Beach and its more alternative culture.

    If I remember rightly you often told us how far you had to drive to shoot there; so obviously you weren’t living there and documenting “your” immediate environs. You had to make a choice to go there specifically to shoot. If I’m wrong feel free to kick my butt!!! :-)

    However; I do sort of agree with your quote above, but really it’s horses for courses, and we all have to make our own decisions. For my project I decided to work on kids having fun, being normal. But it would have been much easier (for me) to follow the cops around at 3am and show the arrests etc, and show a stereotypical view of youth. I chose not to, as I said; horses for courses.

    Cheers man.

  • Herve; “Maybe Martin’s might look pretty static, and just “ok” in 50 years. I think not, but I am not the next to next generation.”

    I think good work is still good work later on in time. Sure the style may have changed but the content usually holds up well. I’ve mentioned on here how much I like Brit photographer Bert Hardy’s work. It’s a softer style than many shoot today, but they still hold up.

    And of course; most of the photographers of that time were photographing their current living conditions. I think the difference with some of Martin’s work is that it makes us wince and feel a bit uncomfortable about some aspects of modern culture.

    Don McCullin has also documented the “rich” (in his “In England”) book. It is not as “harsh” as Martin’s work but still gets the point across. Martin’s images of people eating takeaways is probably the modern equivalent of HCB’s French picnics! It’s just that the times and culture has changed drastically :-)

    Cheers

  • Ross..:)
    Venice was and is my natural home…
    i fell in love in venice…
    that “lovestory” forced me befriend venice and all
    of her venice homeless kids..
    im one of them…!
    venice is not just my back yard..
    its also my front one…
    sorry to spoil the fun but…..
    603 venezia ave
    venice ca
    90021 was my address for ever bro…
    and now its Cadillac Hotel…
    go to venice and ask about me brother…
    ask DAH also if my word is not enough..
    or simply visit CONVERSESROUGES.org from times to times…

  • Panos; Bent over; ready and waiting for a thorough butt kicking as promised! :-)

  • …and coz i like u Ross…
    i will say that recently i lived 6 months in downtown,
    “little salvador”… i tried to connect…forced myself
    to love Salvador but.. i failed..
    shot a lot of photos… failed…photos look
    like an american tourist that spent couple weeks in India..
    laughing…
    Now i have a big , huge ambition…
    to photograph greece in a “my own way”…
    To do that i will need to move there for a year at least…
    NOT AS A TOURIST… move there… get a job… live in another
    roach apartment…fell in love… get robbed.. get laughed at…
    like Davin in Bucharest… laughing… maybe not..
    but hey .. that would be real… imho..
    connect, connect, connect….
    big hug

  • Panos “to photograph greece in a “my own way”…”

    Yes; that woulkd be more than real… How long have you been away from Greece?

  • 15 years away
    …with only one two month break five christmas ago…
    ( it will be hard to “compete” with Nikos Economopoulos though..in his home turf..:))))
    big respect to invisible Nikos though…
    he kept it real all those years…
    unlike all those famous Rich Kids like Paolo Pellegrin or Philip Blenkinshop…:(
    or should i call them crocodile dundee instead of rich…???
    ( now my time to get spanked Ross:)

  • Good luck with it. No need for anyone to feel the need to “compete” I think… 15 years, you’re going to notice some big changes and are in a prime position to document them your own way..

  • David and all,

    It looks like the conversation from time out has moved over here so I’m going to repost this from earlier…

    David, Very interesting to see that you are now on the flip side of this conversation…defending your choice of shooting in Cuba :)) The entire conversation (which I think is a great one) started with your “warning” me about the pitfalls of shooting in India and now because of Martin’s answer to my question you have been “called out” for shooting in Cuba. Gotta LOVE that! :)))

    As far as it being the “easy” or “lazy” choice to travel to exotic locations to take photographs…

    At least for myself I don’t run halfway around the world looking for things to shoot.
    I was already going to India way before I became serious about photography.
    All I do is live my life with a camera. I’m going to go to India whether or not I am a photographer.
    SInce I’m already there, I may as well shoot! :))

    Here’s an image from 2003 (?) long before I was familiar with DAH, documentary photography, cliche vs not cliche, etc. One thing that interested me then and still does is the incorporation of modern technology into a traditional lifestyle. It will be great to discover if WHAT and HOW I see has shifted over the past several years. I’ve got so many new things I want to shoot, an entirely different point of view.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/30716737@N08/3291307639/

  • .. Ross agreed…
    Actually i cant wait to meet Nikos The Great Master…
    we had some brief email exchange…
    lots to learn from nikos and nothing to compete about…

  • I think the difference with some of Martin’s work is that it makes us wince and feel a bit uncomfortable about some aspects of modern culture
    ————————————-

    Smile too. a lot (at least for me)!

    I think HCB, or Doisneau, Brassai so many others of course from earlier times, are precious because showing perennial numanity, yes, but still of a time gone by. There is definitely a part of souvenir in there.

    Even though they might be, and will have a date on them, I am not so sure Cubans (or anyone) will look at david’s shots as souvenirs in 50 years. Neither a saturated burger or english beach scene from Martin’s, while still dated in time, be really about souvenir, and “world gone by”. More like something was happening to and in the world.

    I mean when you look at HCB or Doisneau, you get a sense that people belong, that there is not really a dichotomy between their behaviour, and the world around them. It all fits in.

    When I see some of Martin’s shot, It’s exactly the contrary. People are not behaving as belonging to a world they know and respond well to, but they become a prop to that world, and like objects, seem to lack the ability to reflect on what they are really doing, what is happening of them, while being quite functional (vs comfortable), as objects can be. At least, this is how I read what Martin gets at, which he often maintains even when ther is no one in the frame (like parking spaces, whom, from repetition he shots almost as distinct entities).

    Totally agree with talent surviving stance. Enormous talent, that is.

  • Cathy..:)
    nothing offensive…
    i know u love india.. u speak about india all the time…
    or as much as i talked about venice…
    if you are in love with india ( just like Vink with Cambodia , or Herves love about Thailand..),
    then, yes.. india is your back yard..indeed

  • Herve
    October 9, 2009 at 5:49 pm
    I think the difference with some of Martin’s work is that it makes us wince and feel a bit uncomfortable about some aspects of modern culture
    ————————————-

    Smile too. a lot (at least for me)!

    same here Herve.. same here…”uncomfortable”….

  • I have permission from PANOS to shoot in India!
    Just me and no one else, right? :))

    A huge accomplishment :)) Seriously :)) Thank you!!!
    In fact I’d like a press pass that says I have permission from you to be there.
    Maybe it will help me to get into places that are not “old” or “crumbling”

    I want a Panos press pass :))

  • Cathy..
    u got it all confused again…
    DAH.. did not go to Cuba as a tourist…
    DAH as a historian HAD to record Cuba…
    its his 15 years dedicated to…
    ahhh nevermind..
    ( and no.. u dont have my permission to go india again..
    no press pass for me… FREE INDIA from the american Imperialism…
    laughing.. yes yes…plz stay away.. or go to New Orleans…:)

  • Cathy

    At least for myself I don’t run halfway around the world looking for things to shoot.
    ——————-

    In fairness to David, who is no sectarian, what he means by “own backyard” is that quality of being able to look into the mirror. Which means it’s everywhere at all times (obviously). Be it Cambodia or one’s backyard.

    he usually only brings it up when people say “I can’t shoot today, because I am here, but when I go there tomorrow…”

  • Panos, Herve…David,

    No confusion here. I never said David went to Cuba as a tourist. I just noticed David responding to Martin’s comment about his book on Cuba and smiled :)) about it.

    (what Martin said to me)…

    dear Cathy
    This is a fascinating question. Why are there so many books on Cuba, for example ( Sorry David!) Because it is so nostalgic, all those crumbling buildings and old American cars, photographers get seduced. Why are they seduced because there is an element of laziness, and it is so much easier to identify with a crumbling old world rather than confronting the new. This is one thing that has driven me to think of Walmart as a good subject, but shooting in Havana is a lot easier!
    So in one sense I want the photos I take now to be about now, not about times that have disappeared. Having said that, I too sometimes am lazy and shoot old world, but at least am aware of this when I do it.
    Martin

  • …he usually only brings it up when people say “I can’t shoot today, because I am here, but when I go there tomorrow…”

    Amen Herve

  • I agree with Panos, Cathy. There is a big difference between going some place for one month when one can, and going back because one must (not an existential must, that is).

  • Herve,

    I understand and agree about David’s use of “backyard.”

    When I wrote the comment you pasted above I was not responding to David, just joining in on the conversation that has been going on (over at time out also) about “lazy” photographers who take the “easy” route by shooting in exotic places.

  • “I can’t shoot today, because I am here, but when I go there tomorrow…”

    I think that’s just human nature really. I’m trying to make a point to try and get away for an hour or so each day to shoot for my project, no matter how busy I am with articles etc. It’s funny, but my two best photos shot so far were taken when I only had an hour or so to spare.

    At the end of our summer I decided to go down to the beach and river/waterhole (only a 10 minute drive) to shoot for an hour each afternoon. I’m a wonderful procrastinator and it made a real difference to set that one hour in stone. And, by the end of each week I’d spent around an 8hr working day shooting for the project; and taken one of my best pics.

    The other was taken at the local skate park when I only had about two hours to shoot. I always find it’s easy to say “It’s not worth shooting; I’ve only got an hour spare”

  • Herve,

    I understood your first comment “backyard” but I’m not sure about your last comment.
    What you mean by “must?”

  • ah well, it’s all okay ’cause i’ve always been a tourist to my own life … hmmmm …

  • Martin, I am here in Northwest Arkansas, home of the birth of Wal-Mart. The city of Bentonville is built on Wal-Mart. As is lots of Rogers and other surrounding areas. We have a bumper crop of Wal-Martites here that would be great material for your project. Have you seen the series of photos floating around the internet called Wal-Mart People? It is gruesome.

    Lee Guthrie
    eelprod@yahoo.com

  • I went to cuba and took pictures…enjoyed myself, couldnt give a toss what people think of the pictures.
    I went to india and took pictures.enjoyed myself, couldnt give a toss what people think of the pictures.

    …given the choice of either of them again or hanging out at wal-mart and there is no contest.

  • Lee..:))))))))))))
    i experienced that “..We have a bumper crop of Wal-Martites here..”
    in the wine snobby california country ( temecula ) for two years..
    i know exactly what u mean…

  • ok… its a circle…
    i will go back to John Gladdy’s yesterday comment..
    A good photo is a good photo…
    Although when it comes to essays….!!???
    Hmmmm…

    Question to all ( speaking of “good” photos… whatever that means…):
    Did U or did NOT like Martin’s above WalMart photo???????????
    and why?

  • SInce I’m already there, I may as well shoot! :))
    ————————————————-

    Here’s something you will never hear David, or Martin, or Henri (CB), or Panos ever say…. :-)))

  • Panos… I am all things but not confused:-)

    There are fiction writers, there are those who write biographies only, then there are political writers, there are writers who write reportage, there are short story fiction writers, there a novelists, there a script writers, there are historians, there are many other kind of writers and there are poets. I am not aware of reportage writers trying to convince script writers, or novelist, or poets, to write the same way as they (reportage writers) do. Can certain photographers let other photographers do what they want to do without accusing them of being old world, being old fashioned, being behind their time… Not everyone wants to change the world or even to record those changes, you know. Not everyone is fascinated (or even interested) with progress and future. Some people like to look back. Let them do it, see if they do it well and judge them for the quality of there work, not because they are not interested in the same things you are.
    This rant BTW, has nothing to do with Mr. Parr. I admire his work. Cheers all.

  • “must”, Cathy, meant: It’s his project, his profession, his work….

  • Veba..:)
    wholeheartedly agreed…
    ( i honestly though wasnt talking too much of the “future”…
    i was mostly “defending” the present…and once more i will quote
    John Gladdy… : “a good photo is a good photo, no matter what…”
    :)

  • John

    enjoyed myself, couldnt give a toss what people think of the pictures.
    ——————————-

    That’s the healthy way to go about it, and there is absolutely nothing wrong in being a tourist. especially when it (tourists) allows Martin to shoot some of his greatest images! ;-)

  • … whats up with me today? mentioning John..over and over ???? :)))…
    i think i quoted him 3 times already…
    if im apostle Peter… then you are my Jesus ( at least for today , John..! )
    big hug

  • Herve,

    Now we’re getting into a whole other subject (and unfortunately I’ve got to run)…
    Whether someone who is not “making a living” at photography can have as much passion and take it as seriously as someone who does.

    I would say definitely YES.

  • Herve,

    “SInce I’m already there, I may as well shoot! :))”

    To make sure there is no misunderstanding, I didn’t mean that as a casual remark, an afterthought, as if I don’t care.
    I was just illustrating that I would go to India with or without a camera (if for some reason I was not allowed to shoot there.)

    I have been preparing night and day for India for months even though I’m not going till January. Doing research, thinking about what I want to shoot. Preparing, preparing, preparing. I’m far from casual about it.

  • Panos . to answer your question about the above picture. NO.
    I can certainly see it is made with intent and I respect the authors technical ability, but its a picture a stamp collector would make..and im not a stamp collector.

    Herve. I dont remember saying i was a tourist.

  • OK… Cathy..;)
    im convinced…. call tomorrow after 9am and i will grant u your visa for india…
    and a press pass…
    we love u…( at least i do…:)

  • John…:)
    i have such a hard time disagreeing with u today…
    ;0

  • i meant, i agree, of course:)

  • Kristof

    What you wrote about is interesting but can you clarify it a bit.

    Here’s a bit that you ended off with. “Those images [ie such as Parr’s] confirm the way we think and behave now, the same way which brought us where we are. On the other side, images of dissapearing traditions only make us more sad. The only way out is to imagination and poetry.”

    However, is it even possible to do that with documentary photography – to show the way forward, a world that does not yet exist. Surely to do that you have to at least work in the manner of photographers like Henson and Crewdson, those who are constructing their images in or out of a studio or even in photoshop but not trying to capture what’s already there. Surely such efforts would look like the futuristic films we saw in the 70s which are rather quaint and comic to look back on today. For all that they still comment on what fears and concerns people had at the time.

    I’m not sure its documentary photography’s role to do other than show us what is, and comment on it if we can through the images. What photographer has ever done other than that?

  • Herve. I dont remember saying i was a tourist.
    ——————————
    One way or another, as you told us, what matters is that you enjoyed it!

  • … ok, i have to laugh, grin, smile, whatever ….

  • Doing research, thinking about what I want to shoot. Preparing, preparing, preparing. I’m far from casual about it.
    ——————————

    God speed, Cathy and remember India is good to people who go with the flow too (and maybe foremost)! No craving, no clinging… ;-)

  • Herve,

    “No craving, no clinging”

    Luckily I will start out with two weeks at an ashram so I will have the opportunity to remember any truths I may have forgotten :))

    The preparation here is mainly for inspiration and to point me in a direction.
    In the moment I hope to forget it all and go with my gut and heart.

  • Just to pick up again on this Cuba discussion. I have no objection to anyone shooting where or what they like. There has been some terrific work taken in Cuba that show the old world there, Polidori did pretty well and our very own David has some crackers too. My point is that we must be aware of the overcrowded market for Cubam images, and if you do it, it has to exceptional to add anything new to the dialogue, if you want to go beyond just pleasing yourself.
    Us photographers are all rather predictable in our subject matter, and I think it only right in forums like this, that we discuss our rather narrow view point and put this onto the agenda for serious discussion.
    Martin

  • Martin most places cop that cliche overkill aspect now that the digital caper has come to being …..millions of images………….. that’s why I am not a photographer and now make up stuff that isn’t important to anyone not even me.
    I always have to remind myself, Marin Parr is a photographer and Mike Parr is that lunatic that dresses as a bride and chopped his arm off once long long time ago well pretend arm that is.

    One day I will lie on those beaches and wait for a Parr clone to take a happy snap of me.

  • Martin…

    I think that the way we approach and treat our chosen subject is in the end way more important than the subject in of itself, be that “new,” “old,” or whatever…

    For example, the same photographer shooting the same subject on assignment for a week or shooting it as a personal project going back to it again and again for several years, will produce *very* different results, no?

    I believe that the most important factor which produces the most pronounced difference between a body of work which is “just” good and one which is great, is the personal and deep interest and connection we photographers sometimes have with our subjects.

  • Martin,

    “My point is that we must be aware of the overcrowded market for Cubam images, and if you do it, it has to exceptional to add anything new to the dialogue, if you want to go beyond just pleasing yourself.”

    I think that’s more the point that interests me. I notice with India, well from what I have seen of Indian photography, the locals aren’t doing that much that is interesting so it remains anyone’s game still. But sure its worth trying to avoid cliches, I just don’t think India itself is a cliche.

    And if you can’t do anything exceptional, well frankly i don’t think that means one should give up either. Afterall, we don’t take pictures out of an altruistic impulse.

  • Thodoris…
    I think is even more than that, as dedication and time spending onto a subject it’s not enough to produce a better work.
    I believe that it’s more a question of how do we put the context photographed into a wider perspective, not only with, as Mr Martin says, the zeitgeist of our time, but also with an ever changing panorama within photographic communication.

  • Velibor

    The writers vs. photographers comparsion is really good, made me look at it different here… That said, I very much dislike bird photography and can not (even under pressure) understand the point or the quality of what bird photographers do. So I guess I need to work on myself on that point.

  • Mimi…
    I agree…

    What I wrote above was not meant as the complete (and only) answer in what makes a body of work, well, *work*… it was just my thoughts on the discussion about choosing a subject matter, and if and how that decision dictates the final outcome…

  • First off all I’d like to say that I believe Martin parr is a good photographer. He doesn’t leave me indifferent. But instead of liking his pictures, I dislike them. But at leat they make me think and wonder more about my position.

    It seems to me that this sort of pictures come out of the samemental nod, which provides us our consumer society. They are made by the same mental premises. And in that way they add, just as Wallmart products, package travels and four by four cars, more to my mental
    indigestion. Hundred images of different hairstyles…

    Sarcasm, cynicism or irony (which I greatly enjoy in the sense of ancient Greek philosophy) have the inherent danger (if not used carefully) of becomming a defense wall against the problems we face. We have a laugh and come back to usual business. “Oh, look at us, we consumers, how stupid we are.” This position is called conformism. It is so common now in todays art world. Because it is so damn simple to criticise our consumer society. It is a caricature in itself. Just take a part of it, copy it and expose it as art. It sells good! People who buy it have the impression
    they are critical…

    Andrea C,

    thanks for your question. But I already talked about that in my previous comment. Times where someone invents as a God a whole new society (Le Corbusier, Marx, the utopists) are over. We have allthe results are desastrous. The main reason for that, I think, is the blind belief in rationality and technique. I hope we are over that point.

    I meet many people in different areas (sociology, social workers, green toilet inventors,name it),who are thinking and working towards another way of living. As they all are conscious that our current way of life, if expanded globally can lead to total collapse and as they don’t believe anymore in the big ideologies of the past, they try to do it on their scale, hoping other people do that as well. They prone cooperation,
    thinking togehter, exchanging ideas just like Burn by the way). They don’t just conform with reality (oh liberal-
    capitalism is the best of all those bad systems). What makes man to be man is they possibility to imagine
    and create (an animal can’t too much). But pleas not as in the past, like Gods with a vast plan, but creating,cooperating, evaluating, renewing,…

    Documentary in this… I don’t believe documentary photography is only about reality.James Nachtwey does not only document.He is like a priest who fights to change the world with his pictures. And just bvecause he believes in it he is so damn good. Robert Frank’s Americans is not only a document, but his utterly personal vision.
    Alvarez Bravo, Alex Webb, Depardon…it is as subjective as objective. That is poetry: contradictions dissolve in a new creation, which gives new contradictions and so on… Poetry sensibilises.

    It ain’t about showing a world which does not exist. This is as you say impossible with
    documentary photography. But it is about going under the layers of the society you live
    in, dig in yourself, and create your uttermost own way of seeing into a unity. So, I think
    documentary photography at its highest is very personal. And this unique view enriches the
    world.

    Victor Ben,

    I agree with you totally that there is a huge lack of in-depth criticism. There is all around this easy going obvious criticism which brings us nothing else but a sad smile.
    As we won’t find a way out of our current crisis by glorifying the traditionnel past, we won’t neither with chewing gum criticism.

    This whole discussion between old-crumbling world and zeitgeist is senseless to me. Photography is not objective and never will be. If someone photographs in this old-crumbling world (which is changing very fast by the way and these changes sometimes say more about our zeitgeist…) and tells something compelling about humans, so the better…

  • Yai with all this new photographic technology it’s easy for us to take shitty photos along with every other punter in town. Sorta make us nothing really special as far as image creators are, so we are better off not taking this all too seriously http://www.etrouko.com.au/iman.htm

  • Kristof,

    Now you have answered my question. You were a bit vague before I thought. Thanks for the clarification.

    Nevertheless, documentary is a genre; its a broad genre, like all of them and sometimes, especially recently there’s a tendency to hybridise with other genres. Nothing wrong with that. When someone says something original within or on the border of the genre through their images, we tend to elevate them and heap them with accolades and praise. That’s good too. There are good documentary photographers and there are better ones and there are the best but Nachtwey, for example, Robert Frank as another are still documentary photographers. Why do people persist in not being able to accept the existing definitions of a word such as documentary? It beats me. And worse it bastardises the language.

    It’s as if medicine were your field you would try to tell us a doctor who came up with something innovative in their field wasn’t a doctor. And then, you have no word for what he would be. So I suggest lets just continue calling him a doctor.

    Whether documentary photography is good or not is not about whether its personal versus objective. Its not about whether the subject matter is old versus new. Critical versus celebratory. Its funny you don’t think Robert Frank was a critical photographer.

    I think the thing about work like Parr’s is that it is self-aware. It knows it is part of the system, whereas some earlier photographers hoped to change the world. They didn’t. I can’t imagine what Martin Parr hopes to achieve by his work other than to get it out there and keep us talking and thinking about our world and his pictures. I don’t think he hopes to change much but he can speak for himself on that score. With due respect, what have Nachtwey’s pictures changed? I understand he was motivated to change the world but how much of the reduction of poverty can be attributed to photography? Or how much was he able to limit war or affect the way it was fought. (Which is not to say I think there is anything inherently wrong with his work by any means). Do you think the world of commerce takes any notice of photography except when it can use it to make money. Haven’t we seen governments get it wrong time after time after time. Modern photographers should know that photography has limited powers to change anything and they way they work reflects this. There is nothing wrong with showing what is, with or without a critical inflection or opinion. Whether you express your opinion of the world and what you see in words or in pictures, one is not worse. They are just different.

  • @ kristof…

    again agree with u… but here are a few more points…
    – sometimes there are things from the past that deserve glorification. without it, we will not be able to create a collective memory. more over, studying the traditional pasy and history (i mean as photographic theme too), can give us a better perspective – the context of our own time. a better understanding of the Phenomena we experience (philosophically or daily), is because we see it through historic continuation and contrast between current to the more primary forms it is originated from. i do not think we should bound our understanding and reflections about current phenomena with its historic context, but to alternate our perspective occasionally, makes us wiser.
    and of course. history (or even still accessible traditional past) can be very interesting/exiting on its own.
    as for glorification again… in the bible, there is one very repeated idea, something like this: “and the Pharoh didnt know Joseph… and send his people to slavery”.. or: “and the people of israel didnt know moses and the miracles any more… and made bad things etc…” … or: “and the new generation didnt know Joshua’s wars, and in other occasions other judges etc… ”
    in short, Write it.. Write the story – and, i believe that was the biggest challenge and inspiration of the bible writers, wether they were sitting in the David’s royal house or in babylonian exile…
    back to our current culture and present modesty… glorify too (not less important than criticize, actually, even more important in long terms), to create collective memory etc – cultural base. from here we can talk even about consumerism more balanced etc. what we see now, is superficial glorification to sell products (ads) and superficial criticizing (on mass access level at least) on cultural issues.

    @ imants
    absolutly..
    the thing is that when i saw that photo of walmart, i thought it is another essay, with Didactic boring repetition of the same scene… i was not sure i wanted to see it till suddenly my eye caught “Martin Parr” name under the photo…

  • AndreaC…
    I agree with you.
    I would just like to add that documentary photography it’s a creative form of visual expression that includes a myriad of implications when it comes to point out facts and their interpretation.

    I see it as we are all building up, brick after brick, a mosaic of visual experiences that we deliver through the media, and it does not pass unnoticed that there is a natural progress in the history of documentary photography. Our inherent considerations about it are equally important if we wish to go along with building more and better, and I honestly think that Parr’s work does represent a point of change which, whether you like it or not, we have to consider is we don’t want to abstract ourselves from the wider context of contemporary photography.

  • Has all of the documentary photography of the past 100 years in aggregate really made a difference in the present? Many of us are saying, because it is so prevalent in the world today, “no more conflict photography, no more misery, no more drugs.” Despite 100 years of documentary and “misery photography,” the world is still full of conflict and misery.

    Specifically referencing Parr and a Walmart essay in his style, I say why not? The war with Walmart is over. Walmart won. Nothing Parr or anyone else can publish will in any way effect Walmart. So why not make pretty, contemporary photos and call it what you want? I don’t think the old definitions of specific genre’s of photography have any real meaning anymore.

  • Jim

    I agree with you except that in terms of what Kristof seemed to be trying to say. He seemed to be saying that Robert Frank and his like weren’t documentary photographers BECAUSE their work said something. I am saying of course he was a documentary photographer.

    Just because cause someone’s work crosses genres doesn’t mean the words are meaningless. If someone like Parr is accepted in the art world I don’t see how that stops his work being documentary in nature.

  • I understand. I guess what I’m saying is that because of all of that, the “word” documentary is really meaningless now.

  • Panos, you asked. I definitely like the uniformity of light in Martin’s picture, also the fact that the people, mainly the 2 in front are suspended in the middle of the frame. Ethnic uniformity too, to be correlated to everything that has been said about WAL-MART (like for ex.: “they” won, Imants just wrote). It’s taken like a snapshot, and is nothing but a snapshot.

    Not a great shot, no “Wow!” but as with Martin, the idea is never to start with “is it good or not that good? I must know!”, but simply let the myriad little infos and seemingly non-infos (snapshot elements) hook you up, and keep you inquisitIve or off balanced as to what the hell is his point? What matters? What does not matter? Does it matter? Etc…

    PS: I wonder what the badges on the old guy’s vest say…. Does it matter? :-))))

  • yes, I meant: is ANYTHING except not a snapshot (in the end).

  • Got that right about all the elements hooking you in and demanding answers over significance Herve. His whole project works that way and he’s such a divisive figure because the questions can be answered in different ways (he would say depending on what you bring to it). Some clever fellow once asked what obsession was if not the inability to tell if something is true or false… he drives me crazy over the question “is he or isn’t he the humanist he claims to be.” I guess his reaction to that would be, “Ah… another satisfied customer…” :)

    I don’t think the war against Walmart is quite over by a long way, and photography has some minor role yet in that, but of course Parr won’t be taking an easy to define position.

  • Andrea,

    1. You answered me:”Nachtwey, for example, Robert Frank as another are still documentary photographers. Why do people persist in not being able to accept the existing definitions of a word such as documentary?” It beats me. And worse it bastardises the language”. i invite you to show me where in my text is stated that I don’t consider Frank as a documentary photographer. I said not a single thing like that!

    What I said: “Robert Frank’s Americans is not only a document, but his utterly personal vision.” So, “Not only” means, that it is documentary and also other things. Put my statement more clearly: The Americans is a document, but as well many other things. It is a trip, it is poetry.

    Not every document is poetry however. My concern is with quality, not the quantity (that is for bureaucracy). So instead of bastardising the word documentary, I specifie its content, its limits,
    its surroundings. Words have not stable meanings.

    2. You answered me: “Whether documentary photography is good or not is not about whether its personal versus objective”. What I said: “Alvarez Bravo, Alex Webb, Depardon… it is as subjective as objective.” And:”But it is about going under the layers of the society you live in, dig in yourself, and create your uttermost own way of seeing into a unity. So, I think documentary photography at its highest is very personal.” So tell me, where do I state subjective versus objective?
    Photograpy is in its nature as well subjective as objective. But yes i do think that the more you go subjective, the more you can tell something interresting. The problem is that many people confound subjectivity with the cheap verson of talking about yourself and own live. Please, I don’t mean that! Subjective: go deep in yourself, look at it. confront it with the world
    around you and make somethimg out of it. Like Koudelka says: “the most of yourself and the most of the world”. Of course
    This is subjective. And every picture is as well objective.

    3. You said: “With due respect, what have Nachtwey’s pictures changed?” I was in no ways pleading for Nachtwey’s hopes to change the world with photography! I don’t think photography can! Of course not! And I think Nachtwey doubts about it too. But he does his thing, because he feels he should do something. it is him and nobody else. Personal personal personal.
    That’s why what he does is so good. And that is why he is documentary AND other.

    And what I do think good photography can change: not the misery in the world, but the sensitivity! By presenting a sensitive view of the world, people can become more or otherwise sensible. For that personal inquiery and vision is necessary. not blunt and easy criticism.

    Cheers to you.

    Victor,

    I think we are surrounding the same thoughts… Thanks for the the word “glorification”. Documenting bluntly Hiroshima will not prevent us from future castrophes in that genre. But if you document it with sensitivity, there you add something to our world. Hiroshima was one of the highest levels of modern cynicism (not the ancient Greek variation!). Only higher levels of sensibility can prevent such disasters.

    What is important is to be sensitive. Frank, Nachtwey are sensitive. A book of all different hairstyles ain’t. You wrote:”What we see now, is superficial glorification to sell products (ads) and superficial criticizing (on mass access level at least) on cultural issues.” So nicely said, thanks!
    Nice phrase!This simple glorification and criticism just adds to the pile of superfluous goods under which our Brave New World is starting “to crumble”.

  • Very cool that Martin has re-joined us to make a comment. A very profound one too…

    “it has to exceptional to add anything new to the dialogue, if you want to go beyond just pleasing yourself”

    IF YOU WANT TO GO BEYOND JUST PLEASING YOURSELF. IF YOU WANT TO GO BEYOND JUST PLEASING YOURSELF.
    IF YOU WANT TO GO BEYOND JUST PLEASING YOURSELF. IF YOU WANT TO GO BEYOND JUST PLEASING YOURSELF.

    It’s Saturday afternoon and I’m feeling a bit frisky after yoga class so I will say something a bit risque…just to hear your thoughts. I often share images and some of the conversation that goes on here with my husband and he is of the opinion that most of what goes on around here is “self pleasure.” To be more blunt he says everyone is mostly “jerking off.” I think that’s pretty much his way of saying what Martin said above. :))

    Thoughts? :)))

  • Cathy; “it has to exceptional to add anything new to the dialogue, if you want to go beyond just pleasing yourself”

    I think he means that those who go to those photographically exotic/clichéd places and don’t bring anything “new” (photographically) to the table are only “pleasing themselves” The locations/subjects he was talking about have been nearly worked to death, so the work “has to exceptional to add anything new to the dialogue”

    All you can do is view the resulting work to see if it is different/better than what has been shot before or whether it’s just the same old stuff rehashed… Well that’s my interpretation of what he said anyway!

  • Ross,

    Yes, that’s pretty much my interpretation too. I don’t think there’s any hidden meaning in what he said :))

  • Cathy

    I’m not sure I’d classify what is going on as mental masturbation, not that there is anything wrong with pleasing one’s self. My personal work is done totally for my own pleasure.

    Martin makes some good points, however I’m not sure there is any new territory being explored in his backyard either. As much as I love Martins stuff, it is certainly not unique and comparisons can be made with Franks Americans, Owens Suburbia, and many others. He does however bringing something new.

    I’m not even convinced that bringing something new to a particular table is all that important, unless you are seeking peer recognition or magazine space. The constant pressure to bring something new and to make a mark is largely driven by economics and ego IMHO. I’m a very traditional guy. If you have something interesting to say, it will show in the work. Patricia and others demonstrate that.

    As far as subject matter, the familiar is the most difficult of course. I’ve commented often before about the trap of always seeking out the exotic or sensational as grist for the photo mill. I’m certainly in agreement with Martin in that regard.
    Great discussion.

  • Kristof

    I woke up this morning understanding what you are on about. When I came to consciousness, there was an art show on the radio. They were talking about the Blake Prize (a religious art prize). I don’t know if that had anything to do with it.

    I think the reasons for it all may come down to changes in media. The shift from newspapers to online as a major forum for showing images. The blurring of boundaries between professionals and amateurs. And of course events in the art world and examples such as Parr who have successfully bridged both the worlds of photojournalism and art. Not to mention the comparative ease of digital photography. Its like fashion, we need to see something new. Though you would say while fashion is shallow the new we want from photography needs to be deeper.

    And then there’s your point about critical versus celebratory photography, or glorification if you wish. I think we need both sides and I think there is room for all.

  • Not that it matters that much but Kristof’s post was there to greet me this morning AFTER I got up.

  • I’m not sure I’d classify what is going on as mental masturbation, not that there is anything wrong with pleasing one’s self. My personal work is done totally for my own pleasure.

    Laughing….
    Thanks Gordon for clarifying…
    Nothing wrong with pleasure or masturbation..:)))
    jee… This is 2010…
    Still putting masturbation down????
    And I thought we had that covered…laughing

  • Panos; It costs nothing, so can’t be all bad….. :-)

  • Ross..
    It’s not a coincidence that all the good stuff are free..ain’t it?

  • Panos you old hippie…. :-)

  • Isn’t Cathy’s partner referring to the talk rather than the work?

    Cathy, did you see my email address above.

  • “Its like fashion, we need to see something new. Though you would say while fashion is shallow the new we want from photography needs to be deeper.”

    Maybe there isn’t anything new, anything deeper. Maybe we are left with shooting only for ourselves.

  • I mean, Martin Parr contemplating shooting Walmart? Come on. Somebody help him find something useful to do with his time.

  • jim….
    everythings been done before…..
    it’s the vision that is ever
    changing
    and
    fresh….
    go
    deeper…..
    :))
    ***

  • Walmart, barricaded. The only store selling food in our small town that barricaded their store before Hurricane Ike took out all power for a week. Even the little 7-11 type stores went to great lengths to remain open so folks could buy food. Thanks, Walmart…always.

    http://www.39thframe.com/walmart_barricaded.jpg

  • I like your shot Jim :))
    interesting
    what they did…..
    mmmmmm..
    ***

  • I ran it six columns, above the fold. Walmart corporate was, um, not happy. ;)

  • go
    jim
    go…..
    now theres a story..
    with you in it
    :))
    ***

  • Jim; “Somebody help him find something useful to do with his time” Just out of interest; what would you suggest?

    Cheers

  • Jim;

    Respectfully; I think your image proves why Walmart is an interesting subject. Obviously they haven’t the sense of community comparesd to your traditiona mom and pop stores. It must have been interesting to you to run it for 6 columns. And yes; I bet it brassed them off; good on you! :-)

    But if you feel that war, famine etc aren’t worth pursuing; and now “everyday subjects” like Walmart are a waste of time, it doesn’t leave much of anything else!

    Panos; “poker in vegas” but I thought that the best things in life were free? :-)

  • … ohhhh…
    Ross,but it is free, until u start losing…:)

  • “But if you feel that war, famine etc aren’t worth pursuing; and now “everyday subjects” like Walmart are a waste of time, it doesn’t leave much of anything else!”

    Exactly. If photographers like Martin Parr are reduced to shooting snapshots at Walmart, perhaps there isn’t anything of interest left to photograph. I sure wouldn’t buy a book of photos shot at a Walmart, nor would I want one hanging on my wall!

  • “…If photographers like Martin Parr are reduced to shooting snapshots at Walmart, perhaps there isn’t anything of interest left to photograph…”

    but Jim:)
    this is were we separate the “this” from the “that”…
    Genius=simplicity=dealing with the mundane…
    In other words Martin is a genius because he knows how to transform the “boring” into “iconic”
    instead of driving his car to india and get busy transforming the “exotic” into “boring”..
    laughing..

  • The 2009 version of a Campbells Soup Can, huh? Another arid era for photography, I guess.

  • Ok, g’nite from a boring old portrait shooter. Today I photographed a retired couple, an extended family, a mother with three amazingly beautiful daughters, and a delightful wedding on a spectacular fall day. What not to love indeed. I still love my life, and my work.

    Night night all.

  • Gordon, I’m with you. I’ll just keep shooting kids and goats in my own back yard. ;)

  • Jim;

    But Walmart is probably just as boring to us as a HCB’s picnics, markets etc were to the “average” French citizen of the time?? Is a market of yesteryear really just an older version of today’s Walmart?

    Please don’t think I’m having a dig at you because I’m not, I’m genuinely interested in your view. But again; “Just out of interest; what would you suggest Parr should be shooting?” What is a worthwhile subject today?

    Cheers

  • Jim; “I’ll just keep shooting kids and goats in my own back yard. ;)”

    I’m just about to head off to photograph a guy’s Berkshire pigs! :-)

  • I mean, Martin Parr contemplating shooting Walmart? Come on.
    ——————————–

    Jim, give the guy a break, Wal-Mart sounds pretty exciting when not so long ago, he was shooting empty parking spots…. :-))))

  • a civilian-mass audience

    BURNIANS,

    FOCUS…it is “there” for you…
    ” it has … to add … new to the dialogue, if you want to go beyond ”
    “… be aware of the weakness in going down the easier path.”

    “look to other societies problems rather than confronting their own. It is too easy just to blame others.”

    “valid point about photographers who go rushing off to the more dramatic picture situations and places without really understanding the true nature of the subject…”

    I Love you all …

    P.S ““We must become the change we want to see.”
    Mahatma Gandhi

  • Here is a link to a Wal-Mart picture that I took in Alaska and yes, you can actually see Russia in the background. I am not joking. Russia is right there, in this picture of two Wal-Mart shoppers, taken in Alaska:

    http://wasillaalaskaby300.squarespace.com/display/ShowImage?imageUrl=/storage/Diomede-0324050126.jpg?__SQUARESPACE_CACHEVERSION=1255244426691

    It is one image from a post titled: Russia, as seen from Alaska: Ten views, including one shot from a front porch and another through a living room window, scheduled to go up on my blog,

    http://wasillaalaskaby300.squarespace.com

    at 4:02 AM Alaska time, 8 east coast time, Monday, October 12,

  • Hi Martin, thanks for taking the time to talk here. I late here, partly because I try to stay with the principle of “if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing”. I do like some of your photographs (well, one; the ice cream girl) but for the most part I’m left cold. It’s not your subject matter, it’s more … your treatment of it. You seem to pay scant regard to technique in some of your photographs; perhaps that’s my problem.

    As Hanibal Smith would say, “I love it when a plan comes together” you know the feeling, when the planets align, the subject comes into view, the light is just so and ….. click.

    You don’t seem to wait – I’m sure that you do but you don’t seem to.

    I’m thinking, particularly of a photograph of yours of a red phone box in a landscape that I saw in a magazine recently. I know phone boxes are a particular favourite of yours but you seem to have gone out of your way to make an awful photograph. I just don’t get your motivation. People say that you can make a good photograph of any subject and it is probably true if you use your imagination and skill as a photographer; but you seem to deliberately by-pass these two attributes.

    Look forward to your reply Martin, hope you can help me to “get it”!

    Best wishes,

    Mike.

  • @ jim…

    i also think the docu photography is in real climax … for two reasons
    1. the media developments in recent two decades. so, photography in general finds new roles here within the whole visual-media interface. and the “classic docu” photography type also changes, adapts new taste etc… well, with internet there at least one positive thing for typical docu – niche groups, a big one in that case.
    2. with the overflow of information, shortening of time of attention, generally, there is far more weight to the outer surface (the superficial level) than the essence of things (whatever it might be, buut it always requires a different mood for better understanding and full experience)…. in fact, with consumerism and commercial, techniques are developed in order to sell just the outer-surface without any essence at all sometimes.
    3. “Individualistic” society, which is easily manipulatable, which lost virtues and ethics (i dont mean old ones, i mean dialogue to create/refine new ones)… a society (people) under pressure of existence as it is defined according to consumeristic norms … in short who cares about indepth docu, who has patience for it ?!! a bit of compassion from miserable african photo, a bit of irony in criticizing our own culture, and even this should be with shouting and screaming or manipulations to draw some attention.

    now about what photography can change or cannot change (the world, the wars and peace etc)…
    well, great generals who become great peacemakers, and other powerful people in charge – they go through several gates of hell before they make some change they believe in. u dont expect men with camera will do it.
    but… photography is a medium within cultural dialogue (at least good art and good docu etc)… just like movies, writings etc… we enrich our cultural world with it – create values, awareness, new myths, agenda etc… this (culture) in itself doesnt make the trick that stops all “the bad” and manifest “all the good”, but at least it is a background for the “tricks” and it creates some notion about “good” and “bad” etc…
    so call this photography medium to promote agenda (like in “news”) or a leisure activity for photographer and the viewer – i think there is still a place for cultural communication in photography, it just get some big shake in recent decade+.

  • Vic what you wrote above makes a lot of sense

    ….which lost virtues and ethics (i dont mean old ones, i mean dialogue to create/refine new ones)… There seems to be a almost loathing of the present, a hope for the future and that nostalgic notion that only the past can be pure.

  • Well, we consistently fail to learn from the past and we have no clue about the future. So maybe we should all just shoot snapshots of Martin Parr.

  • Probably a great Jim idea but maybe Martin lookalikes will be easier to find

  • ALL…

    i want to thank all of you for maintaining a vigorous intelligent discussion with Martin Parr, about his work, and related issues….i will post every once in awhile an iconic photographer who will chat with this audience….each one will bring on a new style of discussion…next up will be Alex Webb and Rebbecca Norris Webb…a collaborative relationship both in life and in art….stay tuned…

    cheers, david

  • Martin’s absolutely right about choosing topic when photographying, and it’s quite a pity that so much work seems to revolve around the same content without many twists. On the other hand, more complicated topics might be much harder. Don’t know if I’d ever have the funds to shoot the relationship between war and crime (in the UK a large part of the prison population are veterans), and how the military both selects those who might be tendent to immoral acts as well as combat wears them out psychologically to commit it.

  • Andrea@

    the word glorification as used by Victor just made me tink that he may be right that for the sake
    of collective memory, we need some glorification. I don’t exactly now what he means with that, but I guess that for example the portraits of August Sander are in some way a glorification. I have absolutely nothing against that, ass you wrongly presumed from my text.

    What is disturbing, as Victor puts it so well, is superficious criticism and superficious glorification.

    And no about your last phrase, no, in our current reality there is no space for all! Brightlit managers of many magazinesrefuse more and more indepth documentary! Just hear what interesting and famous photographers say about that… The space is in the first place for publicity. And next for some content which they think does noet harm the publicity in there and content which makes there magazine more like a uniform product to target a certein public which they try to seduce to buy the magazine by offering them what they want. By consequence the content extrapolates their prejudices and so on (Victor just wrote in that sense). They don’t leave space for all! But yes they give space for what SEEMS new and what SEEMS critics…

    Greetz,

    Kristof

  • Andrea@

    the word glorification as used by Victor just made me tink that he may be right that for the sake
    of collective memory, we need some glorification. I don’t exactly now what he means with that, but I guess that for example the portraits of August Sander are in some way a glorification. I have absolutely nothing against that, ass you wrongly presumed from my text.

    What is disturbing, as Victor puts it so well, is superficious criticism and superficious glorification.

    And no about your last phrase, no, in our current reality there is no space for all! Brightlit managers of many magazinesrefuse more and more indepth documentary! Just hear what interesting and famous photographers say about that… The space is in the first place for publicity. And next for some content which they think does noet harm the publicity in there and content which makes there magazine more like a uniform product to target a certein public which they try to seduce to buy the magazine by offering them what they want. By consequence the content extrapolates their prejudices and so on (Victor just wrote in that sense). They don’t leave space for all! But yes they give space for what SEEMS new and what SEEMS critics…

    Greetz,

    Kristof

  • Andrea@

    the word glorification as used by Victor just made me tink that he may be right that for the sake
    of collective memory, we need some glorification. I don’t exactly now what he means with that, but I guess that for example the portraits of August Sander are in some way a glorification. I have absolutely nothing against that, ass you wrongly presumed from my text.

    What is disturbing, as Victor puts it so well, is superficious criticism and superficious glorification.

    And no about your last phrase, no, in our current reality there is no space for all! Brightlit managers of many magazinesrefuse more and more indepth documentary! Just hear what interesting and famous photographers say about that… The space is in the first place for publicity. And next for some content which they think does noet harm the publicity in there and content which makes there magazine more like a uniform product to target a certein public which they try to seduce to buy the magazine by offering them what they want. By consequence the content extrapolates their prejudices and so on (Victor just wrote in that sense). They don’t leave space for all! But yes they give space for what SEEMS new and what SEEMS critics…

    Greetz,

    Kristof

  • excuse me fot the repetition, the exotic screen I’m working on is blurry…

  • There seems to be a almost loathing of the present, a hope for the future and that nostalgic notion that only the past can be pure…..

    Well, we consistently fail to learn from the past and we have no clue about the future. So maybe….
    —————————

    Photography? Yep, no rocket science!

    PS: come on, guys, you’re becoming as trivial as a Martin Parr supermarket scene….. As Imants would say )my parentheses): “He” won! :-)

    Have a great Day all!

  • err… Not parentheses, but whatever this sign ” is called.

  • Cathy

    In reference to your husbands comment earlier. I guess that makes Burn photo-porn. (:

    Imants/Vic

    Let me second you Imants re. Vics comments. “There seems to be a almost loathing of the present, a hope for the future and that nostalgic notion that only the past can be pure.”..yes.

    Right now is an amazing time to be a photographer, whatever point of view we chose to promote.

  • Gordon L
    October 11, 2009 at 12:29 pm
    Cathy

    In reference to your husbands comment earlier. I guess that makes Burn photo-porn. (:

    ………..laughing……. not only that but those “intellectual” comments comes from
    a guy that never even bothered to read this magazine not even once…
    but its always like that aint it?
    anywhere viva porn!!! ( Burn i meant..:(

  • Briefly to share some ironies…

    Both together alongside… DAH images of crumbling Valparaiso, Martin Parr more recent looking Latin-American society on ‘Playas’ (navy guys where you can read ‘le’, that’s ‘Armada de Chile’) … by doing that I got exactly the road of every time I want to spend a weekend at the central coast of Chile*… Latin American zeitgeist exactly, I think… both realities coexisting the way they can do it… Viña del Mar is just the continuation of Valparaíso… I mean, you could have DAH and Martin Parr at a glance…
    …and well, Valparaíso may seem from another planet, but it is real, is there with its people…

    But that’s not all… Wal-Mart is here now as part of one of the two biggest supermarket chains… since then, no more Cuban products on it as rum…
    http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/chile/090113/chileans-another-reason-dislike-wal-mart

    *beach accommodation available for Magnum photographers and Burnians just for the price of a dialogue.

    Best!!

  • @ imants … cool links, the last from australian gov was SUPER funny…

    @ kristof and andrea… as for the Publicity issue u mention – i take a definition from the mac dictionary:

    demagogue |ˈdeməˌgäg|
    noun
    a political leader who seeks support by appealing to popular desires and prejudices rather than by using rational argument.
    • (in ancient Greece and Rome) a leader or orator who espoused the cause of the common people.

    it is a little bit like chicken and egg, but i think those who are in charge and authorized are more responsible, at least they should try to respect public intelligence a bit more… dare just a bit more so that it will not look as obvious demagogy… “public” is more capable to take/absorb the “given” than it is usually credited… but “public” is less capable to “steer” creatively unless under moderate pressure, to speak generally.

    oh, interesting thing about august sander who is one of my greatest inspirations. i was not seeing him as glorification of his time, per-se… i love him for the objectivity, charm and passion for photography as a medium (emerging still in his days). but his Objectivity creates something so Epic and Monumental about his time and place that … yes, maybe his work can be seen as glorification in a way… im running now many his work in my memory… just feel like i want to open his books now with full collection of portraits (this is the work u implied, rite?!)

  • Kristof

    Without going back to reread all our conversation, I don’t think i made the assumption that YOU thought there were was something wrong with the idea of glorification. But its not a word i would choose at all. I much prefer “celebratory”. Glorification sounds much to much like nazi germany, south Korea, communisim. To celebrate our world, on the other hand, our diversity, the wonders is all good. To glorify it, nah. Not for me. And certainly i do not think August Sanders was into glorification. I love his work too. He is also one of my all time favourite photographers. But the choice of word I think is a language issue here. I think we may all mean the same thing. Unless Viktor means “to elevate beyond this world” what it is he is praising. Then that is something I am definitely against. It could be what he means since he is into Idealism.

    I don’t think Martin Parr’s work is superficial at all. And I don’t think it’s right to put it on the same level as what I believe you mean by “superficious” glorification, by which I think you mean fashion photography and advertising.

    “And no about your last phrase, no, in our current reality there is no space for all! Brightlit managers of many magazinesrefuse more and more indepth documentary!”

    Yes I see how you interpreted this sentence of mine. My fault, but its not quite what I meant. If you have something interesting or important to say in your work you will find a space to say it. True, you may not find room in the traditional spaces. It may not be in the newspaper or news outlet, or magazines. It may more likely be in an art gallery. I think the art gallery has taken over from magazines for showing interesting documentary photography. It seems the news outlets have only room for one shot, but a gallery can show indepth work. The art gallery has become the catch all space for work that has something interesting to say that has nowwhere else to say it. Yes the audience is much narrower but its an appreciative audience, is it not? And there’s quite a bit of money available through arts funders.

    I must admit, I found it a bit hard to understand most of your last paragraph. Its seems as though you are criticising mainstream media and magazine outlets and advertisers. They have their agenda to follow, you can’t expect them to be interested in art that much unless it coicides with it or they feel they can use it to puruse their agendas. Though I know that when it comes to fashion photography, fashion magazines for instance are interested in showing the innovators and why not. Did i mention the Bennetton ads from the mid 90s earlier. I can’t remember. I would love to see more photojournalism used in advertising in this way. (I saw a website a couple of days ago that seemed to be doing that too). It may look like a cynical exercise but if it gets the story out there, then that’s got to be good.

    Has your work been shown here Kristof? What sort of work do you do?

    About August Sander, did you see the link that erica posted a week or so ago of some schoolgirls. They were beautiful – very Sanders-like. http://www.vanessawinship.com/gallery.php?ProjectID=157 Apart from the similarity of style, it’s as though the photographer were taking an inventory of school uniforms just as sander were doing his inventory of social types in Germany. So so lovely.

  • I should have added, that I think Burn is an art gallery space. I remember when I was at art school all the talk about on line art galleries. I am not sure the idea really took off. Whatever I saw anyway never grabbed or held my attention. But Burn is very much like an art gallery and it certainly has held my attention. Perhaps the essential reason for its success is because it’s showing photograph which is well suited to this form. It is a lot like a book. Meanwhile when it comes to paintings, we will always prefer to see it in the real. Yes there are limitations with showing photographs on line too but its not as bad as for other mediums.

  • The other thing i meant by “there is space for all”, actually the main thing I meant by this phrase was, I don’t want to see just one type of work. I want to see variety, different artistic opinions. I don’t want to see us all being celebratory or glorifying, or all critiquing, or all being superficial. I want to see all of it.

  • Viktor rereading what you say about Sander, I am certain the word you want is celebratory.

  • Andrea,

    “Glorification sounds much to much like nazi germany, south Korea, communisim.”

    Um…I live in South Korea, let me assure you it doesnt deserve to be sandwiched in between nazi germany and communism….

    I like Martin Parr’s work, even though not really the Walmart photo posted here, having the cut uff figure on the edges bugs me. But the overall work of MP is very interesting. I think we need that sort of subject matter, I am tired of seeing the usual war, suffering etc that photographers go for. What Parr shows deserves to be shown and as such I dont see any superficiality there. And anyone who can get into Magnum while pissing off HCB in the process and get in despite being hated by some top members is aces in my book.

  • Ooops sorry Rafal, I meant North Korea.

    I have been looking at Martin’s picture of Wal-Mart for days on end now and I am not bored by it yet. Its very harmonious. The Satisfaction Guaranteed gives it its ironic punchline. I feel warm towards the characters. I like the way the people and things are stretched along that line of the wall. I like all the diagonal lines. The red white and blue. I like this picture.

  • Andrea,

    not only mainstream media, but also so-called high quality media offer less and less space for in-depth photography (or sensitive or critical…we both know what we mean by that). And yes, some art galleries show this sort of photography, but how much? And James Nachtwey in an art gallery? Looks harmless to me.

    My point is that the general public space is diminishing the possibility to show in-depth work. Instead they provide us more and more simulacra of in-depth work, which an elite decides to be in-depth work, is presented as such (the medium is the message…) and many follow as sheep. This process diminishes critical thinking in society and is dangerous.

    So yes, luckily there are new possibilities! Some art galleries changing their dirreccion, internet facilities which make it more easy to gather together,… Imagine they wouldn’t be there. Oxygine would become rare, not? So I vote for those…

    I think we agree somewhere on this: the less space there is, the more difficult, but the more necessary… I don’t care if an artist can live out of his work (that’s sidetalk…). But I care for the possibility that more people see his work or desire to see it…so sensibility grows and people see through the illusion of the fake world as presented by most publicity, fashion, womans magazines…

  • Cathy scholl, I am late on this thread, but you say you are interested in the convergence of traditional india and the new india.

    I went to a talk the other night at the Royal geographic society, by the brilliant travel writer William Dalrymple on his new book, which covers this exact topic. see http://www.williamdalrymple.uk.com/

    I would just like to point out I am in no why associated with him I just like his work and it seems appropriate for you.

    Panos he has also written a great book that might be interesting to you if you are going back to Greece called to the Holy Mountain.

    Cheers

    ian

  • Kristof,

    “But I care for the possibility that more people see his work or desire to see it…so sensibility grows and people see through the illusion of the fake world as presented by most publicity, fashion, womans magazines…”

    I now think you must be a fairly young person. Only a young person can be this idealistic.

    Call me cynical but i think it is wishful thinking to believe that people will give up their material desires just because they understand the illusions of fashion photography and advertising.

  • a civilian-mass audience

    THANK YOU AITKEN,
    PANOS and the Greeks …keep notes

    AGION OROS = HOLY MOUNTAIN in Greece
    “…1) if you are a woman you can’t go to the monasteries of the Holy mountain.
    2), if you are a man, and you don’t have the proper papers they won’t let you on the holy mountain either.

    Mount Athos is simply one of the most beautiful places on earth, more like a fantasy than what we know of as reality. Enormous monasteries, like castles or fortresses dot the coast and appear on the mountain slopes with every bend in the road. There are caves, there are virgin forests and animals that are found nowhere but the Holy Mountain. There are monks from every country in the Orthodox world and even some from non-orthodox countries.
    But it’s a fantastic place to visit if you are the right type: male, spiritual in nature, respectful of tradition and adventure …”
    Thank you Mr.Barrett …for the insight

  • a civilian-mass audience

    OUPS…WRONG AISLE

    ANTONNNNN…I am in the wrong aisle …

    Can you send someone for cleaning in aisle 1 …transfer me to the Time OUT

    PLEASEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

  • CIVI

    What the hell are you doing over here? You are in the wrong aisle! You sound in pain.

  • Andrea,

    “But I care for the possibility that more people see his work or desire to see it…so sensibility grows and people see through the illusion of the fake world as presented by most publicity, fashion, womans magazines…”

    Ok, I will add in the midst of my prase the words…”so there is more possibility that sensibility grows…”, words I omitted due to fast writing. Thanks to put a finger on that.

    As you see, I am not an idealist. For I think one of the worst things which happened in our western culture, was the rising star of Plato and his idealism philosophy.

    I don’t think we just should say: “Oh hell, things are that way now, what can we do but conform to it?”. But instead of letting the river flow into a grey muddy sea, we can at least give a try to alter its direccion. Who knows?

  • @ andrea and kristof…

    yes Platos idealism and its later use or emulation, but modern takes on Roman administration and with its norms of what tangible measurable civilization is equally mandatory in that formula.

    about glorification and idealization…. life, state of affairs, spirit etc all are “made” of gradients… like in food, too much can be poison, not appropriate can be disgusting, too little can be pointless etc…. some of the gradients are important for this and other for that…

    i dont know why we have to limit some of the gradients to a narrow path in which we partly associate them (and many times can be rightly so)…

    yes, one side of Idealization and Glorification can be plato’s politics (sparta and modern takes of it), but from the other hand, think what those gradients made to the classic greece arts, philosophy, science, leterature, theater etc… was there ever been such an intense civilization boom and in great Athenes in such a short period of time as athenes actually flourished ?!

    if we dont have Vision.. a modest, a small one about ourselves, we have no cultural base, and then critics is more like slapping our cheeks, rather than doing something meaningful. and here again, we create this narrow minded dichotomy – either u r for McDonalds/walmart or against it…
    walmart won … yes, maybe, but is it all that bad ? we are very dependent on technology (too much in my taste too), but is it all that bad ? civilization is driven to overcome the roughness of nature, to make more comfort etc etc… we just need a bit proportion, interesting perspectives, alternative visions, some cultural base to have measures of things etc…

  • Victor,

    Terrific that a Wallmart pictures brings us to a discussion about Ancient Greece!

    Victor, gradience is indeed an important word for me as well. Dichotomy thinking is terrible. Good versus evil. Bush versus Sadam, and so on. So, I keep my fingers far from that, not to burn them. But this doesn’t exclude fierce critics.

    And Plato concerning, it was not his purpose to install the first democracy on earth. More, the democracy was there before him and he was one of the people who fought its principles. As such helping its downfall. Moreover in his ideal city, not the people but some elite of so called wise man would govern and poets would be excluded. And yes I think we can learn from Plato, as a case of thinking we should be beware of, if we want that more people in our society can enjoy autonomous thinking.

    The people in Ancient Greece who provided perspective, alternative visions (Diogene f. ex.), were fearcily excluded from Plato’s school and discussions.

    One other thing: ideals exclude gradience. (maybe the reason why Plato so much disliked poets)

  • William Dalrymple is my favorite author about India, Aitken, I understand he is in his 40s, and writes of India as if he lived many lives in it (and National Libraries dusty Archives too).

    Cathy, I hope you have read him, this is dynamite inspiration, pre-India trip.

  • Herve, he is in his forties, great speaker if you get the chance to see him. He is doing a world book tour soon. The most interesting part of the talk was the question and answers because you got to know a little about him and his thoughts rather than the book publicity stuff.

    Happy reading

  • Ian Aitken and Herve,

    My friend Tewfic is currently reading Nine Lives and posted about it on his blog before it was published and again just a couple of days ago:

    http://thetravelphotographer.blogspot.com/2009/10/willaim-darlymples-nine-lives.html

    I am planning to purchase it next week. Thanks for suggesting it and for thinking of me!

  • Ian and Herve,

    Never mind, it appears that Nine Lives won’t be released in the US until June, 2010. :((
    Perhaps I can pick up a copy in India.

  • Its all very nice to talk abut Plato, Ben, but how familiar are you with the very real problems related to Walmart? Forgive me for dismissing a guy who has been dead for thousands of years when very real, living people are being trampled upon by Walmart, be that competitors that Walmart crushes, children it uses for labor, people in developing countries who are paid nearly nothing and who work in horrible conditions just so Joe Schmoe can buy a cheap t-shirt or the people working at Walmart who have no right to unionize, whom until recently and probably still now don’t get any health care because Walmart’s policy is to make the state pick up its responsibility. Walmart won? Well we will see, but if they did then the most despicable company around won, and that is not a good thing. Walmart is a cancer, and that cancer starts from the very top, the Walton family and works its way down to liars who run the ship, abusive managers, etc. Plato? ancient Greece? Whatever relevance you see there is of course your business but we are in the now, and let’s talk about issues as they relate to us now.

  • Kristof and Viktor

    Sorry to be so pedantic again but the way Viktor was using the word, he meant “ingredients” as in what goes into a recipe, not “gradient” as in degrees of a slope. “Degree” is a good word for shades of grey.

    “i dont know why we have to limit (emphasis) some of the gradients (emphasis) to a narrow path in which we partly associate them…”

  • If Victor, Andrea and Kristoff want to speak about Plato, it should be cool to us all. That wouldn’t be the first time someone on BURN extrapolates and runs away with their imagination.

    I don’t even think Martin’s Wal-Mart picture (any Parr pictures, for that matter) are about carrying the flag of anti-whatever activism.

    Why Blame Victor, and not Martin or David for not giving out the damnedest about Wal-Mart when they/he posted the shot?

    IMO.

  • Rafal, if I may again, isn’t there a bit of a contradiction in writing all within 24 hours, this earlier:

    “I think we need that sort of subject matter, I am tired of seeing the usual war, suffering etc that photographers go for”.

    Then later:

    “living people are being trampled upon by Walmart, be that competitors that Walmart crushes, children it uses for labor, people in developing countries who are paid nearly nothing and who work in horrible conditions…”

    ?

  • Herve,

    no. I was merely talking about Parr’s body of work, not Wal Mart because his Wal Mart project is as of now still inexistrant. But were it to materialize I dont see a contradiction, either. It would certainly be different from the usual, dont you agree? Wars, disease, starvation, kids in slums…I see a difference. Furthermore by writing that I was responding to people who dismiss this as unimportant because it IS important. Will Parr show the kids in factories? No, but in his way he may expose Walmart for what it is, in his way. I would hope so because there are fundamental issues of human rights involved with Walmart, but they are hidden by them and also people are not really interested in these issues. They aren’t exciting or “sexy” like some of the other stuff people tend to rally behind. However Walmart is probably the worst corporation around in many ways in how it treats its employers, people making that cheap crap for them to see, the environment.

  • empoloyees not employers, or rather its “associates”

  • Mt Athos..
    Male/spiritual.. Blah blah..
    I’m a BF( non spiritual )..
    Do I fit ???
    Laughing

  • Rafael,

    we were talking about Parr’s work (as for the Wallmart picture is part of that) as a phenomenon of today’s art circles behaviour, the reasons for it and so. A broad discussion. Victor talks in a relevant way about idealism. Somebody says I am an idealist. So I try to explain where idealism comes from.
    And Plato unfortunately has lots to do with the world we live in now. Philosophy is not an innocent game. Philosphy, the way we look at the world, shapes our world. And Plato (idealism, seperation body and soul, the cave, Sparta) is still in part shaping the world we now live in.
    Nice question you araised. Can you talk, write or photograph about wallmart without mentionning their awfull politics? (moral question I suppose) What is a good work on that issue? Just taking good ‘cool’ pictures of consumers which surely sell in art galleries, part because they bare the name Parr?

  • Yes you can talk about Plato but infortunately as far as I saw your conversation it was playing at philosophy and glazing over real issues that have every day impact on real people all over the world. Esepecially evident in Victor’s remark about “Walmart won..is that really so bad?” Yes, it is quite bad, Victor, it has very real consequences that go beyond the immediate people involved. Empty pontificating by talking heads in the context of real world issues with real, immediate and serious consequences. This sort of insensitivity to issues at the cost of trying to look smart really irks me. And as far as the question goes, I think it is hard to seperate the two issues. Taking cool pictures is just as bad as spouting off on Plato if you are turning a blind eye to the real issues.

  • rafal. So what are YOU doing about it then?

  • Wal-Mart stuffed up in Korea , flew the coopp, so rafs can come up with a smug answer here though I reckon he may have other products in his nest created by the Wal-Mart types.

  • Yes Walmart failed in Korea and that is a good thing. Although I wouldnt call the alternative larger retailers a great alternative either, they are guilty of a lot of the things Walmart does as well. John, well, one thing I can do is to never shop at Walmart. I never did when they were here in Korea and never did when I lived in North America, either. There are better choices out there as a consumer, Target for example has a better reputation for how it deals with its employees. Imants, what happened to your pledge to ignore me?

  • Scanning through I noticed a fellow consumer bitchin about the big boys like Wal yea they seem evil but we all support them in one way or the other,if we didn’t the buggers would have the same status as vacant used car spots. Here in are lucky enough not to have Wally and his mart, failed to get off the ground touch wood. Woolies his baby cousin is feral enough. Good to see Wal fuckup fail in another country, by the way the name for some the Chinese ones is “Trust-Mart ” must be his real mum’s name……….
    On a sadder note someone please tell Raffie babes that I responded to another poster not him and he is demoted to second ,third person status but we can’t have anyone slagging of great institutions like Wal Mart, Shell oil etc.
    Naaahh better still tell him a pack of lies and say I said so…….. maybe his middle name is wally after all.Well I”m off to Aldis to buy apair of padded bike pants, they are on special this week

  • Speaking of Aldi.
    The Aldi brothers rank on the first and second position of the list of the wealthiest Germans.

  • Hey but their padded bike undies are too big so I changed my name

  • @ andreac… u r absolutly rite – wanted say “ingredient”

    @ herve (and rafal) – about plato relevance…
    yes, it got a bit off topic, but not by much. and i agree with u, relatively new here but i saw far more off-topic talks on burn. poor plato for being found to be irrelevant so early, but rafal has special interest talking with me, which is cool. actually, the humanity (socially and psychologically) must go a dramatic un-imaginable change to make plato only of historic relevance.
    so, as kristoff already explained, this old guy (plato) is so influential, and philosophy is not an innocent game.
    let me add here, thinking that philosophy is innocent and “transcendent” to real-daily life is narrow understanding of general social affairs, + it is about the same as saying mantras such as “money is not important in life” or “politics is shit”… the only thing those mantras really do is put people far away from the sight of things like money, politics, ideas so that there will be little mess and more space for the stronger to manipulate the masses. thinking this is innocent, that is shit, thats is stinky is a good recipe to make people numb….

    @ kristoff… now we are a bit off topic, but it is so cool to talk with u, and especially so in this opportunity and context…
    1. u said: “terrific, we are talking aboy ancient greece on walmart photo”… yes it is, but i really think that any dialogue about culture can easily bring greece and bible. they are fundaments of our culture. of course there were lots of great thoughts since then, from augustin to wittgenstein, but somehow, even without too much imagination it feels like ancient greeks and jews (include early christs) are always in the air somehow in later thoughts too…
    2. idealism and “ingredients” … again, u r rite, so it happens many times (or at least it is dramatic and we remember it).
    but, even if we look in platos work, there are many ways in which we can see “ideal / idealization”… what is a “triangle”? there is no such thing as perfect/representative “triangle” but we have the “idea” of it. there is no such thing as “dot” but we have an “idea” of it. there are “universals” – a kind of particular characteristic that relevant to many items (or people), but this is “idea”, those characteristics are not tangibles… etc etc… this is the Genius of plato… he alwasy had a trouble of explaining how those intangible “ideas” are related in real-world – he has several suggestions changing in dialogues, like “ideas are mirrored in physical world”, or “ideas are resembled” etc, and then comes aristotles within this headache… this is the modest and intellectual issue of “idea/idealization”, metaphysic episteme-ontological etc…
    and when i talk about “idea” “idealizm” is more on this side first of all…
    now from here we get to that “idealization” that has the “intolerable nature”. this is the next step that plato makes – articulates metaphysics to ethics but most importantly to practical politics issues. from here, “ideas” is not just intellectual issue or aspiration and understanding of good virtues etc (like socrates suggested most likely). but instead, “idealizm” (and suggested political contents) becomes a “sacred” Doctrine to follow … and i agree with u here, this is the Tyranny that plato brought… or i should say: this is the Plot for Tyrant – to rationalize their instinctive ambitions (with distorted honestly, or just cynicism). i think this is the dramatic side of plato and “idea” that comes to association, but this is not the only side of plato and his philosophy, in fact, the Genius in his philosophy is in the first part, and the dark side in the second.
    and i dont think plato invented the first part in service of the second. but who knows?! thoughts about “universals”, “ideas” “numbers” were there before, those of socrates probably similar to plato himself, and surely pre-socratics… yet, i think from aristotles, we can “trust” that plato was genius of metaphysics, ethics, epistemology and onthology too, before he become a preach of “utopia” and “sparta”.

    @ rafal…. i will answer u later…
    by the way… does this Tyranny issue sounds as something that is repeated in some parts of daily-real capitalism-consumerism ? …

  • Victor,

    actually my special interest isn’t with you but with the issue. But you are the one who touched upon the issue so I replied to you. Plato isn’t irrelevant, but I didn’t like your dismissive attitude towards a serious issue.

  • @ rafal…

    a side note: so now Plato IS relevant ?!
    and where exactly did u see that my attitude is dismissive ?
    but, u routinly manipulate the words to draw immediate conclusions, in order to play the trumpets of the artificial battle… so here are my marching drums :-)

    u play on the ground of walmart… u play the same hypocrisy of the consumerism and unrestrained capitalism… worst is that i think u dont really want to play all this….

    1. what exactly do u want from the family? from any “oligarch” actually… Walmart does businesses, and does it good.
    let me ask u – do u think u have to look for “social responsibility” in walmart busnes, instead of opening your eyes and seeing that our culture is in moral and ethic bankruptcy ? walmart is the child of consumerism (and other processes led to it)… it is not the mother and father of our cultural problems. yes, walmart and marketing techniques etc are fuel that intensifies the issues, but i do not think they should be the First Adress for “social/ethic responsibility”. if u think they are, then it means that “they already Won” cause u just gave away the keys.
    2. why dont blame our own faked-individualism that can be so easily manipulated by “commercial propaganda”, government that does not take responsibility in regulations, why dont blame the Culture Agents that should carry the Interest of culture wealth as their “first page”? … those two should “give/shape” evolving legislation and norms in which “walmart” will be bounded to respect the “social responsibility”…
    3. why dont blame governments of those countries where people have no rights and are exploited ? blame those people that mostly are not really ambitious to be a better place, or lets say, better place is not liberal rights for them but just a bit more of wealth to survive… they have no responsibility for their destiny ? Walmart is their cancer ?!? otherwise, without walmart, those countries are exemplary wealthy and liberal paradises ???
    4. again, western hypocrisy of cheap compassion… underneath there are premises of western superiority preaching everybody what is right and wrong, and from here, it is a short distance to a typical old style paternalism of colonial ages but this time in fancy business suites softened with “new-age-mantras”. instead of imperial uniforms of the past.
    5. lets say u make a bit of noise talking how bad is walmart (or the classic case like “nike” exploiting kids in asia/africa)… u need great resources to start scratching walmart.. a massive media agenda, politicians on your side, infuencial people etc etc… and then what, u dont even make them shake a bit – cause they give people what people want – consume more for lessssss, which is not all that bad if u r honest with yourself and your daily needs… so, if and when “walmarts” are a bit scratched, they will come with contra campaign, maybe a bit of real improvements etc… BUT – does it solve the problems of our culture ??!! all u will do here is keep on playing on the same ground.

    dont get me wrong, i do not protect “walmart” here, in fact i have no sympathy to unrestrained consumerism, but Blaming “walmarts” and even more so, expecting that they should carry “social/ethic responsibility” MISSES the real problems of our culture. but well, it is so sexy to blame successful business, sounds so sexy to play tyrants and victims game etc… we have a clear address – the thing we can easily Demonize.
    ok this is about hypocrisy…

    now about strategy, photo-docu-art stuff, social responsibility…
    no recipes here, it is a huge theme, and more people will have more perspectives of study and various photographic atitudes, all great…
    yet, i think we can slap our conusmeristic cheecks, very important to provoke, especially on mass level, where are has minor voice, at from “art” “magazines” a tendency can start if we are very optimistic.
    but personally, i am more interested in alternative Visions,
    and i think for Cultural themes (not just walmart) it is equally important that artists (and other creative or influential peopple) will suggest alternative views as is important to provoke the numb situations. alternative visions needs huge doses of optimism too of course, but at least it does not spins around itself…

  • Victor,

    I never said Plato was not relevant, what I took issue with was the abstraction of a real problem into a philosophical game.

    Do you dismiss the idea of corporate social responsibility? Yes, the governments of a country are to blame but so are the businesses that take advantage of those laws, or lack of them. Unlike you I don’t see this is a blame shifting game. Walmart is more responsible than the governments of third world nations it makes its cheap stuff in because Walmart should know better. I don’t really expect some official in Bangladesh who never grew up with any of the concepts we find important to enforce them. However Walmart comes from Western culture, where we atleast acknowledge certain rights. To abuse those rights simply because it can is worse.

  • @ rafal …

    first let me rewrite second sentense of the last passege of my previous comment:
    i was saying: “we can slap your cheeks, and indeed it is important to provoke, especially on mass level. on mass level, such provokation that comes from “art” and “magazines” are minor voice, but they can start tendencies if we are optimistic” … it cought my eye suddenly and i couldnot understand the mess i wrote, probably was doing here a few things simultaniously.

    back to your question… no dismiss at all… actually, i think there Should be corporate social responsibility… but u r not supposed to ask walmart doing it… we are in ethic troubles so to speak… u want corporations dictating ethic codes ??? for themesleves or for society ???
    we can hope that people in charge or in powerful positions (academic, financial, political and social serv etc etc) do have an intuitive social and ethic responsibility.. a natural one, inherent in them… but no garuanti that all (or even most) are like this. and no guaranti how they gonna behave in dicision making situations, which are more problematic than ruitine flow … this is why i think that looking at those phenomenas from a “vantage” broad cultural issue is important.
    and besides, again… issues we are talking about should be “first page” for somebody – government, various “shapers” of the culture etc… i dont think it is the first page of walmart, it should not be the first page of walmart, and even if walmart “honestly and deliberetly” wants to make it its first page instead of business wealth, still it must not be their responibility to shape our “ethic codes”.

  • But who is talking about shaping ethical values? Simply following certain ethical values would be a big change for Walmart. Talking about 3rd world workers being paid almost nothing and working in squalor, or child labor, we know what the proper ethical choices should be, and Walmart hasn’t followed them. But you know, that ofcourse is probably abstract thinking for the regular consumer who rarely thinks of issues in far away lands. There are issues at home too, and to say corporate social responsibility is somethijng from the abstract ethical realm is a mistake. CSR involves not only ethical issues but legal ones as well, and here too, Walmart has failed. Issues of unlawfully changing hourly logs so employees get cheated out of overtime, forcing people to work overtime for nothing by manipulating their work hours, providing health insurance in such a way that eployees cannot afford it and are infact encouraged by Walmart to go onto state funded healthcare. This strategy allows Walmart to shit its legal responsibility onto the state. This is all easily found information. As is Walmart’s disregard for the environment for example.

    God forbid Walmart have any part in shaping ethics in any way, shape or form. Its a corporation that breaks ethical norms with delight, be that at home or abroad.

  • I’m following this discussion on Wal-Mart with interest. I’ve done my share of protest demonstrations outside of Wal-Mart stores over the years. And yes, Rafal, you are right about Wal-Mart’s horrible record of workers’ rights abuses. There are countless websites that detail these abuses, but one that tells it from the workers’ point of view is called “Wal-Mart Workers Speak Out.” The URL is

    http://www.aflcio.org/corporatewatch/walmart/walmart_2_profiles.cfm

    Patricia

  • Interesting discussion, but lets not lead burn into libel territory.

  • Gosh, John, maybe things are different in the UK, but here in the United States it is not considered libelous to be a voice of dissent whether about corporate or governmental abuses. If it were, we’d be living in a police state.

    Patricia

  • @ Rafael, Victor…

    in many cases the wish that companies take their social and ecological responsibilities by themselves, dismisses a real moral way of doing business. Why? First point, the goal of companies is to earn money. As much as possible. It is the reason of their existence. Second point, man is not naturally ethic. it is culture which makes man to behave ethic. Our culture doesn’t provide the certainty that man will behave ethically (not any culture does, but there are degrees…).

    So, asking firms to behave socially responsible, it is cute and nice, but the reality tells us that some do, but many don’t. Many pay huge bills to publicity campaigns in order to show a nice “socially responsible” image of themselves. Lately many multinationals seem to behave like ethical champions, if we have to believe their communication. With them, we will save our planet… Why do the do this? Well, just because attention is going so much to social responsibility! And they know. So it is much more important for them that they are giving the most freedom they want to do whatever they want to take in the biggest benefits, instead of having to subdue to regulations! This social responsibility talk shifts away the attention of the real issue.

    And this is the gap between the poitical powers and the companies powers. For multinationals can shift their productions very easily to the countries which give them the best options (low salary, less unions,..). The only way by which to alter this process, is not to ask them the ethical obligation of taking their social responsibility, but to impose rules and to sanction if they overrule them.

    We need to strive for more democracy, so people have more power to decide what they want as a society. We need public discussions about it.

    So, yes, maybe it is good to show Wallmart as an example of an overall plot in our society. But if we only attack Wallmart , without talking about the broader context, then I am afraid it will be just nice for our own nice and cute moral consciousness, so we can believe we are the good ones…

    For the people who think this discussion is theoretical and irrelevant, as begun from a Wallmart picture, in our current society, everything is related. hat is needed is to think and discuss how things are related. A certain way of portraying Wallmart is related to liberal-capitalism, consumerism, democracy, oligarchy, Plato… To relate things gives perspective, not?

    THe picture of Martin Parr is well composed. But the meaning is so blunt. “Satisfaction guaranteed” and under it two workers of Wallmart. If it doesn’t come together with other images which bring a complexity of meaning (what are the conditions of those workers f.ex., which would surpsise me Martin Parr would do, knowing his work), this picture is only a confirmation of the so-called cleverness of the photographer to have seen this moment and its irony. Except for his first work, Martin Parr’s images show narcissism, sign of our times. They bear not one single profound critic of our culture. Only superficial critic. And certainly not an alternative vision.

    @Victor,

    thank you for the specification of Plato’s influence on our culture!

  • Provocative! Clever! Witty! Calculating! Ironic! And what a great choice of subject matter!
    But, I suspect that Kristov Vadino may be on the mark with his comment about narcissism or perhaps: vanity, conceit and egotism??? I have long wondered whether the author, and all his followers, actually care about anything or simply pat themselves on the back because they see themselves as smarter? I do not know the answer but AM interested since I have never understood this photographer or his work. To me it appears to lack any compassion for humanity.

    Love to all,
    Jenny

  • oops… sorry Kristof Vadino for mis-spelling your first name

    jenny

  • And apologies to Martin Parr if I have misunderstood him and his work. I simply cannot ‘connect’ with it as to my way of seeing things, it lacks magic, feeling and warmth.

  • Just for the information of flickr haters, Martin Parr has a flickr profile. He’s also announced that his next book (a collaboration with Joachim Schmid) will be a compilation of images posted in a flickr group. http://www.flickr.com/groups/martinparr/
    He’s probably also a fan of http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/

  • jenny lynn walker

    I have recently come across some images of people taking pictures of each other by Martin Parr and I like them a lot. Anyone know if they are part of a book or where I can see more?

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