Previously, we took a peek at the contact sheets of American-born French photographer William Klein, and learned the fascinating stories behind some of his most interesting photos. Today, it’s time for us to dive into the contact sheets of renowned British documentary photographer and Magnum member Martin Parr. If you’ve been interested in his work, you’ll surely enjoy him tell stories about his photos and colorful style.
Before the days of photographers previewing their work through computer thumbnails or chimping on their camera screens, there were contact sheets. A single darkroom print of thumbnail-sized negatives was an important reference for photographers back in the day, allowing them to look at a shoot or potential material for a series in its entirety. It was also after studying the contact sheet that a photographer selected the photos to be printed and published for everyone to see.
In this two-part installment of the film collection titled Contacts, we are treated to a closer look at Martin Parr’s iconic approach to documentary photography through his contact prints, and some frames from his selected projects.
One of the most interesting parts of this installment is Parr’s beginning in photography, which is drastically different from the documentary style he became known for. While his early photographs were in black and white, his eye for detail and quirky social stories was unmistakably evident.
“When I started in photography, black and white was the dominant medium. I think it must have been I was about 13 or 14 when I first got the serious photography bug,” he said of his early days, as we see more of the black and white photos he took around this time. Once he started shooting color film in 1982, he never did black and white again.
Finally, the clips also prove to be valuable resources for those who are keen on studying Parr’s work, especially since we get some insights about his documentary style from Martin Parr himself.
“I came from a very middle class background, so I think the idea of connecting with a community in a different way to have from suburban Surrey was such a contrast to me, and therefore it was very appealing.”