martin parr

Five minutes with Martin Parr

Photographer Martin Parr began his career in Manchester in the early 1970s, regularly returning to explore its habits. A major new exhibition brings together a 40-year selection of his world-renowned images of the English city

What kind of Manchester did you find 40 years after your first visit?

It’s fascinating, I love coming back. Every time I do there’s something different, something representative of a new time. Perhaps these new places aren’t quite so open and warm, but they’re still populated by Mancunians, and it’s a friendly place.

When you look at the body of work, do you see huge differences over the years… beyond the obvious fashion choices of course?

Yes, the character of Manchester has changed. There’s a real difference between the gentrified centre and those who struggle at the edges, in the satellite towns I’ve photographed in the past. It feels like hard times have hit them.

martin parr
Woman in Manchester, 1971

There’s a shot of some Mancunians outside a Caffe Nero. Have our cities become less distinct in the 21st Century?

You could certainly say we’re all becoming homogenised; there are parts of my new collection of photographs which could just as easily be London as Manchester. But I think that still says something about the kind of places cities have become. Generally though, hairdressers are always good to shoot as they’re usually run by one person and are very distinctive.

Was it tempting to go back to where you have shot before and document the changes?

Well, a lot of the places have been demolished! I was happy to pick up on things I’d seen before – I went to Rusholme’s Curry Mile again. But I was happy to do new things, whatever was going on I wanted to explore. I’m a very nosy person, that’s what drives me as a photographer. I’m curious.

Generally, people are more curious about photography now, too…

We’re all photographers now, but that’s good news for me. That means more people are interested in photography. You have a serious platform in Instagram these days – it hasn’t influenced me but it does mean I have a better audience, which needs constant feeding!

And what do you hope that people get “fed” from this show?

I hope it’s enjoyable. I am an entertainer with photographs – perhaps there’s a serious subplot to what I do but I’m not going to impose those ideas on anyone, I leave that open-ended for the viewer to work out. You’re waiting for a moment to reveal itself, and while the cameras change and the subject changes, it’s still my eyes waiting to capture that moment.

Manchester, UK.