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Matinee: 'Martin Parr: Advice to the Young' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

15 January 2022

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 431st in our series of Saturday matinees today: Martin Parr: Advice to the Young.

This 3:07 clip from the Louisiana Channel sits Martin Parr down in a chair where Christian Lund prods him to reveal the secret to success, otherwise known poetically as advice to the young.

Parr, who was born in 1952, has earned an international reputation for "his innovative imagery, his oblique approach to social documentary, and his input to photographic culture." In 1994 he became a full member of Magnum Photographic Cooperative. The Martin Parr Foundation was founded in 2014 to house his archive, his collection of British and Irish photography by other photographers, and a gallery. His work is in the collections of the Tate, The Victoria and Albert Museum in London and the Art Institute of Chicago.

We found it particularly interesting to compare Parr's advice to that of Dave Clarke, who we featured in a matinee earlier this month to kick off the new year.

They both insist that boning up on the work of other photographers is essential. It would be impolite to point out that they are themselves other photographers whose work you might bone up on. But they don't mean themselves.

If you'd studied the history of photography, you'd know who they mean.

While Clarke dismisses the sincerity of the young photography student as someone who just wants to know how to shoot with their smartphone, Parr says right off the bat, forget it, you'll fail, get a job in a bar.

We find it particularly rude for an accomplished star in some field to tell an admiring student they are destined to fail. But Parr is a betting man and he safely puts his money on failure. Presumably, he would have said the same thing to himself if that's any comfort.

As something like an educator ourselves (or what are we doing here), we take the opposite approach. There are a lot of ways to fail and some of them are exquisite (like falling in love, having children and providing for your family). But there are different ways to succeed, too (like documenting that growing family in photographs). And we only hope we can help you find one.

Parr does suggest one path to success. Find a subject.

But even that is rather old school and won't get you many subscribers on YouTube or make you as popular as David Letterman on TikTok. Particularly if you pick a subject that goes out of fashion. And all of them do.

If you get the feeling from watching these two mentors that you'll have to figure it out for yourself, you won't be wrong. That, in a few words, is the secret to success.

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