Sunday, 2 July 2017

Martin Parr's sandals

A few months back there was a post on Talk Photography announcing a talk in Worcester by Martin Parr. An unusual choice for a camera club speaker, but perhaps a sign of a shift in attitudes among amateur/hobbyist photographers.

I wasn't sure if I'd be able to get there but last week I bought a ticket anyway. As things panned out I was able to make the 130 mile drive and it was worthwhile. Naturally I took a couple of cameras intending to spend a bit of time wandering round the city. Equally naturally I got lost and had less spare time than I'd hoped.

In advance I'd tried to find out if there were any country or agricultural shows in the vicinity on the day of the talk. I couldn't find any, but just outside Worcester, at four thirty, I saw a sign to one. Too late! However, when visiting a cathedral city and you have to photograph the building itself. So I did.

With the venue for the talk being close to the river and the racecourse I had a wander round there. It was a surprise to find that you can walk across the racecourse.

With time running out I only managed a few snaps before heading to the Swan Theatre to get a mug of tea before the main event. I was told that more than 200 tickets had been sold, and the theatre was certainly packed. Although I thought I'd left it late to book I got a seat in the centre of the third row.

Having read a fair bit about Parr's work and watched quite a few interviews he's given on Youtube there wasn't much to see or hear that I didn't already know. However it was nice to ask a question and have a few words with him before and after the talk.

It's quite apparent that part of the reason for his success at recording people the way he does without getting assaulted is that he is unthreatening and extremely affable. His sense of humour was evident throughout the talk and during the giving of prizes for a competition the camera club had run, which Parr judged, and the presentation of raffle prizes. The most amusing bit being when the top prize of a day with Damien Demolder was announced and Parr said he'd never heard of the guy but was sure he was a good photographer. Demolder was sitting in front of me at the time!

One the camera front Panasonic had donated many of the prizes and had a display of their wares on show. I'd taken my toy camera along as I wanted to try it out during the talk as it is silent. I had a play with one of the lenses I had considered getting for it. Very nice. I might get rid of all the other single focal length Panasonic lenses I have and get that one to use purely for 'street' photography. Which is all I can bring myself to use the camera for.

Quite a few people were getting books signed and taking photos of Mr Parr. There was only one of the books he'd brought to sell that I hadn't got already. So I asked for a discount and got a couple of quid knocked off. Then I asked if I could photograph his sandals. To which he willingly agreed.

Although I didn't learn anything from the event it did get me thinking. Which is always good when you are in a bit of a rut.

It says a lot that a busy photographer of Parr's status is willing to drive from Bristol to Worcester to give a talk to people who aren't in the same photographic circles as he moves. So well done him, and well done Beacon Camera Club for talking him into it. Their speaker next year is Joe Cornish. I'll be giving that one a miss.

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