Exercise: Getting the Parr feel


For this exercise, photograph people engaged in a fun or social activity outdoors. For example, you could go to a seaside resort and photograph people having a good time. Or photograph people at an outdoor party or function. Try to capture the Martin Parr ‘feel’.

Produce a set of eight colour images. Ensure that the colour is bright and reflects the nature of Martin Parr’s work. How does this lighting effect change the nature of your images? Make some notes in your learning log.


I saved up this exercise until the weekend just gone as I felt a particular event that would be a good subject – the annual carnival in Nice, France.

I confess however that the exercise didn’t exactly go to plan for a couple of reasons.

It was an unseasonably wet and grey weekend and most of the carnival events got cancelled. One parade went ahead, but still in the rain, so I shot at this one. I know Parr himself wasn’t afraid of a bit of Bad Weather, indeed he made a whole project out of it! So I made the best of it and decided to shoot at the rainy flower parade.

I found myself attracted to the many different umbrellas people were using and so the project turned into a kind of typology exercise rather than focusing on people’s faces (which was rather difficult given all the brollies, and hoods – I’d have had to get in very close to get many portraits, and I’m not quite as fearless as Mr Parr).

The second point on which this exercise veered off plan is that my off-camera flash was taking an inordinate amount of time to recharge (and I know the maxim about a bad workman and his tools, and it was most likely neglect on my part to not have brought a fully charged set of spare batteries) – and so I abandoned the flash early on and took most of the images with natural light, albeit with the saturation settings on my camera dialled up slightly.

The end result is, I think, Parr-esque in some ways (colour palette, subject matter) but not in the crucial technical matter of using flash. Something I only picked up on after the event was how I’d used shallow depth-of-field too much. Parr usually (thought not always) goes for deep d-o-f with everything in focus. Seems like I’m not very Parr-like at all :-/

Having discussed this with my tutor we’ve agreed that rather than re-do the exercise, I should document my challenges, including which ones I overcame and which I did not, and move on.

Footnote: after I’d taken the brolly set but before I uploaded this post, I was checking Martin Parr’s site to compare my aesthetics with his – and the photo below made me smile. Seems that shooting a brolly from behind is the kind of thing Mr Parr might do (although I think this one is actually a parasol…)

FRANCE. Evian.
From Evian, 2015 – Martin Parr


Martin Parr http://www.martinparr.com (accessed 02/03/2016)


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