Martin Parr is endlessly curious about how we all live our lives. He has developed an international reputation for his colourful photographs which capture our times – whether it is the food we eat, the fashions we wear, what we buy or our leisure activities. His images present the familiar in a new and wry way.
Starting his career in Manchester, Parr studied at Manchester Polytechnic (now Manchester Metropolitan University) from 1970-73. The city had a profound effect on him as it was so different from his childhood home in suburban, affluent Surrey. It sparked his curiosity about people’s lives, what it is to live in a Northern, largely working class and diverse city and he embraced his new context with enthusiasm. After his tutor’s intervention which stopped him being expelled from the Polytechnic after his first year, he began making cohesive documentary projects which explored a particular subject. One of the first of these was Prestwich Mental Hospital in 1972 where he spent three months photographing the patients and their surroundings.
I REMEMBER SO WELL ARRIVING INTO MANCHESTER IN 1970, HAVING TRAVELLED FROM THE SAFETY OF SUBURBAN SURREY. IT WAS EXCITING AND FELT VERY REAL. HAVING BEEN A REGULAR VISITOR TO THE BRADFORD AREA TO STAY WITH MY GRANDPARENTS, I HAD TASTED THE NORTH AND ALWAYS LIKED THE FRIENDLINESS AND SENSE OF COMMUNITY THAT WAS SO DIFFICULT TO FIND IN SURREY.
Parr has revisited the city many times over the last 40 years to document the lives of Mancunians. The exhibition brings together a selection of Parr’s Manchester photographs. Ranging from black and white images of June Street, Salford in 1972 and Yates Wine Lodges in 1982-3, to colour photos of people shopping in 1986 and 2008, his work shows how the lives of Mancunians have changed but also how there is continuity in how we live.