7 Lessons From Martin Parr.
Martin Parr (born 23 May 1952) is a British documentary photographer, photojournalist, and photobook collector. He is known for his photographic projects that take an intimate, satirical, and anthropological look at aspects of modern life, in particular documenting the social classes of England, and more broadly the wealth of the Western world.
7 Things I Learnt From Martin Parr:
Focus More On Series Than Single Photograph.
Martin Parr does not have any single favourite photograph of his. He always likes to think about his work in terms of sets and projects, and not just single photographs.
Yet, even now when I hit the street, I tend to shoot with the “Flickr-mindset” chasing one photo-worthy shot after another. However, last year I was twice shooting with some project in mind, and several of my most compelling images belong to those projects.
Don’t Hesitate To Be Obsessive.
Be relentless and obsessive in your pursuit for photography. Don’t wait for vacations to exotic places in order to finally take out your camera and shoot. Shoot everyday. Learn everything you have to learn about your craft.
I learnt to stop waiting for special events or vacations to come up for me to shoot. I shoot because it’s a new day. Not because I am suddenly motivated about photography, it’s because it is a practice. The only condition to make a awful lot of work (and perhaps a few good ones among them) is to shoot everyday.
Talent and networking are crucial, but they will only take you so far. Without diligently practicing your craft, it’s hard to break in, and even if you do – it is even harder to stay at the front of the race.
Take A Huge Number Of Photographs.
Coming up with good shots during every photoshoot, especially when doing street or documentary photography, is really hard. The situation worsens if you take only a handful of shots. The more number of photos you take, the more is the probability that you will find a few good photos while editing.
As a rule of thumb, I click somewhere between 100 to 200 photographs every time I head out to shoot all by myself. When I am working on paid photoshoots, I click somewhere between 600 to 900 photographs each day. It becomes so much easier to edit and pick good photographs when I am shooting in such bulk quantities.
Locate The Extraordinary In The Ordinary.
The best thing about street photography is that you don’t need to travel a thousand miles to take a photo of an endangered species of animal. Street photography is staged around everyday life – the everyday people on the street, things, and moments we encounter every day. It is often the most common and boring thing, that often goes unnoticed, which makes the most powerful images.
In this specific photograph, Parr has got extremely close and filled the frame with the subject. He, here, forces us to notice the subtleties which add up to the peculiarity of this image – the scarlet red lipstick on the somewhat pursed, dissatisfied lips; the golden jewelry on her left wrist; the blue oval goggles with lizard-like eyeholes; and the silver necklace. All these details compel the viewer to form an opinion about the subject.
Experiment With Your Photography.
It is very common to be pigeonholed into shooting street photography only one way – some people focus exclusively on light and colour, some people evolve to focus exclusively on shapes and form – then, that becomes their “personal style”. Martin Parr has experimented much during his photography career- shooting with 35mm black and white film on a Leica, medium-format color film, 35mm color film with a Macro lens, and now shoots with a DSLR camera.
It’s important not to limit yourself and shoot selectively. It takes a really extraordinary photographer to be able to master different genres, and styles, and mediums of photography at the same time.
Don’t Get People To Smile.
Posing people in street photography is a big no-no! It should always be candid.
While growing up, we all get used to seeing family members in photo-albums all smiling. We have this preconceived notion that people are “supposed to smile” while being photographed. However street and documentary photography is all about capturing the truth without interfering with the story or the subject, without adding any personal bias to the image.
Thus, it is crucial to photograph people in their natural emotional state – sad, frowning, or happy.
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