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Martin Parr Foundation to Open with the "Black Country Stories" Exhibition

  • The Royal wedding
October 23, 2017
A philosophy graduate interested in critical theory, politics and art. Alias of Jelena Martinović.

A true chronicler of our age, Martin Parr has been exploring the concepts of leisure, consumption, and communication for several decades. Approaching these subjects with criticism, seduction and humor, he creates photographs that so perceptively show us not only how we live, but also how we present ourselves to others. The Martin Parr Foundation, a new center for British photography and the works of the celebrated photographer established in 2014, will open to the public in Bristol with an inaugural show presenting his recent body of work, Black Country Stories. Commissioned by Multistory, Parr has been photographing four boroughs of the Black Country – Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton and Dudley. During his four-year journey, the artist has managed to capture a unique sense of community, diversity and spirit of the region.

Teddy Gray's, confectionary manufacturer, Dudley
Martin Parr – Teddy Gray’s, confectionary manufacturer, Dudley, The Black Country, England, UK, 2010. From the series ‘Black Country Stories’. © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

Looking Beyond the Stereotypes

As Martin Parr himself explained, he didn’t know much about the Black country, other than its reputation as a densely populated, post-industrial area; in one word – a region in decline. He decided to explore the area and try and look beyond the stereotypes. Looking both into the past and to the future, Parr managed to capture industries and traditions such as chain making and confectionary production, which made the backbone of the area, as well as the regeneration and energy immigration brought to the region through thriving small factories and manufacturing industries. With his unique sense of humor, Parr shows us a collective portrait of the region comprised of places of work and worship, the pigeon fanciers, onlookers to St George’s Day Parades, weddings, hairdressers, nightclubs and giant leeks at county shows.

Griffin Woodhouse Ltd, chain makers. Father & son, Brian & Ross
Martin Parr – Griffin Woodhouse Ltd, chain makers. Father & son, Brian & Ross Cartwright. Sandwell, The Black Country, England, UK, 2010. From the series ‘Black Country Stories’. © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

Working as a Community Photographer

Once again returning to the notion of being a community photographer, Martin Parr ensured all the prints were given back to the subjects and that the work was exhibited locally for the community to see. He was touched by the friendliness and openness of the community. This project also inspired Parr to return to making films in order to perfectly capture the plethora of stories unfolding in front of him.

Virtually no-one turned down a request for a portrait. People were so welcoming and seemed only too glad to share their stories. One person would pass me onto someone else, or onto another story. In fact, I could have gone on forever…


Merry Hill Shopping Centre, Dudley, The Black Country, England, UK, 2014
Martin Parr – Merry Hill Shopping Centre, Dudley, The Black Country, England, UK, 2014. From the series ‘Black Country Stories’. © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos

Martin Parr Art Exhibition at the Martin Parr Foundation

Opening in an architect-designed space in the Paintworks complex in Bristol, The Martin Parr Foundation will be comprised of a studio, gallery, library and archive center. Dedicated to supporting and promoting photography from the British Isles, it will preserve the archive and legacy of Martin Parr, as well as a growing collection of works by selected British and Irish photographers and images taken on the islands by international ones. The exhibition Black Country Stories will be on view at Martin Parr Foundation at Paintworks Bristol BS4 from October 25th, 2017 until January 20th, 2018. It will feature highlights from the show originally exhibited at The New Art Gallery, Walsall and Wolverhampton Art Gallery in 2014/15.

Furthermore, the audience will have a unique opportunity to be photographed by the celebrated photographer in a pop-up portrait studio at the Martin Parr Foundation on November 18th, 2017. At the price of £250.00, the tickets guarantee you a portrait session with the artist and a signed 12×8 inch print made at the Foundation.

Featured image: Martin Parr – The Royal wedding between Kate Middleton and Prince William. Residents outside their home on Clare Road, Walsall, The Black Country, England, UK, 2011. From the series ‘Black Country Stories’. © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos. All images courtesy of the Martin Parr Foundation.