15 April 2009

Martin Parr on Sepia Tones

I have to admit that I had never been too impressed by Martin Parr. I don't know why, but his photography just didn't do much for me. But a few short pieces (mostly) in The Guardian by or about him have changed my mind [1] [2] [3].* Let's say he's grown on me. Today he offers this nice succinct comment on the propaganda behind Madonna's recent celebrity adoption campaign.
* You can find links to Parr's Guardian commentaries here.

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Blogger Dawei_in_Beijing said...

What's the big fuss about Madonna adopting this baby? She's worth a fortune and will be able to provide a life for this child most people can't even dream of. Pardon my French, but the judge is a real asshole if he thinks keeping the kid in some slummy third world orphanage is a good idea. That's plain cruel, in my opinion.

15 April, 2009 00:28  
Blogger Pac Mclaurin said...

Martin Parr will be one of three featured photographers at the Festival of the Photographers (others include Sylvia Plachy and Gilles Peress) this June in Charlottesville VA. This is the third year and it is a wonderful three days of photography in a gorgeous setting. I sort of share your feelings re: Parr's work and I am very interested in hearing his presentation. I had a similar feeling re: Joel Peter Witkin last year. After hearing and meeting him, I understood his work much better and found him one of the most interesting and entertaining people I've ever met. You should try to attend.

15 April, 2009 08:47  
Blogger stansivlav said...

To address the question in the first post, I think the issue is that her adoption of the baby would be illegal under Malawian law. Simply by virtue of her multi-billionaire status she doesn't have the right to flout national law, any more than a government can have 'extra-territorial' legislation. I wholeheartedly agree on the quality of life question, but if Angelina Jolie can conform with Cambodia law in adopting Maddox I don't see why a sepia-toned Madge shouldn't do the same...

As regards Parr I've always been ambivalent, and not because of a hierarchy in which colour is the lesser of the B/W vs colour debate. I think it's because the quintessence of 'Britishness' he seeks to preserve is a racialised one, if I'm honest. It's parochial (often beautiful, comic and insightful) but nevertheless inflexible in some way. I'd love to be able to head out to Charlottesville to hear him speak, but sadly I will be firmly anchored in the UK.

16 April, 2009 08:02  
Blogger Dawei_in_Beijing said...

Stansivlav, the reason I find the legality of Madonna's adoption laughable is because Malawi is such an extremely impoverished country. Their per capita income is a measly $299. They also have a severe AIDS problem and govt. corruption is the normal way of doing business. Under these conditions it is impossible to have a credible legal system.

Personally, I find it cruel that they refuse to give this child a chance at life based on some bogus law that, had Madonna not been such a publicized figure, could have easily been circumvented with a "donation." I think the judge is jealous -- he wants to be adopted by Madonna! lol Let the kid go!

16 April, 2009 16:36  
Blogger beatriz said...

when the stories of international adoptions appear i always ask myself, why doesn't the billionaire adoptive parent choose to support the biological parent instead of taking the child??? i know that the equivalent to $50 usd per month could make a huge difference in the lives of parents and children in the usa or any other country...to not problem-solve the situation implies pitiless privilege and emotional cruelty.

16 April, 2009 23:23  
Blogger stansivlav said...

Very fair point - I think there's a writer by the name of Andrew Mwenga / Mwenda from Uganda who keeps arguing that foreign direct investment creates depency whereas an organic independent economy would help to deliver freedoms and equality. So on that basis Madge should probably be funding orphanages so that Malawians can afford to look after these kids better...

I had a look at that Festival of Photography you run. It looks like a fantastic thing to be contributing to. I'm particularly envious of the Gilles Peress...


17 April, 2009 09:25  
Blogger David Campbell said...

Photographically, what is interesting about Parr's commentary on the Madonna image is they way black and white was until very recently the 'gold standard' of humanist documentary. Perhaps it even remains in this position. As I've written recently (http://www.david-campbell.org/2009/04/17/photographic-truth-and-photoshop/) the current controversy in Denmark over a photojournalist increasing colour saturation of his reportage images takes place in a professional community that has no problems with practitioners desaturating their images. Only the former is regarded as an illegitimate intervention in the photographic process.

19 April, 2009 04:50  
Blogger stansivlav said...

David -
Some interesting ideas on your blog; thanks for linking it (particularly keen to see Eyal Weizman's work linked).

I think the whole B/W or de-saturated versus over-saturated colour debate folds back onto a lamentably classical equation of austerity with authority. Certainly these arguments have the ring of anti-daguerrotypist fanatics seeking to defend painting along similarly rigid lines. What I find strange (and this could just be me) is that the underlying concept that informs the preference for B/W versus colour in a 'truth-telling' sense is that the idea retains very widespread credibility (at least in North-Western Europe, and perhaps because of the way daily news and weekend magazines use photographs)...

I suppose there is a question of the theatricality of over-saturated colour (or highly saturated, like Eggleston) as against B/W. This obviously plays into notions of decorum in the face of hardship/suffering, and consequently feels like a very British complaint... Oddly though, I would have thought that an out and out sepia-toned documentary/photo-journalist image would be considered equally 'purple'.

- stanley.

21 April, 2009 03:40  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Hello all, Things have been very wacky here for the past week and while I've been reading, I've not commented in the thread. But I want to thank you all for putting in your 2 cents .... I appreciate hearing from you. Jim

22 April, 2009 21:02  

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