Compare and Contrast: Martin Parr and Anna Fox

Upon completing assignment four, my tutor suggested I take a look at the contrasting approaches of photographers Martin Parr and Anna Fox to see their interpretations of capturing towns. This was a great suggestion, and it has further aided in building up my knowledge of street photography.

I researched Martin Parr previously in this module in order to prepare for assignment three. You will find this research here. Therefore, using this previous knowledge, I am concentrating this research on Anna Fox, and the differences and similarities with that which I already know of Martin Parr.

Firstly, we see the similarities between the two artists. The first and most obvious similarity between the two; their subject matter. Both Parr and Fox capture towns; Parr concentrating on seaside towns, and Fox on villages. Their love for the ‘ordinary’ and everyday life is the main strand that joins these two artists together. Fox states that; “I feel that the most interesting photography does this: observes what most of the world ignores or dismisses as dull or “too ordinary”.(1)” Fox’s passion is capturing the habits of middle class citizens going about their everyday life. This is the exact objective that Parr focuses on in his work. He states the following about his subject matter; “Magnum photographers were meant to go out as a crusade … to places like famine and war and …I went out and went round the corner to the local supermarket because this to me is the front line.(2)” Both Parr and Fox have a passion for capturing everyday life. There is nothing spectacular or dramatic about what they capture, they simply photograph normal people carrying out everyday activities. And yet the results are truly fascinating!

The second similarity we note is their use of strong coloured images. Both photographers use colour and flash to create a surreal effect with vibrant and bright colours. But why were some of their techniques so similar?  An interesting point to note when comparing the similarities between the two photographers is that Martin Parr was Anna Fox’s tutor during her time studying photography in Newport! During an interview, Anna states how instrumental her tutors were in the creation of her photographic identity. “So all three lecturers were vital in terms of helping me form my identity as a photographer- with Martin I admired his humour and was particularly excited when I saw his first colour with flash photographs from Last Resort which he brought out to show a small group of us when we went on a field trip to stay with him at his home in Liverpool.(3)” Fox learnt most of what she knows from Parr, therefore explaining the similarities between the two photographers. This use of flash and colour as well as the use of humour are strong characteristics of Parr’s work which I noted in my previous research. Fox uses these exact techniques in her photography stating; “I wanted to use colour and flash because of the very immediate feel that they give to the work…I wanted to use humour, satire to engage the audience in what I was trying to say- I was doing two things as I saw it: the first was to record history and the second was to make a critical commentary of society as it was and focus particularly on aspects that were not normally looked at by photographers – the middle classes.(4)” Therefore, we see the strong similarities between the two in the form of; subject matter, the use of flash with coloured images, and the use of humour. All these are great techniques which I intend to put into practice in future when capturing street photography. The use of humour and bright colours produce strong, interesting images which I love, and we see examples of how Parr and Fox have implemented these methods below.

Parr: (5-7)

GB. England. New Brighton. From 'The Last Resort'. 1983-85. FRANCE. Calais. Auchan hypermarket. From 'One Day Trip'. 1988. HUNGARY. Budapest. Szechenyi thermal baths. 1997.

Fox: (8-12)

annafox.co.ukannafox.co.uk1 annafox.co.uk4 annafox.co.uk5 ANNA_FOX_EXHIBITION_33

Next we are going to look at the differences between the two photographers. We see that both Parr and Fox have carried out projects on seaside towns during their career. However, their approaches are starkly different. Parr uses a wide-angle lens, getting up-close and personal with his subjects. “Then the camera is a wide-angle so you’re in very close. All those things contribute to the look and feel of the photograph.(13)” This creates a strong connection between the subject and the viewer. This in stark contrast to Fox who uses an even wider-angled lens than Parr, yet her position to the subject is akin to that of a passer-by watching from a distance. Her images appear to ‘spy’ on the subject, appearing inconspicuous and distanced, this is a huge contrast from Parr’s bold approach. I personally prefer Parr’s method, as the viewer really gets a strong idea of the subject and can truly place themselves right inside the frame. However, Fox’s images set the context of the scene a great deal more than Parr; showing the surrounding space and giving the viewer a strong idea of how the space is used. We see examples of their varying approaches below:

Fox: (14-16)

annafox.co.uk.jpg 15 annafox.co.uk.jpg 11 annafox.co.uk.jpg 18

Parr: (17-18)

GB. England. New Brighton. From 'The Last Resort'. 1983-85. martin parr 4

We have seen the comparisons and differences between Parr and Fox; both street photographers with a passion for capturing everyday town life. Their work is a stark example of human life containing great humour and bursting with colour. They differ in their approach to capturing the image, choosing to frame and compose their subjects differently, thus resulting in starkly different finished collections of seaside towns. Both these photographers have shown me the benefit of using humour when capturing human life, and this is a technique which I intend to carry through my photography in future. They have also shown me what a great difference the photographer’s position to their subject can make, and how this can create either a detached or warm image depending upon the desired finished result.

(1) ASX (2011), ASX Interviews Anna Fox- “Interview with Anna Fox”, Available from: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2013/06/interview-anna-fox-asx-interviews-anna-fox-2013.html  [Accessed 01/08/13]

(2) BBC (2007), Photography- Genius of Photography, Martin Parr, Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/photography/genius/gallery/parr.shtml [Accessed 07/06/13].

(3) ASX (2011), ASX Interviews Anna Fox- “Interview with Anna Fox”, Available from: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2013/06/interview-anna-fox-asx-interviews-anna-fox-2013.html  [Accessed 01/08/13]

(4) ASX (2011), ASX Interviews Anna Fox- “Interview with Anna Fox”, Available from: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2013/06/interview-anna-fox-asx-interviews-anna-fox-2013.html  [Accessed 01/08/13]

(5-7) MAGNUM PHOTOS (2012), Photographers- Martin Parr, Available from: http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL5357TF [Accessed 07/06/13]

(8-12) ANNA FOX (2013), Work, Available from: http://www.annafox.co.uk/ [Accessed 01/08/13]

(13) EASY WEB, Martin Parr- Humanity Is Not Pretty, Available from: http://easyweb.easynet.co.uk/~karlpeter/zeugma/inters/parr.htm [Accessed 07/06/13]

(14-16) ANNA FOX (2013), Work, Available from: http://www.annafox.co.uk/ [Accessed 01/08/13]

(17-18) MAGNUM PHOTOS (2012), Photographers- Martin Parr, Available from: http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=CMS3&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&ERID=24KL5357TF [Accessed 07/06/13]

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