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2024-04-08 00:00:00 Avenue Magazine Martin Parr has Never Published a Book on Fashion Photography—Until Now

Martin Parr has Never Published a Book on Fashion Photography—Until Now

Style for the camera
BAKED TO PERFECTION A 2018 photo commissioned by Gucci.
Photo by Martin Parr/Magnum Photos, courtesy of Phaidon

Martin Parr loves books. To be clear, the famed photographer also loves photography (but we’ll get to that in a moment). But books — whether he is producing or collecting them — are a key interest.

“I’m looking at the design of books all the time,” Parr says. For better or worse, he picks up on ideas and conveys them to his book designers. “I’ve done over 100 books and not all of them are very good. I’ve done well, but I’m not gonna tell you which ones they are before you ask.”

If it’s not clear, the wry humor that is central to Parr’s photographs also comes out when he’s being interviewed. He is speaking to me over Zoom from the library of the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, England, which he opened in 2017 to support and celebrate the work of photographers focused on documenting Britain and Ireland. Softly, in the background, are the sounds of people flipping pages in books.

GALLERY GIRLS A 2019 editorial for American Vogue
Photo by Martin Parr/Magnum Photos, courtesy of Phaidon

Best known for documentary photography, Parr has spent his career turning the mundane into a vivid, cheeky, and, as curator Thomas Weski has noted, borderline “grotesque” art form. His latest project is Fashion Faux Parr, a collection of fashion photography being released this spring by Phaidon. The tome features more than 250 images, some of which have never been published before. Despite having photographed fashion commercially and editorially since the ’90s, this is Parr’s first book dedicated to the subject (2005’s Fashion Magazine doesn’t count, as it was, per its name, a magazine). After taking on more work from fashion clients recently, Parr decided the time was right to finally devote a book to it. “Because people don’t know me as a fashion photographer, it was really fun to do something that hopefully people won’t have seen before — and may even be pleasantly surprised to see the aspiration,” he says.

For a photographer known for critiquing consumerism, it’s hard to say what’s more unexpected: that fashion brands tap him to lens their campaigns, or that he accepts the jobs. Parr even admits that he isn’t particularly interested in clothes. Instead, his only priority is to get an interesting picture. For his part, he’s happy to take a paycheck — especially when he can then use it to further invest in his foundation.

THE WAITING GAME A 2023 photo shot in Versailles for Jacquemus
Photo by Martin Parr/Magnum Photos, courtesy of Phaidon
IN CROWDS Below: Paris Fashion Week in 2018, commissioned by Gucci
Photo by Martin Parr/Magnum Photos, courtesy of Phaidon

“This is a bit of a subversion, a bit of mischief,” he says. “Basically, I’m taking fashion pictures exactly in the style as I would do for myself. I’m just applying my language to a commercial problem to solve. Actually, it is about solving a problem: how do you make an interesting picture with people with these clothes on? In fact, I’ve been doing that all my photographic career.”

Said decades-long career has taken Parr around the globe, placed him in some of the world’s biggest galleries, and even earned him an appointment as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He’s learned a thing or two about people, and how to spot a good image. “Good pictures are very rare. I don’t take that many every year. Ten if you’re lucky, and really, probably, even that is exaggerating,” he says. “But even the weaker pictures have a role to play in terms of their documentation. And [that’s] what photography is all about: showing society as it is now through my eyes.”

Fashion Faux Parr by Martin Parr (Phaidon) is available for pre-order online now, and will be available in stores this month.

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