Life Advice from Martin Parr

About a month ago, I had the brilliant opportunity to go see a talk by the infamous British photographer Martin Parr, in conversation with Roger Tooth. I hadn’t booked a ticket, as they had all sold out pretty much immediately. However I hovered outside the lecture hall along with a few other people who must have had the same idea, and they managed to squeeze us in the back. I can honestly say the talk was brilliant. Parr came across as an inspiring humble individual, who had paves of knowledge. Lucky for you, I managed to write most of his influential advice down, so here I present some of my favourite phrases that Parr came out with.

  1. Cameras do all the thinking for you
  2. “I love and hate this country so intensely”
  3. “Remoaner”
  4. “Subvert our expectations of what something is like”
  5. “the contradictions of modern society”
  6. “What’s gone wrong with that person?” – referring to someone who buys the Daily Mail
  7. “I do things like fashion (…) and in those days I would have been appalled by that”
  8. “books have changed people’s lives”
  9. “When I saw ‘The Americans’ it changed my life as it made me think, I can be a photographer too”
  10. Unless your motivated and passionate, your works not going to be very good
  11. “This looks really fucking dull” – referring to black and white photography
  12. “My greatest photographic moment” – referring to his collection of photographs known as ‘The Last Resort’
  13. “Here we are 40 years later and it’s still the best one, that’s depressing isn’t it?”
  14. The most depressing pictures are colourful
  15. “made it feel surreal (…) I can get away with it” – referring to using flash
  16. I get so fed up with students who do projects on their parents or grandfather – it’s boring
  17. “It’s part of getting older” – referring to becoming kinder
  18. “Canon 5d”
  19. “They get to the serpentine, and all hell breaks loose, I was accused of being a fascist”
  20. “If you photograph war no one says anything, but if you photograph Sainsburys (…)”
  21. “You don’t question the ethics of photographing famine”
  22. “People get very cross with me”
  23. Most pictures I take are rubbish
  24. “I probably take more bad pictures than anyone in this room”
  25. “It’s like my laboratory” – referring to the beach
  26. “Not to be stale and predictable”
  27. “I just put my camera on automatic, I don’t know how to use it really”
  28. I love talking to people
  29. “Those questions can be provocative and you can get great answers”
  30. “I’ve got no interest in fashion whatsoever”
  31. “Fashion is a way of solving problems”
  32. Most fashion photography is boring
  33. “We got real people, not models”
  34. “Photographing people shopping in their pyjamas”
  35. “Do I give a shit whether it’s a Fendi or a Gucci?”
  36. “You have this amazing opportunity to work all the time”
  37. I get bored with laziness
  38. “Once every five years they may be bothered, but mainly not”
  39. “There’s no legal requirement to have any consent for photos”
  40. I don’t look at them and feel guilty
  41. “I tend not to face my body towards what I’m photographing”
  42. “When they look up because they’ve seen the flash, by that time I’m not looking at them”
  43. “If it’s unusual or weird it becomes more interesting”
  44. “To prostitute myself to give me the money to do the things I want to do” – referring to fashion photography
  45. How can you not be inspired by this crazy world we live in?
  46. “We’re surrounded by things that are extraordinary but most of the time we don’t see it”


What is your favourite quote by Martin Parr? Let me know in the comments below!

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