From the unlikely sounding Tarantino-meets-Disney venues Smack Mellon and Dumbo Arts Center, Magnum photographer and curator of New Typologies Martin Parr lays out his stall for the Future of Photography. In employing the word ‘typology’, Parr is evoking a tradition in which the best-known exponents are Bernd and Hilda Becher. “Yes, it’s been around for a long time, but people are using it to great effect at the moment,” says Parr. “Photographing something over and over again can bring an extra level of rigour to certain subject matters. It’s not new, but no-one has isolated it as a specific trend.”
Indeed Parr used the strategy for his own recent book Parking Spaces. The use of the related concept of repetition is an enduring theme for Magnum photographers and was celebrated in a magazine venture called M2, published by the Paris bureau and Steidl in 2005. Parr’s Magnum colleague Donovan Wylie has recently employed a typological study for his latest photographs of The Maze Prison. Wylie has of course photographed The Maze before – it was this body of work that secured his reputation – but this time he is photographing its demolition. In fact, he was still photographing the work up until just a few weeks ago.
Most of the other photographers selected by Parr are less well known, but they’re “hot new players”, not least the vibrant young Dutch photographers known collectively as WassinkLundgren. The duo won the Arles book prize last year for their project Empty Bottles, in which they photograph Beijing and Shanghai residents picking up bottles from the streets in order to recycle them. Viewers can also expect to see a series of those magical spaces, photographers’ darkrooms, a diminishing space captured for posterity by Michel Campeau.
WassinkLundgren – Empty Bottles
Parr wasn’t especially keen to extol the respective artistic merit of his exhibitees, who include Jeffrey Milstein, Sarah Pickering, Ananké Asseff, Jan Banning and Jan Kempenaers, preferring to keep his comments “tight and efficient” and also, presumably, to let the work speak for itself. We do know, though, that he believes that the form of the photographic series brings “order to the chaos of the modern world we live in.” Just back from the opening of his own mega-show Parrworld in Munich – which he described as “very complex”- Parr seemed keen to throw himself into the New York experience, perhaps looking to bring some order to his self-made chaos. And of course to champion the work of photography’s rising stars. As Parr says, “It’s very important for old farts like me to have some fresh young competition.”
Martin Parr was speaking with Max Houghton