Tag Archives: Martin Parr

Assignment 2 – Anything You Can Do


The objective of this assignment is to provide you with an opportunity to explore the themes covered in Part Two with regard to the use of both studio and location for the creation of portraits.

This assignment is about taking what has worked from the above exercises and then trying to develop this further in terms of interchanging the use of portraits taken on location (street) with portraits taken inside (studio).

You need to develop a series of five final images to present to the viewer as a themed body of work. Pay close attention to the look and feel of each image and think of how they will work together as a series. The theme is up to you to choose; you could take a series of images of a single subject or a series of subjects in a themed environment. There is no right answer, so experiment.

One of the possibilities I thought about for assignment 2 was to take images of people within their own house, using artificial lighting. My final choice of subject involves this. The room has become the studio. This contrasts with my earlier images for this section which were almost all taken outside with natural light.


I looked at several photographers portrait work for this including Martin Parr, Christophe Agou, Paul Graham, and Walker Evans and also researched work done taking images of people with disabilities such as Louis Quail  in ‘Big Brother’,  Siân Davey with her work on her Down Syndrome daughter in ‘Alice’, Polly Bradon’s work with the learning disabled and people with ASD  in  ‘Out of the Shadows ‘  and ‘Great Interactions’ and Lesley McIntyre’s photoessay on the life of her daughter ‘The Time of Her Life’.  I also looked at Diane Arbus’s somewhat controversial work where she took images in a home for learning disabled people (Diane Arbus).  There is a harrowing film series done by David Hevey on disability which uses the contrasting images of then and now, to tell a part of the story about disability: see David Hevey – The Disabled Century for more information.

Taking pictures of people who are aware of you is discussed further in Project 2 – The aware and Project 2 – The Aware – 2. Most of the work that I found about people with disabilities either involved people with a learning disability, severe mental health problems, or severe physical difficulties.

Background Information:

This series is about a couple who both have autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). This is a condition (I refuse to call it a disability) that I have worked with for many years and, if I have learned anything, I have learned that the people with ASD and their families are not defined by the label. Each person’s story is different, each family’s story is unique, just as for any other person and any other family. To tell the story properly takes time, a lifetime, both yours and theirs. This is just a snapshot.


For this series I took images of a couple with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and their young child. Janey and Rich were kind enough to invite me into their home and give me permission to use the images.  Unlike most of the work on people with disabilities looked at above neither of them has a learning disability.  Janey is an author, rarely seen without a pencil and a notebook, and Rich works with computers. Their motto is ‘Anything you can do we can do too’ – although, as Janey went on to explain, that does not include working at a busy supermarket till ( but who would really want to do that from choice).


  • I met Janey and Rich in their home. It was the first time I had met Rich, so he was naturally somewhat guarded with me, although eventually relaxed. We spent some time talking and then I simply started taking pictures of their interactions with each other, me and their baby. One of the difficulties people with ASD have is with eye contact, especially with strangers and this is evident in all the images.
  • I used a combination of natural light, the artificial light in their flat and a flash unit.
  • I visualised these images from the start in black and white, partly because it echoed much of the earlier work I had seen and partly because it gives a softer light and timeless feel to the images.


This was a fascinating piece of work to do. It fits within a much longer work I am planning about the lives of people with ASD and that of their families. I am planning to mainly concentrate on work with adults with ASD as little has been done photographically with this group.

The difficulties were:

  • Working inside with limited light
  • Allowing enough time for the family to relax without being there so long that I risked overwhelming them

The positive aspects:

  • Building a relationship
  • Exploring a new (to me) type of way of working



Learning points:

  • Be confident that you can do things
  • Relax and the subjects will also relax
  • Take enough images to allow for problems with the light

With sincere thanks to Janey and Rich.

Reference list:

Arbus, D. et al. (1978) Diane Arbus. London: Gordon Fraser Gallery.

Braden, P. (2016) Great interactions : life with learning disabilities and autism. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing.

Bradon, P. and Williams, S. (2018) Out of the Shadows. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing.

Hevey, D. (s.d.) Viewing. At: http://davidhevey.com/viewing/ (Accessed on 6 April 2020)

Mcintyre, L. (2004) The time of her life. London: Jonathan Cape.

Quail, L. (2018) Big brother. Stockport: Dewi Lewis Publishing.

Siân Davey (2015) Looking for Alice. Great Britain: Trolley Ltd.

The Gaze

“To gaze implies more than to look at – it signifies a psychological relationship of power, in which the gazer is superior to the object of the gaze.”  Schroeder. J, in Barbara B Stern, ​Representing Consumers: Voices, Views and Visions ​(1998) London: Routledge. Pg 208.

The gaze is an important in the theory of photography. There are multiple ways of looking at what that actually means. A simple list that summarises it is:

  1. The photographer’s gaze
    1. What they are actually looking at and how they are looking, which might be though the lens of the camera – but could also be by looking at the image that they are planning (an example of this would be in the work of Gregory Crewdson).
  2. The viewer’s (spectator’s) gaze
    1. The male gaze is discussed in Berger’s Ways of Seeing (Berger, 1973) – ‘Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at’and usually implies power, ‘I own the image/object that is shown’. It was initially suggested in relation to film by Laura Mulvey in her essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ (Mulvey, 1975).
    2. The female gaze – initially discussed by feminists in response to Mulvey’s work and now widely used but not clearly defined. Is it about all work by females? Or only about that work with a feminist slant? There is an interesting recent article by Murray Brown that says, ‘if anything, the female gaze is simply an awareness that women do not hold half the power’ (Murray Brown, 2019).
    3. The LGBTQ+ gaze also needs to be considered and has more recently been explored, for instance in the context of the work of Mapplethorpe and Goldin.
    4. The ‘colonial gaze’ – about attitudes to ‘others’ (not white, European or American).
    5. The academics gaze – analysing the context, sources and details
  3. The gaze of the person/people within the image
    1. Where they are looking and who they are looking at- an example of multiple gazes within an image is Jeff Wall’s photograph Picture for Women (1979).

      Picture for Women -© Jeff Wall
  4. The bystander’s gaze
    1. People looking at people looking! Good examples of these are in Martin Parr’s recent work on Versaille where he has photographed people taking images of themselves (Pégard, 2019).

For a more complicated consideration of the gaze  there is an essay by Lutz and Collins in ‘The photography reader’ (Wells, 2010, pp. 354-374) which starts by saying ‘the photograph……is not simply a captured view of the other, but rather a dynamic site at which many gazes or viewpoints intersect’.  The essay is written in the context of research on National Geographic images. They discuss seven different types of gaze which I shall summarise here:

  1. The photographer’s gaze which controls the subject matter, the structure, view and content, and which may be emotionally distant (alienated) from the subject
  2. The magazines gaze (they were talking in the context of the National Geographic), but there would be similar issues from any commissioned image – where a specific image is chosen, and the layout will give a desired ‘reading’ to the image
  3. The magazine reader’s gazes where ‘the reader….is invited to dream in the ideological space of the photograph’ (Tagg, 1988), anything that jars may put the reader off interpreting the image as the magazine would want. It is reliant on cultural models, gender and diversity of experience together with the context of reading (a quick skim or detailed look, alone or with other people)
  4. The non-Western subject’s gaze (or more generally the gaze of the subject in the image) divided further into:
    1. Confronting the camera, acknowledging the photographer and the reader ‘I see you looking at me, so you cannot steal that look’ (p.359), what it means is dependant on the expression (smiling, glaring etc.), a collaboration and an attempt at creating intimacy. They note that those who the West defines as weak are more likely to look directly at the camera than those defined as strong – is that editorial choice/political reasons?
    2. Looking at something else within the frame – gives information about the subject of the image
    3. Looking into the distance – may suggest things about the personality of the subject (dreamy, forward thinking)
    4. No gaze visible, too small, covered with a mask – ‘a boundary erected’
  5. A direct Western gaze – in the context of the National Geographic included Westerners in the image may allow the viewer/reader more identification with the image. The meaning will then partially depend on how the various people within the image interact – ‘the mutuality or non-mutuality of the gaze of the two parties’ (p.362). Is the gaze colonial? Is it patronising? These types of images are less frequent now – is that because of a changing view of Americans within the world – the other becoming more threatening and therefore safer behind the camera?
  6. The refracted gaze of the Other: to see themselves as others see them – ‘mirror and camera are tools of self reflection and surveillance’ (p.365), creating a double, looking for self-knowledge. The photo may actually increase alienation, see Sontag’s suggestion ‘the photographer is a supertourist, an extension of the anthropologist……the photographer is always trying to colonise new experiences……to fight against boredom’ (Sontag, 1978).
  7. The academic spectator’s gaze as a subtype of the reader’s gaze which here looks at a critique of the images and why they were made

They summarise by saying that ‘the multiplicity of looks is at the root of a photo’s ambiguity, each gaze potentially suggesting a different way of viewing the scene’ (p.171).

In the OCA handbook for IAP it states:

A key feature of the gaze is that its subject remains unaware of the present viewer. Academics and theorists have identified a number of different gazes:

  • the spectator’s gaze​ – the look of the viewer at a person in the image.
  • the internal gaze​ – the gaze of one depicted person at another within the same image.
  • the direct address​ – the gaze of a person depicted in the image looking out directly, as if at the viewer (through the camera lens).
  • the look of the camera​ – the way the camera itself appears to look at people depicted in the image (the gaze of the photographer).
  • the bystander’s gaze​ – the viewer being observed in the act of viewing.
  • the averted gaze​ – the subject in the image deliberately looking away from the lens.
  • the audience gaze​ – an image depicting the audience watching the subject within the image.
  • the editorial gaze ​– the whole ‘institutional’ process by which a proportion of the photographer’s gaze is chosen and emphasised.

There is a comprehensive overview of the gaze and accompanying  issues available at: http://visual-memory.co.uk/daniel/Documents/gaze/gaze12.html?LMCL=zhc8U6 . In this Daniel Chandler adds in discussion about the direction and angle of the gaze, proximity and how this is varied by race and custom (as is length of time someone will look at you and how direct the gaze will be). He also discusses the eye of the camera, although mostly related to film and TV and notes ‘Looking at someone using a camera (or looking at images thus produced) is clearly different from looking at the same person directly. Indeed, the camera frequently enables us to look at people whom we would never otherwise see at all. In a very literal sense, the camera turns the depicted person into an object, distancing viewer and viewed’ (Chandler, 1988).

This short discussion of  different ways of considering the use of the word ‘gaze’ shows many alternative ways of interpreting it and its use within photography. While I was considering this, in the work-up for exercise 3.4 I came across a photo-essay on the BBC news site.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-51767925

I do not usually follow the British royal family – but I thought that many of these images demonstrated the types of gazes listed above. In order:

  1. The spectator’s gaze
  2. The internal gaze
  3. The audience gaze
  4. The editorial gaze
  5. The look of the camera
  6. The bystander’s gaze
  7. The averted gaze
  8. The direct gaze
  9. The direct gaze
  10. The direct gaze
  11. The internal gaze
  12. The internal gaze

    Meghan and Harry © Samir Hussein/Wireimage
  13. The direct gaze and the averted gaze
  14. The direct gaze and the averted gaze
  15. The direct gaze

    Meghan and Harry © Paul Edwards/Reuters
  16. The bystander’s gaze
  17. The audience gaze
  18. The spectator’s gaze


Barbara B Stern, ​Representing Consumers: Voices, Views and Visions ​(1998) London: Routledge. Pg 208.

Berger, J. (1973). Ways of Seeing. New York, Viking Press.

Chandler, Daniel (1998): ‘Notes on “The Gaze”‘ [WWW document] http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/gaze/gaze.html [Accessed 12 March, 2020]

Mulvey, L. (1975). Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Screen, 16(3), pp.6–18.

Murray Brown, G. (2019). Can a man ever truly adopt the ‘female gaze’? [online] http://www.ft.com. Available at: https://www.ft.com/content/4e29215a-0f40-11e9-a3aa-118c761d2745 [Accessed 9 Mar. 2020].

Pégard, C. (2019). Versailles, Visible invisible: Dove Allouche, Nan Goldin, Martin Parr, Eric Poitevin, Viviane Sassen : [exposition, Versailles, Château de Versailles, Domaine du Trianon, 14 mai-20 octobre 2019]. Paris: Éditions Dilecta, Dl.

Sontag, S. (1978). Susan Sontag on photography. London, Great Britain: Allen Lane.

Tagg, J. (1988). The Burden of Representation : Essays on Photographies and Histories. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wells, L. (2010). The photography reader. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York, Ny: Routledge, pp.354–374.

Daniel Meadows 2

© Daniel Meadows

I have just listened to a fascinating podcast with Daniel Meadows in which he talks at length about his career and his thoughts on photography – A Small Voice episode 116. All the quotes here are from that podcast.

Meadows talks about his upbringing, how he was brought up in a very typecast structure, class related, boarding school, had a housekeeper. This led to interest in other people. He struggled with authority and argued in school which led to him spending much of his final year in the art department where he saw Bill Brandt exhibition – when he realised that Brandt moved across the class structure and showed it was possible to do so in photography.

Meadows met Martin Parr at Manchester Polytechnic, they would meet up regularly and immerse themselves in contemporary photography via magazines and films. This led on to Graeme Street project. ‘How do I respond to them tearing down the middle of the city?’. He invited people into a rented shop and ask them to tell their stories and take images. He then heard about and was influenced by the Irving Penn work that went on to become Worlds in a Small Room. Meadows said that in those days ‘Kids came first, and then they would bring their parents’.

My work has been about a way of generating chance encounters with strangers…. what came through the door was so inspiring…..a brilliant portrait of Britain’. To make money he spent the summer as a photographer in Butlins, taking images both at random in the camp and at formal events ‘The walkie photographers….. there I started using colour, Ektachrome slides.’  At that point he hadn’t seen much colour work, as most of the inspiring work was still black and white.

June Street with Martin Parr came about following a visit to the Coronation Street sets. The streets were being torn down so they looked for the last remaining street and photographed everybody in there. They were done as a typology, looking towards the sofa, with every living creature in the photo.

Then came the Omnibus Project, which had multiple problems, the bus was always breaking down, it was difficult to find places to stop. He talked about working on my own. ‘You are lonely….you are scared….I slept in places where people tried to break in in the night….but generally people would open up ….. you listened to people…… I was beginning to think about what is documentary all about….I was a beginning to say “I will put you in the history books”’. Many years later these images were put on as an exhibition, he then reconnected with as many of the people as possible via local newspapers and re-photographed the people and put the new with the original images. Meadows is very definite that the story is about the individual people and not a typology.

Nowadays he says, you need to learn how to listen, that there is a story to be had on every street. Then a camera was novel, this is now not the case. How do you work now? ‘You are different from the people you are working with…. so, what can you add? Can you get other people to tell their own story?’ Now many people do on Facebook etc. But this can be very ‘dismissive of other people’ and often very ‘shouty’. ‘Can you write things without swearing and make people cry?’

 “I spent a lot of my life wishing that I’d taken pictures like Cartier-Bresson or Diane Arbus or Bill Brandt. And it took me a long while to learn that I’d actually taken pictures like Daniel Meadows.”  He says he has a loathing of advertising photography. Meadows then talks about the perceived differences between art and documentary and that galleries want ‘art’ not documentary – why is documentary a ‘second-class thing’?  His work has now gone to the Bodleian Library at Oxford where they have taken everything – all the pieces of writing, all the journals, all the recordings, all the history.

Meadows ends by saying ‘Everybody has to invent their own way…You have to sit down and say to yourself why do I want to take pictures… who am I doing it for…what is my subject matter… I you don’t know your subject matter you are never going to make good pictures, important ones’.





Daniel Meadows

Daniel Meadows is a British photographer, a contemporary and friend of Martin Parr, who taught and worked in collaboration with him. He describes himself on his website as ‘I am a Documentarist, I have spent a lifetime recording British society, challenging the status quo by working in a collaborative way to capture extraordinary aspects of ordinary life, principally through photography but also with audio recordings and short movies’ (Meadows, 2019) and says his story is about the England he comes from. An archive of all his work to March 2018 is held in the Boddleian Library in Oxford and has been used to study how UK photographers can make their work and studies publicly available.

The June Street series was made in collaboration with Martin Parr in 1973, as series of pictures of the residents of houses in June Street, Salford, that were awaiting demolition. They took photographs of families in their sitting rooms, all looking at him, seated in similar positions. The project was taken up by the BBC and the verbal stories and comments of the people were added. A short Vimeo talk, Daniel Meadows – June Street by Meadows explains how he went back to see some of the residents of June Street in 1996 and how the photographs brought back memories of the past. He also talks about the comments of some bloggers on an exhibition in 2011 talking about how his photographs of June Street brought back personal memories of their own childhoods and says ‘ ..that something so rooted in a specific past can speak so powerfully in an ever-changing present and with such a range of meaning is, I think, magical’ (Meadows, 2014).

In the introduction to his recent book, Now and Then, England 1970-2015 Meadows says ‘My rule of thumb when doing documentary work is to try and treat people as individuals, not types’ (Meadows 2019). This is completely opposite to the rule of typology that Sander used and leads to a very different kind of image. He quotes Karl Ove Knausgaard who says ‘; Should our culture not …. establish difference, which is the stuff of all worth in which value resides and from which it is released’ (Knausgaard, 2018). The book starts from his very early work as a student when he set up a free photo-studio in a disused room in Graeme Street. Even these early images show the individual nature of the people he took, the cheekiness of the children and the serious adults. He moved on to travelling with a bus, still taking free pictures of anyone who wanted their picture taken, single people, pairs and groups – building up an early version of a portrait of England. He made contact with some of the people photographed in both these projects many years later and took their stories and re-photographed them – hence Now and Then. It makes fascinating reading. Among other things, in 1975 he was photographer-in -residence for the Borough of Pendle, where he took images of what was then the industrial heartland of England, the people, the machines and the scenery. All in black and white – colour was generally too expensive then. The photographs in Now and Then are accompanied by the stories of the people, not (definitely not) politically correct – but extremely funny. He has always made audio recordings to go with the images – to extend the story.


Knausgaard, K.O. (2018). My Struggle. London: Harvill Secker, p.p.626.

Meadows, D. (2014). Photobus ~ Daniel Meadows. [online] Photobus.co.uk. Available at: http://www.photobus.co.uk/daniel-meadows [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].

Meadows, D. (2019a). June Street, Salford by Daniel Meadows. My photography stories #4. [online] Vimeo. Available at: https://vimeo.com/110983025 [Accessed 17 Oct. 2019].

Meadows, D. (2019b). Now and Then: England 1970-2015. Oxford: Bodleian Library.




Project 1 – The unaware – 2

Tom Wood (born 1951) is an Irish photographer who spent much of his life in Merseyside, and who now lives in Wales. He was photographing in New Brighton at the same time as Martin Parr and Ken Grant, but the three photographers produced very different work. Wood is an obsessive photographer, never going anywhere without his camera and constantly taking pictures. He works in series, but the series are not separated by time, rather than by how and at what time of day he takes the images. He travelled widely by bus and took pictures on the bus. He also took images at the local shipyard, and, possibly most famously, the images in the Chelsea Reach nightclub – which became the book Looking for Love (Wood, 1989).  Wood returned week after week to the nightclub (and all the other areas he was interested in) and having taken pictures of the people there one week would offer them copies of the images the next week.  He was extremely well known in the area and became their ‘Photie Man’.

Wood photographed people close-up. He said in an interview with Sean O’Hagen “I’m not trying to document anything. It’s more about deciphering and transforming. I make what you might call real-life photographs” (O’Hagen, 2015).  Wood’s work is taken over years, usually with no specific plan in mind. He said “I take pictures all the time, if did a project, had a plan, it would be self-conscious. It’s very different to go out looking for something. All that stuff can get in the way, whereas if you take pictures all the time, it’s no big deal because that’s what you do all the time. And because I was always doing pictures, going to the same places year after year, I became part of the scenery. I was just the guy who takes pictures.” (Smith, 2018). Wood does not describe himself as a documentary photographer, even though most of his series tell stories about the place they are taken in. He works long term, over years rather than weeks and makes images that are enjoyed by the local people. His pictures do explore the place, and the time (both time of day and the era) but he was more interested in taking a good photograph than in documenting a specific event. The is an interesting detailed interview In Paper Journal that was done alongside an exhibition at The Bradford Media Museum (Manandhar and Karallis, 2013).

In Photie Man (Wood, 2005) – he said, ‘I’m interested in good photographs, and if they document something, so much the better’. This statement is very different from the one by Parr ‘I am a documentary photographer, and if I take a good photograph in the process, that’s a bonus’ (quoted in OCA manual, Identity and Place, p.46). The same words (or very nearly) but in a different order and with a completely different emphasis. A good picture – or an accurate document. What takes priority? It is fascinating that two people, working in the same place, at the same time can produce such different images. Wood’s images are kinder, more caring and less satirical than Parr’s. Even the images in Looking for Love, which show people often at their worst, drunk, tired and often being groped have a sense of good humour. He was there. He was close up, and he went back time after time, so the people knew him. He did not want to exploit the people and says he made very little money from his photography at that stage. Parr’s images are harder, they are often funny, the colours are harsher, and, of course, he makes a substantial living from it. Overall, I prefer Wood’s images, although I am very aware that I was familiar with Martin Parr’s work while only came across Tom Wood when researching for this topic.

My personal preferences aside, the two photographers have a different style of work and a very different way of thinking about what they are doing and why they are doing it. At this moment, and this might change over time, I feel I am more in tune with Wood’s way of thinking. My experience is that I am looking for a ‘good’ photograph, and hopefully that will also say what I am trying to say. What is ‘good’ is, in itself, an interesting concept. Does it mean sharp, correctly exposed and so on? Does it mean truthful (itself a slippery concept)? Does it mean something that people will like and respond to (and, if so – is it the proverbial ‘man on the street’ or a population of informer viewers) ? That will depend on your planned purpose for the image or series of images, what story you are trying to tell and who it is for.


Reference list

Manandhar, N. and Karallis, P. (2013). Interview: Tom Wood – Paper Journal. [online] Paper Journal. Available at: https://paper-journal.com/tom-wood/ [Accessed 1 Oct. 2019].

O’Hagan, S. (2015). Girls (and boys) just wanna have fun: smoke, sticky carpets and snogging in the 80s. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/may/08/gareth-mcconnell-tom-wood-looking-for-love-80s-photos [Accessed 1 Oct. 2019].

Photography 1 – Identity and Place. (2015). Open College of the Arts.

Smyth, D. (2018). New Brighton Revisited by Martin Parr, Tom Wood, and Ken Grant. [online] British Journal of Photography. Available at: https://www.bjp-online.com/2018/07/new-brighton-revisited/ [Accessed 1 Oct. 2019].

Wood, T. (1989). Looking for Love. Manchester: Cornerhouse Publ.

Wood, T. (2005). Photie man. Göttingen: Steidl.


Project 1 – The Unaware 1

Taking portraits of people who are unaware of you needs a certainly needs a degree of stealth and a place where there are plenty of people who are engaged in their own thoughts. One of the commonest places for this to be done is on public transport. If you google ‘images of the underground in London’ it becomes obvious that this is a very common place for photographers to take pictures. Many of these are of the underground architecture, others are of general crowd scenes and yet more are portraits, usually taken without the knowledge of the people being photographed, although some are obviously posing for the camera.

The genre probably started with the subway images of Walker Evans, although similar portraits were also taken by Helen Levitt, who was his apprentice, at much the same time. The two of them often went out together as Evans thought that people were less likely to see him taking photos if he was with someone else. Levitt revisited the subject much later in 1978 taking a range of images of similar scenes, this time against a background of graffiti (Silverman, 2017). They can be seen in Manhattan Transit: The Subway Photographs of Helen Levitt.

Helen Levitt
© Helen Levitt

Stefan Rousseau, a London photographer also took images on the London Underground. There is a recent photoessay available on this in which he says ‘Suddenly I became aware of a new world of phone-obsessed, sleep-deprived, makeup-wielding commuters so absorbed in their own world that I felt I had to photograph them. I’m astonished by the skill of the women who are able to apply their makeup while hurtling through tunnels and those who can watch last night’s TV standing up in the smallest of spaces’ (Rousseau, 2019). The whole essay can be accessed at:


Stefan Rousseau
© Stefan Rousseau

Lukas Kuzma is another photographer who has taken pictures on the London Underground in the series Transit (Kuzma, 2015) in which he shows a mixture of images of people, some aware of him, others clearly unaware. Some of his images are amusing, some fascinating, others almost cruel.  Some of his images can be seen on Behance.

Lukas Kuzma
© Lukas Kuzma

For other photographers who work on images taken on public transport see:  Martin Parr Christophe Agou and Walker Evans

Edited 04/11/19:

I have just come across another photographer who worked extensively on the London Underground in the 1970’s. Mike Goldsmith has just produced a book London Underground 1970 – 1980 which shows images from a slightly earlier underground scene, although the people have similar world-weary expressions.  The pictures can be seen at:


© Mike Goldwater – Northern Line 1975

Given the number of articles and relevant photographers I have found in a fairly short exploration of this topic, I suspect that a whole PhD could be written on it.

Reference list

Candid moments on the London Underground. (2019). BBC News. [online] 4 Nov. Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-50261478  [Accessed 04 Nov. 2019].

Kuzma, L. (2015). Transit. [online] Behance. Available at: https://www.behance.net/gallery/23661963/Transit [Accessed 1 Oct. 2019].

Levitt, H., Campany, D., Hoshino, M. and Zander, T. (2017). Helen Levitt – Manhattan Transit. Köln Galerie Thomas Zander Köln Verlag Der Buchhandlung Walther König.

Rousseau, S. (2019). Riding the tube – a photo essay by Stefan Rousseau. [online] the Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/mar/29/riding-the-tube-a-photo-essay-by-stefan-rousseau [Accessed 1 Oct. 2019].

Silverman, R. (2017). The Subway Portraits of Helen Levitt. [online] Lens Blog NY Times. Available at: https://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2017/10/12/the-subway-portraits-of-helen-levitt/ [Accessed 20 Aug. 2019].




Martin Parr

Grand National Ladies Day
Martin Parr: The Grand National Ladies Day © Martin Parr/Magnum Photos

Martin Parr is a British photographer (born 1952) who is mainly known for his images of the British public, shown with loud, brash colours and often very satirical in nature. On his website they are described as ‘exaggerated or even grotesque. The motifs he chooses are strange, the colours are garish and the perspectives are unusual (Weski, 2019). He has looked at the way we live over the years, ranging from images of socialites, to people on the beach in various states of dress, via food and the Grand National racing events. Many of his images are not ‘pretty’ – he shows things as they are, rather then as we would like to think they are. He has published a plethora of books of his own images, his website lists 121 since 1982, together with many others he has edited and is a renowned collector of other people’s photo-books.

Although we tend to think of him as a British (or mainly English) photographer he has travelled and taken images (and produced books of those images) across the world, from Benidorm to Belfast, India to Italy and also Japan. Japonais Endormis (Japanese Asleep) (Parr, 1998) is a collection of images taken on the Tokyo subway of sleeping commuters.

 These salarymen (and women) often travel for long hours every day, to and from work. Parr has taken images looking down on them. They are clearly not aware that he is taking their picture and are vulnerable in the moment. The sharpest focal point of the image is usually the hair, their eyes are closed, they look exhausted.  Although his website describes his style as garish and often grotesque, in this case the images are tender, and he appears to have sympathy with their unending need to travel (and sleep while travelling. This is not echoed in the images of Japanese people shown in The Phone Book (2002) (Parr, 2002) which shows people on their mobile phones, also seemingly unaware that they are being watched, let alone photographed. Here he returns to his more usual brash colours and aggressive imagery.

© Martin Parr

One of the themes Parr has returned to on many occasions is the multitude of people who take pictures of themselves at historic sites. He has dwelt on this theme for many years, and one of his recent projects returns to this topic. Parr was one of five artists who were commissioned by the Palace of Versailles to make work that echoed its spirit and took images of others taking images (Pegard, 2019)  Parr has  discussed this at some length in his blog (Parr, 2012) but ends up admitting that, of course, he is doing exactly the same thing. He does, however, turn is upside down by photographing the people who are taking the photos of themselves.

© Martin Parr

Parr’s images are often fascinating and have opened the way for other photographers to take less reverent images and also to have a sense of humour in their work. I found the Japanese Sleepers collection to be both telling and touching about a way of life I know little about. It is a very human piece of work.

 Reference list

Parr, M. (1998). Martin Parr: Japonais endormis = 眠る日本人. Paris: Published by Galerie Du Jour Agnès B.

Parr, M. (2002). The Phone Book: 1998-2002. London, Eng.: Rocket; Essen, Germany.

Parr, M. (2012). Too Much Photography | Martin Parr. [online] Martinparr.com. Available at: https://www.martinparr.com/2012/too-much-photography/ [Accessed 27 Sep. 2019].

Pégard, C. (2019). Versailles, Visible invisible: Dove Allouche, Nan Goldin, Martin Parr, Eric Poitevin, Viviane Sassen : [exposition, Versailles, Château de Versailles, Domaine du Trianon, 14 mai-20 octobre 2019]. Paris: Éditions Dilecta, Dl.

Weski, T. (2019). Introduction | Martin Parr. [online] Martinparr.com. Available at: https://www.martinparr.com/introduction/.