From young couples kissing on a dingy dance floor to the faded grandeur of a seaside town, an exhibition of work by acclaimed photographers Martin Parr and Tom Wood examines the early influences of both men and finds a compelling beauty in the ordinary. Every Man and Woman is a Star opens at the Walker Art Gallery on 11 May and features more than 20 prints from the gallery’s own collection, including one of the earliest known photographs by Parr in a public collection (New Brighton, 1976).
Parr and Wood embarked on their careers at a time when the perception of photography was shifting. At the start of the 1960s it had been the eccentric face of the London fashion world; the visual language of advertising, and a middle-class hobby. Parr and Wood were amongst the first photographers to turn their cameras on modern Britain, elevating everyday life into fine art.
Parr’s images span the period 1976 to 1983 and pre-date his change to colour film. They respond to his desire to document the world around him before it disappeared, illustrating many of his enduring interests including leisure, consumerism and community. These continue to influence his work, which he describes as ‘subjective documentary.’
Included in the exhibition are a selection of Parr’s images of the west of Ireland, which reveal the modern face of American investment, as well as the unusual customs and traditions of a vanishing community. There are also several images of the patrons of Yates’s Wine Lodge, Liverpool, some of his last work in black and white.
Wood photographed the area and people of Merseyside for more than 20 years, earning himself the nickname ‘photie man’. The photographs on display were taken between 1980 and 1986. Wood’s photographs are the result of chance encounters. From fellow passengers on a bus, claustrophobic scenes in a nightclub, and well-kept suburban gardens, there is a voyeuristic quality about the work.
Each of Wood’s images documents the moment it was taken, but cumulatively they form a record of the region’s past. However, his work is more than a photographic archive; for Wood it is firmly fine art.
This exhibition forms part of the LOOK/13: Liverpool International Photography Festival which opens on 17 May and will see dozens of photographic exhibitions and events taking place across the city.
Every Man and Woman is a Star, 11 May until 18 August, Walker Art Gallery, William Brown Street, Liverpool, L3 8EL. www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk
1. New Brighton, 1976, © Martin Parr and Magnum Photos
2. Every Man and Woman is a Star © Tom Wood