Is Martin Parr's work a documentation of how we live now – or of how we lived then? It is both one and the other.
It purports to be scrupulously anthropologically truthful, but it never quite looks or feels that way. It feels heightened by a kind of rough-edged nostalgia for a time that never was. It is marred by a kind of crude brashness that we associate with the likes of Donald Gill, the postcard chronicler of seaside naughtiness.
Rather than recording the intimate truth of the mundane life of the British people – which his work purports to do – it cracks jokes at their expense.
It shows humans as brasher, more ridiculous and more vulgar than they are. In part, he achieves such effects by technical means – he makes colours more saturated, more garish and more heightened than they need to be. Sunburnt faces are transformed into tomatoes.
In short, he is a fibber, and he is fibbing in order to laugh at all of us. Such work lacks subtlety and sensitivity. It sounds like a horribly rasping brass band. It should be driven out of town as quickly as possible.
The writer is an arts critic for The IndependentReuse content