Travel

October 4, 2017

Living the Highland Life with Martin Parr

Scotland seen with irony, absurdity and marvel

  • Written by Emily Manning

For over 40 years, Martin Parr has captured the quotidian and banal in laugh-out-loud funny photographs. In that time, the prolific British lensman has published over 80 of his own books (and edited at least 30 more). His newest, Think of Scotland, collects his largest body of unpublished work to date.

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Rangers fans at the funeral of player Davie Cooper, Glasgow, 1995. Copyright Martin Parr, courtesy of Martin Parr: Think of Scotland, published by Damiani, 2017.

Following his European explorations Think of England and Think of Germany, Think of Scotland spans 25 years of Parr’s Scottish shots. He turns his lens on tourists in Glasgow and Edinburgh (expect seas of umbrellas, and tartan hats with tufts of ginger hair poking out the sides), but also takes a deep dive into countryside culture, visiting agricultural fairs and football matches in Orkney and the Outer Hebrides.

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Highland Games, Inveraray, 2006. Copyright Martin Parr, courtesy of Martin Parr: Think of Scotland, published by Damiani, 2017.

Last year, Parr published Real Food, a volume collecting over 200 garish, super-saturated photographs of the foods we eat every day. Foodies will find pictures to chew on in Think of Scotland too, from traditional breakfast fixings to fucked-up pastries. Parr’s trips to the East Mainland Horticultural Society resulted in the best food photographs: award-winning plates of currants and berries.

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The East Mainland Show, Orkney, 2007. Copyright Martin Parr, courtesy of Martin Parr: Think of Scotland, published by Damiani, 2017.

Beyond his winning sense of humour and unique composition, Parr is often celebrated for his ability to reflect familiar visual iconography and customs back to us in a new way. Here, we see kilts, bagpipes, and green grass in a fresh way.

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Burntisland, 2006. Copyright Martin Parr, courtesy of Martin Parr: Think of Scotland, published by Damiani, 2017.

Take for example two Scottish staples: sprawling golf courses and lakes. In Parr’s world, the golf course is a rinky-dink mini golf course with barely any green bits, whilst the lake is a stormy, grey backdrop to a bright, blue swimming pool.

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Gourock Lido, Renfrewshire, 2004. Copyright Martin Parr, courtesy of Martin Parr: Think of Scotland, published by Damiani, 2017.

Parr subverts the ordinary with doses of irony, absurdity and marvel. He twists newness up with tradition, and the results are always surprising.

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Highland Games, Inveraray, 2006. Copyright Martin Parr, courtesy of Martin Parr: Think of Scotland, published by Damiani, 2017.

‘Martin Parr: Think of Scotland’ is available via Damiani.

Credits:

Main image: Shetland, 2004. Copyright Martin Parr, courtesy of Martin Parr: Think of Scotland, published by Damiani, 2017.

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