Reality is Over the Top

Up and Down Peachtree: Photographs of Atlanta, by Martin Parr, Contrasto, €30. 

When, in the past year, the iconic British photographer Martin Parr created his first commission for a major American art museum, he visited the Georgia National Fair, a Roller Derby, CNN, the World of Coke, and the ‘always-more’ world. Parr cannot betray his own eyes, but to some extent he can hardly believe them. This is perhaps one of the main reasons why he has become such an iconic photographer – he documents his vision and his astonishment. The world delivers moments of colorful emotion and intense revelation to this honest Brit. When he shoots pictures, he appears to be almost in a state of panic himself. “I feel some kind of documentary responsibility, trying to show what’s happening here through my eyes.”

Parr is not trying to make fun of his subjects. Traveling through Peachtree State (the nickname for Georgia), Parr moves among the ordinary, indigenous population and his picturesque testimony is vivid. With Up and Down Peachtree: Photographs of Atlanta, Americans may learn something about themselves – and might not be pleased. Parr has no intention to be critical, he is simply present, and, in a state of mild shock: just looking at people. None of them have been coerced to look as they do, with or without lipstick, dressed or undressed. Every country, every museum should commission Martin Parr to capture moments in our daily lives; we would probably all be surprised to see what passes through the lens. Let’s hope we would have enough of a sense of humor to look at our images honestly, before asking ourselves what’s so odd about us.