Martin Parr: Return to Manchester

Manchester Art Gallery

"Martin Parr is back in town." It’s a statement that’s unlikely to replace any of the gangster/drug/crime related headlines that tend to form the splash on the Manchester Evening News, but it’d be a welcome change if it did.

In 2018, Parr was commissioned by the Manchester Art Gallery to produce a portrait of the city and its people at that point in time, spending about five months meeting people shopping, visiting mosques and finding out about how people are going about their lives.

It isn’t the first time Parr has returned to the place of his university education, with visits seemingly on a decade-long cycle. This time around, he has documented how the inhabitants celebrated events such as the royal wedding and records how the Pride festival is now publicly celebrated rather than tucked away.

For this exhibition at the gallery, Parr has also hung exhibits from previous commissions and the ability to see the incremental changes across the decades side by side delivers a different perspective, possibly unintended, on both Manchester and Parr.

The ‘Cubes’ element, devised by Parr when he was still working in black and white, was a playful, interactive experiment. Nine heterosexual couples were filmed individually around Piccadilly Gardens in the days when the space consisted of physical gardens, not just a place name. The challenge for the viewer is to pair up the couples. 30 plus years later, how many would you expect to be together?

There is a small room set to one side of the galleries in which a short movie is playing to outline the basis for his latest work. It also provides an insight into how he prepares for a project. That’s probably the best way to start a perusal of the 400 plus images that cover the walls.

His views about places such as hairdressers playing an ever-increasing part in social interaction are delivered with pinpoint accuracy.

Alongside the screen is a rail for holding feedback comments about the exhibition, some of which capture the glaring omissions from this body of work. If you want to find out whether the feedback matches your views, then pay it a visit before the removals people step in during April.

Ged Camera

The Martin Parr exhibition continues at Manchester Art Gallery until 22 April.


Wednesday 6 March, 6.30pm-7.30pm
Simon Bray, Photographer and Producer of the new commissioned work gives his insights into working with Martin Parr. Free Admission, no ticket required

Friday 29 March, 1pm-1.45pm
Natasha Howes, curator of Return to Manchester, will give a tour of the exhibition.
Free Admission, no ticket required

Wednesday 3 April, 7pm-8pm
Paul Herrmann, Photographer and Director of Redeye, The Photography Network, gives his response to the exhibition.
Free Admission, no ticket required