‘I like ordinary people,’ says the extraordinary photographer Martin Parr, pushing a few high-concept smoked sprats around his plate at St John, the Smithfield restaurant.
Parr is Britain’s best-known photographer, but he is no acolyte of celebrity. Like the Italian anti-designers, his Seventies contemporaries who wanted to dull the sheen of modernism by elevating the mundane (or valorising crap, as I would put it), he is a devotee of the ordinary. But is he celebrating the everyday or mocking it? He never quite answers, although he does say, ‘I enjoy the banal.’ Ask me and I’d say the banal is what we want to avoid.
Since 2014, Martin Parr has been president of Magnum, the celebrated international photographers’ collective. But not every fellow professional warms to him or his work. Some find themselves a bit allergic to his equivocal posturing. ‘My objection is not intellectual but visceral,’ says a senior figure at the Photographers’ Gallery. ‘I just don’t like looking at his photographs.’