Art | Need To Now

Martin Parr hosts portrait sittings at his new show

A rare opportunity to be the subject of the social commentator’s discerning gaze

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Martin Parr hosts portrait sittings at his new show

Image: © Martin Parr/Magnum/courtesy Rocket Gallery, London

November 25 2012
Nicole Swengley

Quirky social commentary, mischievous humour and intriguing camera angles define Martin Parr’s photography. So a rare opportunity to sit for a personal portrait by this internationally celebrated British photographer is one to seize with both hands.

To celebrate a new show of work at east London gallery Rocket, Parr is setting up a temporary studio space within the exhibition and will shoot 96 original portraits in the course of a single day (9am to 6pm on Sunday December 16). Whether sitters plump for an individual portrait, a shot of themselves with a friend or partner, or a potential heirloom snap of family members, Parr will oblige, capturing the image in his own distinctive style. Each signed photograph is available in a choice of sizes: 8in x 12in (£375), 12in x 16in (£495) or 20in x 30in (£1,250). Slots for sittings will be filled on a first-come-first-served basis via

Those who are pipped to the post by swifter finger-clicking fans can, however, enjoy the main body of the exhibition, which opens on Friday November 30 and will feature six monumental photographs shot between 2002 and 2012 in locations across the world (France in first picture, Vietnam in second picture, Mexico in third picture). Almost painterly in style, the Time Off photographs fill the entirety of the gallery walls. The original archival pigment photographs are printed in Parr’s studio, and each is available in an edition of five (40in x 60in, £8,400) or 10 (20in x 30in, £4,320).  

These works mark a significant milestone in the artist’s career trajectory. As Jonathan Stephenson, Rocket’s gallery director, observes: “This commanding set of images – taken 30 years on from Parr’s classic New Brighton series – confirms his development as an artist and as a social commentator observing both comic and poignant scenes.” The subjects of the 96 yet-to-be-taken portraits will play a part, however small, in shaping the direction of Parr’s work over the next 30 years. For them, it'll be fascinating (possibly even disconcertingly so) to see how his critical eye captures their strengths and foibles on camera. One thing’s certain: the results are likely to confound expectation.