I've been meaning to mention this for months (years?)...be it hereby known to all that Dewi Lewis Publishing reprinted Martin Parr's The Last Resort in hardcover a couple of years ago. (Here's the U.K. link.) The Last Resort is arguably Parr's best book, arguably his most important book, but indisputably his most influential and important early book. And Parr has since grown to be a leading voice in British photography, primarily as a photographer, but also as a critic, commentator, educator, and author.
An important book by an important voice. This reprint won't stay available forever. Just thought you should know.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by amcananey: "It is also a very awkward book to come to grips with as a foreigner. I have picked up the book repeatedly and never been able to bring myself to buy it. As many probably know, the book was/is quite controversial. Spend 30 seconds looking at it, and you will understand why. It's not a flattering picture of the British. Some of the pictures even seem cruel. Parr has denied he was mocking his subjects, but again, spend 30 seconds with the book and it will be hard to accept that viewpoint. As a foreigner guest in the U.K., I have trouble placing it in the proper context. I also have to say that I have great sympathy with those who vacation close to home due to either limited funds or the draw of family tradition. And the funny thing is that I can imagine an interpretation of the pictures under which Parr was trying to awaken sympathy for his subjects.
"But ultimately, here is my problem with the book: it simplifies something to almost cartoonish imagery that really needs to be experienced to be understood. As a simple example, the book does a lousy job communicating the fun that many of these people were probably having, without caring in the least about how they looked. Here are a few things the book doesn't let you feel:
• The thrill and anticipation of a kid, clutching a few coins, being allowed to go off and buy ice cream by him- or herself, away from the rest of the family:
• The fun of eating junk food while on vacation; it isn't good food, and you would never eat it (regularly, at least) at home, but there is something about eating junk food while on vacation that makes if somehow feel like vacation:
• The feeling of hot concrete beneath your towel (those of you from southern climes won't understand the appeal, so let me explain: it doesn't get particilarly warm in Northern Europe during the summer, and what little warmth there is can disappear if there is a stiff breeze and you're not wearing much. But if you find a nice wind-protected spot (notice that the bulldozer and the walls of the ramp in the picture at the end of the main post provide protection on at least two, and probably three, sides) and a stretch of concrete that has been soaking up sun all day, you can lie down and feel like you're somewhere far more pleasant),
• The feeling of relaxing at the end of a long day, before catching a bus back home:
"I find his pictures are so cartoon-ish, so in-your-face about the terrible conditions or how ridiculous the subjects look, that it is hard to actually imagine what it was like for them to be there—to empathize.
"Then again, the fact that Parr always makes me think and wonder about his intentions probably means he has been successful and I should just give in and buy the book...."
Featured Comment by Stan B.: "Although he continues to pump out interesting and original work that continues to challenge—have to agree, he was at the height of his power with this one. Every composition is teeming with details, stories within stories that bounce around the entirety of the frame. I don't think anyone could have kept up the intensity of such vision forever...."
Featured Comment by Bernard: "Ahem...may I say that I have usually found Martin Parr's photographs rather ugly...garish colors, quite artificial looking—and in this first pic with the two boys, did he use flash? This is the 'fill flash' look that I dislike; the boys look like two specimens under the scrutinizing gaze of unsympathetic observer."
Featured Comment by Gary: "I'm never prouder of my British passport than when looking at The Last Resort. These are people who truly do not give a sh1t, people who have rejected the self-studying antics of the colour supplement magazines and are so clearly prevailing in the rough, rude business of life. Good on 'em!"
Featured Comment by Player: "Parr's work is everything that is appealing about photography and everything that is unsavory about photography, all at once."