When Martin Parr’s The Last Resort was first published and exhibited in 1986 it divided both critics and audiences alike. Some saw it as the ‘finest achievement to date’ of colour photography in Britain whilst others viewed it as ‘an aberration’. With the benefit of hindsight there is little doubt that it transformed documentary photography in Britain and placed Parr amongst the world’s leading photographers. The book is now recognised as a ‘classic’ and is highly sought by collectors worldwide. Whilst this new edition keeps the same imahges and sequence as the original, a new text has been commissioned from Gerry Badger.
Steering a perilous course between objectivity and voyeurism, Parr viewed the decaying holiday resort of New Brighton and its holidaymakers in a way that was new, unique and deeply disturbing. And he did so in colour, something which at the time was seen as revolutionary for documentary work. For some his camera seemed cold and cruel as it followed the working classes desperately pursuing their holiday dreams surrounded by dereliction and decay and wading through the apparently endless detritus of a pollution-ridden consumer society. Others felt it showed an affectionate, humorous and humanistic response from Parr. However it was viewed, it was undoubtedly a sharp, bitter satire of the Britain of the Thatcher years.
Martin Parr is a member of the prestigious MAGNUM photo agency. Internationally recognised as a brilliant satirist of contemporary life he has led the development of British documentary photography with wit, style, and intelligence in a career that boasts numerous publications and exhibitions. His work is in major galleries and museums worldwide. In a new essay Gerry Badger re-examines the work and its impact on British Photography. Recognised as a leading writer on photography, as well as a photographer and a curator, Gerry Badger was co-author, with Martin Parr, of the three volume The Photobook: A History.