“You can read a lot about a country by looking at its beaches: across cultures, the beach is that rare public space in which all absurdities and quirky national behaviours can be found.”

Martin Parr

Martin Parr admits that he’s always had a huge fascination for the beach. Ever since he took up a camera he regularly visited coastlines in England and around the world to take photographs of people spending their free-time close to the sea. In fact, one of his first works that earned him wide recognition in the photography world was called “Last Resort” was precisely about beaches. With “Life’s A Beach” Martin Parr is adding another chapter to his favorite subject.

Besides the regular edition of Martin Parr: Life’s a Beach, Éditions Xavier Barral published a beautiful limited edition. Each of the 1000 copies is not only signed by the author himself, but it’s nicely designed in the style of a traditional family vacation album with transparent tissue paper separating the pages and printed images dropped in. The perfect combination of form and content.

Martin Parr doesn’t laugh at his subjects, he laughs with them.

According to Martin Parr the beach is a “constantly changing theatre”. Depending on each country the protagonists wear more clothes or less clothes; have different habits and rituals. Throughout the years Parr has put together a kaleidoscope of human absurdities; some people on the images might want to vanish from the surface of the earth seeing themselves framed by Martin Parr. But the English photographer doesn’t laugh at his subjects, Parr laughs with them. His images say:

“Look, how funny we are; and how colorful and quirky life can be.”


Image from the photography book Life's A Beach by British photographer Martin Parr
Knokke, Belgium © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos


Besides being beautifully framed hilarious moments, Martin Parr’s images go beyond that. At the same time they reveal something about the people living in a specific country; their behaviour on the beach tells something about the culture and traditions of a place in general. “You can read a lot about a country by looking at its beaches”, says Martin Parr. He should know. His travels around the world took him to places like Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Thailand, China, Spain, and many more…

Martin Parr looks through the viewfinder of his camera with a wink in his eye. In his photography he combines the bright-vivid colors of Eggleston with a surreal-alienating vision of Doisneau. With fine irony he holds up a mirror of modern society. Looking at the world through the eyes of Martin Parr is a blast.



For some more films about photographer Martin Parr, please check out the article The 5 Best Photography Movies About Martin Parr.

About the author: Martin Parr was born in Epsom, Surrey, UK, in 1952. He studied photography at Manchester Polytechnic, from 1970 to 1973. In the following years Martin Parr developed a unique approach to social documentary photography. In 1994 he became a full member of prestigious Magnum agency, founded by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, David Seymour and George Rodger in 1947.

More information

Martin Parr Life’s A Beach (2012) Limited Edition signed by the author – photographs © Martin Parr / Magnum Photos; 250,00 Euros; published by Éditions Xavier Barral.

Image from the photography book Life's A Beach by British photographer Martin Parr
Book Cover “Life’s A Beach” (Limited Edition) by Martin Parr – published Editions Xavier Barral



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