About photobooks – old and new.
“Life’s a beach” – a satire of beachgoers around the world
The beach has been one of the most documented subjects in Martin Parr’s work, throughout several decades. He first featured life at the beach in the United Kingdom with a set of photos of the seaside resort of New Brighton – Liverpool, which was later assembled in the famous book “The Last Resort” (published in 1986). That was an amusing, although sometimes sad, satirical portrait of the British middle-class on vacation. As Parr said, the beach is a mirror of our culture, a “rare public space in which all absurdities and quirky national behaviors can be found”. A quirky behavior emphasized by Parr’s close-ups and vibrant colors.
In “Life’s a Beach”, Parr extrapolates that same social satire to the global level. He documents beaches in different corners of the world, depicting beachgoers in Argentina, Brazil, China, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Japan, the United States, Mexico, and Thailand. There are people drinking yerba mate in Uruguay, others barbecuing fish in Chile, a lot of ice cream, and even ear cleaners in Goa. Despite a multicultural and diversified world, similar excesses and extravagance of the middle-class on vacation can be found. The pictures are laughable, but it is also relatively disturbing to observe a globalized and newly affluent “middle-class” adopting similar lifestyle, tastes and attitudes.
“Life’s a Beach” is beautifully put together, revealing Martin Parr’s expertise and passion for photobooks, which he has been promoting in collaboration with Gerry Badger, through “The Photobook: A History”. The book is organized like an old fashioned family album, where images are inserted by hand in die-cut slots and divided by tissue paper. The photographs are printed on a nice paper and mention on the verso that “This picture was taken by Martin Parr”. The book is bound in the Japanese style and all copies are signed and numbered (edition of 1000). “Life’s a Beach” was published in 2012, simultaneously by Xavier Barral in France and Aperture Foundation in New York.
You can also see Martin Parr’s presenting his book here: http://vimeo.com/53159795