I’ve long expressed my enthusiasm for the photographer Martin Parr. So it’s worth checking out a burgeoning debate recorded by Owen Hatherley between himself and Nina Power, inspired by a visit to Parrworld.
But it does sound as though Owen rather quickly concedes:
Nina reckons, and she is of course right, that this decontextualised pile up is just an exemplar of postmodernism at its worst, an end of history scenario where we can just accumulate ephemera from a time where we actually believed in stuff, place it untouchable under glass, and nothing need ever happen ever again.
They focus on what happens to documents of working class militancy, such as posters from the miner’s strike.
A first point to note is that Parr is equally (if not more) skeptical about the claims of those in power (think of the Saddam Hussein watch series) or of popular culture (the Spice girls chocolate bars).
Second, I’d say that Parr was more skeptical about political claims, political symbols, and political projects (including, yes, that of the the National Union of Mineworkers) than about politics per se. Or perhaps he clears the ground for a different kind of politics.
In any case, I don’t think he can be so easily dismissed as run-of-the-mill postmodernism gone amuck.