The Last ResortMartin Parr

(Promenade Press, 1986 )

The decline of the British seaside resort occurred gradually during the post-war years, until the death knell finally rang out to many once-prosperous holiday destinations. The Liverpool suburb of New Brighton, which by the 1980s was ravaged by neglect, stood idle with once splendid Victorian structures of recreation, now melancholic trophies to the glories of a bygone time.

England’s northwest had been hit hard by the economic and social policies of Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, and New Brighton had become a ravaged post-industrial derelict playground. In chronicling this place, Parr abandoned the traditional tools of humanistic social photography, and void of any sentimentality, he exposes his intense and biting satire and every detail of its intimate reality in glorious and garish color.

When published in 1986, The Last Resort had a violently opposed critical reception. A controversial body of work, many believed Parr turned his subjects into grotesque puppets exploited by his voyeuristic and cynical lens. New Brighton appeared riddled by pollution, decay and over-populated by a fast food eating, nightmarish population. To others, Parr’s humorous, penetrating technicolor style was a revelation—a game changer.

In the passing of time, we can now see The Last Resort as a catalyst of the New European Color Photography movement, of Parr as a visionary, an independent creative force and a sharp spectator of the British social class system. Martin Parr’s aesthetic became an infectious inspiration, and The Last Resort could be seen as the incendiary that transformed the medium.

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