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Funny looks snapped by Martin Parr
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By Wu Jin

Be careful! Anywhere, any moment, you might be caught by the long lens of Martin Parr, a British photographer whose name has long been associated with the creation of visual humor.

The widely acclaimed documentary photojournalist is adept at creating ridiculous scenes from varnished nails, fancy hats, brand name clothes and mouths smeared with ice cream, portraying these odd items with his British sense of humor.

His photos categorized in sections labeled Common Sense, Last Resort, Small World, Luxury, and Bored Couples, are on display at the Paris-Beijing Photo Gallery, which is tucked in a corner of Beijing's fashionable 798 Art Zone, a maze of galleries refurbished from the capital's old factories and warehouses.

Group photos taken in front of the Acropolis, Athens, Greece. The picture belongs to Martin Parr's Small World series [courtesy of Paris-Beijing Photo Gallery]

Inside the spacious two-storey gallery, ventilated by lines of ceiling fans, Parr portrays funny activities that are generally unnoticed or taken for granted in daily life. Neglected details are accentuated by Parr's macro lenses and ring flashes, which illustrate a world undergoing a transition from industrialization to globalization from a satirical perspective.

"Items of consumption, such as food and clothing accessories, are his favorite targets. The garish colors, unusual composition and sometimes grotesque subjects serve to stress our absurd lifestyles in an unconventional approach producing a visual style that is instantly recognizable," says the gallery blurb.

A tourist captured beside Egypt's renowned Sphinx with the word "BOY" printed on his reversed baseball cap contrasts ludicrously with the mysterious site that emerged thousands of years ago in the Giza Plateau along Nile River. Ridicule is also encoded in holiday pictures on the beach at New Brighton in the U.K., where a young mother is caught holding a dummy in her mouth while changing her kid's diaper. Beside her, a pair of strong, hairy hands was snapped grasping the handles of a baby stroller covered with a cushion decorated in small flowers. The absent-minded woman unaware of her funny look, and the bulky man, his size contrasting with the cute pram, were perfect models for a Parr comic fantasy.

A tourist films on the back of a horse led by a local man in Kalka, Turkey. The picture is one of Martin Parr's Small World series. [courtesy of Paris-Beijing Photo Gallery]

"With photography, I like to create fiction out of reality. I try and do this by taking society's natural prejudices and giving this a twist," Parr was quoted as saying on the website of Magnum Photos, a cooperative photography agency of which he is a member.

A veteran photographer with a critical stance on consumerism and globalization, it comes as no surprise that we sense mockery in the snapshots of vermillion lips, tinkling bracelets, champagne parties and rubbish-tainted sea shores. "His attention to previously unnoticed details, cultural differences and idiosyncrasies, leads us to ask ourselves questions about what we value, what we desire and how we live," the gallery remarked.

Having been shooting pictures for 35 years, Parr has seen his work exhibited in many museums, including the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York, Tate Britain in London and the Jeu de Paume in Paris. His distinctive style is also appreciated by galleries like, Tate modern in London, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Australian National Gallery, which have all bought his works for their collections.

His exhibition in 798 will last till November 9, 2009.

Address: No.4 Jiuxianqiao Rd., Chaoyang District

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