Martin Parr: Think of England

Think of England was a documentary created by Martin Parr, during the documentary he asked the public what they thought it meant to be English or British, or even whether they thought there was a difference between the two. He asked people from all over the country from different communities and towns, and asked a wide spread of different people.

One of the areas Parr visits is Hunstanton, which is near my home town and a place I went a lot when growing up and I would perceive it as a very typical English place to go. When me and my friends didn’t know where to go and hang out, we would go there, even as the more you go the less there is to do, and it gets very repetitive. When I was young my class had to do an exercise on where we went on holiday, I put Hunstanton when in fact my family went to Minorca. This is an anecdote that gets told a lot, to my dismay.

Coming back to Parr’s work however I found it very interesting the answers he got, most of the people he interviewed had patriotic things to say about England/the English and had no desire to travel or explore any other countries. This was mostly the older generation, Parr did interview a group of (fairly intoxicated) young adults on where they live, but mostly their comments were that it needed a McDonalds. Perhaps Parr wanted to focus more on adults who had been living in English/Britain their whole life to get there view, rather than the young who haven’t experienced as much.

I thought the documentary film style worked really well for this project, rather than a photographic series, as being able to see how people interact is a big part of our experiences. It would be fascinating to do this now and see what people would say as the country will probably change a lot over the next few years, just as it was changing when Parr began the project.

It is also intriguing that this body of work wasn’t just a documentary film (1999), but a book (2000) and was also exhibited (2005). Showing the different ways one body of work could be presented. When thinking about my own work, I would like to work in a documentary style, and will be interested to look at this project in it’s book form.

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