Acclaimed British photographer Martin Parr has zoomed in once again on his perennial theme of ‘beach life’, which he’s been documenting for decades, though this time his work appears in a town without a plage: beautiful Évian on the shores of Lake Geneva.
While the snapshots posted on social media are staged and somewhat contrived, Parr finds that the beach is perhaps one of the last outposts of ‘unguarded’ public behaviour. Although he said, “The beauty of my work is that I get paid for being nosey”, Parr strikes me as possessing the considered eye of a social chronicler, and his work exudes a sensibility that’s a far cry from the sense of ‘hunting for prey’ you get from shots by the paparazzi.
What’s interesting is that whether the photos were taken in Japan, Brazil, India or indeed Évian, the beachgoers’ sensibilities and desires don’t seem that different from each other. The greatest variation is in their accessories – from the dainty lace parasol of an older lady in Évian, which is redolent of its 19th-century heyday as an elegant spa town, to the unnervingly alien sun goggles of a Belgian beachgoer: the endearing to the truly bizarre. I found myself smiling rather than cringing at Parr’s brutally candid shots of sunbathers in their full humanity and thinking, “Yep, he nailed it…”
Tip: Get the boat from Lausanne, it’s a lovely way to arrive and a short walk to the Palais.
The exhibition runs until January 10, 2016.
Palais Lumière, Quai Charles Albert Besson, 74500 Évian-les-Bains. Open daily 10am-7pm. Mondays 2pm-7pm. Tickets €8. Tel: +33 4 50 83 15 90. www.ville-evian.fr
From France Today magazine