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Magnum Learn Monday: Case study – on location with Martin Parr

Magnum Learn Street Photography Week 3 image 1
‘West Bay, Dorset’ by Martin Parr. England, 1996
(Image credit: Martin Parr/Magnum Photos)

Digital Camera World has partnered with Magnum Learn to publish a taster of its first online course, 'The Art of Street Photography'.  

Magnum Learn is the education portal of Magnum Photos, and the course tutors comprise Martin Parr, Peter van Agtmael, Carolyn Drake, Richard Kalvar, Mark Power, Bruce Gilden and Susan Meiselas. 

'The Art of Street Photography' consists of 10 themed lessons and costs $99. We'll be publishing a new extract every week on Magnum Learn Monday until 02 September! 

This week, in the third extract, we're going on location with Martin Parr, one of the masters of photography. 

Miss last week's extract? Click here to read Magnum Learn Monday Part 2: Getting started – approaching the street

Click here to read Magnum Learn Monday Part 1: How to shoot street photography like a pro.  

Magnum Photos' legendary Martin Parr

World-class photographer Martin Parr is one of the course tutors of Magnum Learn's 'The Art of Street Photography' course 

(Image credit: Future)

Martin Parr is a chronicler of our age. In the face of the constantly growing flood of images released by the media, his photographs offer us the opportunity to see the world from his unique perspective. 

Leisure, consumption and communication are the core areas Parr has been exploring, for several decades through his worldwide travels. His native Great Britain has been another key focus. 

Throughout his 50-year career, Parr has worked to compile an extensive archive exploring contemporary British life, producing numerous bodies of work such as the seminal The Last Resort along the way. 

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‘RHS Chelsea Flower Show’ by Martin Parr. London, England, 2018 

(Image credit: Martin Parr/Magnum Photos)

For The Art of Street Photography course, Parr navigates two classically British affairs: an agricultural show located in North Somerset, and the Chelsea Flower Show in London. 

Parr is a regular attendee of events like this and says he’ll never tire of them because, for him, “where there are people, there are photographs”. 

Based on Parr’s considerable experience of attending such events, here is some practical advice for shooting and editing images. 

Shooting tips 

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‘Garden tea party, Chew Stoke’ by Martin Parr. Somerset, England, 1992 

(Image credit: Martin Parr/Magnum Photos)

“The failure rate is huge, so keep on taking the rubbish”

Parr explains that in order to produce a great picture, you might need to take a lot of rubbish ones. 

Even for someone like Parr, with years of experience and know-how, to end up with two or three pictures from any given shoot is a good result. 

“The basic theory is the more rubbish you take, the better the chances of a good photo emerging, so keep on taking the rubbish.” 

“You want every element to work”

The details in a picture are “everything” and it is only when all the different elements are working for you that a photograph is truly successful. 

When Parr examines his images, he excludes the ones that, despite having some strong components, do not quite make the grade. 

Every element of the photograph, from composition to technique, has to work together in order for the image to contribute to the same basic goal: to create images that offer the viewer a moment of joy, interest or revelation. 

Strategies for editing images 

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Martin Parr prints his first edit of images, before selecting a handful during a second, more ruthless, layer of editing 

(Image credit: Magnum Photos )

Parr’s editing process is comprised of a number of key stages. He begins with a “generous” first edit of the work produced on any given shoot, on his computer screen. 

This initial selection is then printed, before a second, more ruthless, layer of editing to select a handful of photographs that convey the essence of the event. 

“I like the idea of making the final selection of the images from prints rather than on the screen, because if there are two or three shots of the same subject, I can put them all together to determine which one works best. 

“And also, I think it’s much more unforgiving to see [a photograph] as a print rather than on a screen, because you can really see how good or bad a picture is. 

“It is important to be tough on yourself. You may have spent the day photographing at an event or on the street, and felt you captured it well, but in reality, the results may not be as strong as you had hoped. 

“This happens to everyone, but be honest with yourself and don’t allow your memories or the work that went into making an image override your decision making.”

About Magnum Learn 

Magnum Learn Street Photography Week 3 image 6

(Image credit: Magnum Photos )

‘The Art of Street Photography’ is the first course to be offered on Magnum Learn, the new online learning platform from the world’s most prestigious photo agency. 

The course consists of 10 themed lessons comprising in-depth video and tutoring from Magnum pros, offering key advice and guidance to help improve your photography in the street… and beyond. 

Seven world-class photographers teach the course. These include Bruce Gilden, Martin Parr, Susan Meiselas, Richard Kalvar, Carolyn Drake, Peter van Agtmael and Mark Power, plus industry leaders. 

These pros have contributed their unique insights, knowledge and experience to the lessons, and guide the pupil through the process of honing their photography skills via intimate interviews and on-location demonstrations. 

Next time… 

Discover why the frame is key to street photography, and how it can drastically affect how successful an image is. It'll be published on 26 August, so don't miss it! 

If you like what you've seen from ‘The Art of Street Photography’ so far, then click here to find out more about the course

Read more: 

Photography tips and techniques 
5 top street photography tips to try 
Buying guide: street photography-friendly mirrorless cameras