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The Non Conformists
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September 23, 2013
by Martin Parr
In 1975, fresh out of art school, Martin Parr found poor footing in the London photography scene, so he moved to the picturesque Yorkshire Pennine mill town of Hebden Bridge. Over a period of five years, he documented the town in photographs, showing in particular the aspects of traditional life that were beginning to decline.
Susie Parr, whom he had met in Manchester, joined him in documenting a year in the life of a small Methodist chapel, together with its farming community. Such chapels seemed to encapsulate the regions disappearing way of life. Here Martin Parr found his photographic voice, while together he and Susie assembled a remarkable and touching historic document.
The Non-Conformists takes its title from the Methodist and Baptist chapels that then characterized this area of Yorkshire and defined the fiercely independent character of the town. In words and pictures, the Parrs vividly and affectionately document cobbled streets, flat-capped mill workers, hardy gamekeepers, henpecked husbands, and jovial shop owners. The best Parr photographs are interleaved with Susie Parrs detailed background descriptions of the society they observed.
The exhibition is presented alongside the exhibition 'Only In England' by British photographer Tony Ray-Jones, which includes 50 never before seen photographs from the series curated by Martin Parr. The pairing selection forms a major new exhibition which demonstrates the close relationships between the work of these two important photographers.