Martin Parr: Souvenir

2012-7-9

Curently at the CCCB in Barcelona, Souvenir questions the drive to collect.

Martin Parr's photographs take a humorous look at tourism. For example, Parr has photographed a line of tourists all with their arms outstretched to hold up the leaning tower of Pisa. These run the risk of becoming a bit trite, but they are all exceptionally well composed.

The exhibition posits a role for holiday snapshots as attempts by tourists to capture a kind of symbolic value. Photographs of must-see sights or "tourism markers" become the booty of the holidaymaker's experience.

As I am currently a tourist in Barcelona, this exhibition would be worthless if it didn't inspire a certain ammount of introspection. In particular, I wonder about my wife's habit of photographing each of our meals. For all Parr's photographs of Barcelona, he can't match Elsa for snapshots of paella, gazpacho and Spanish omlettes. Photographing food is a very Taiwanese habit, and the symbolic value of the operation can be easily explained if one subscribes to the belief that "the only thing that counts for [Taiwanese] is food and making money."

The second part of the exhibition is focused more on collecting through the banal objects gathered by Parr and Juanjo Fuentes. This eschews any symbolic claims to focus instead on the raw acquisitive drive. Apparently, this is a bourgeois instinct, and as I quite liked the watch which exhorts us to "Invade Iraq Today!" I have to wonder about my own will to acquire. As I don't have a camera and have no desire to take holiday photographs, either I am immune or I am some kind of pervert who has his wife do his dirty work for him.

_Souvenir is at the Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona until the 21st of October._


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