This tiny little book I’m introducing today is a real firecracker. Martin Parr has worked on more than 90 books but this one has been my very favourite.
Released in 1993, Life’s a Beach is one of Parr’s more recently published books. For those who have seen Parr’s work before will instantly recognise his style and dry wit. And for those who have not seen it before, for them this book is like a flashlight, exposing some his best work contemporary commentary through in documentary photography.
The book is small, easily fitting your hands, the size of a set of postcards. Clad in a fabric cover which seems to be cut out of a beach chair from the 80’s, it has golden text on it announcing the title in a style similar to the entry of a pop star on stage. The book design is highly inspired by the atmosphere on the beach and its place in the European culture.
Inside the images are beautifully printed on matt paper. Martin Parr is known to shoot very saturated colours and they are most beautifully represented in this book. (I did recently visit his exhibit in London with Tony Ray Jones. Here he had exhibited only BW prints and I so very much prefer his colour work in comparison). Inside, the series of images are broken by fabric prints, all inspired by the beachwear.
124 pages thick, this book is light enough to carry in your bag without you knowing that its even there. This size is again is in line with the entire idea of the beach, to be able to carry small items with you to read.
What makes this book brilliant is the very sharp humour which Parr brings forth. Its perfectly obvious yet so innocently detached that you can’t help but recognise Parr’s genius. His work extends from simple individualistic practices to an anthropological study, taking it beyond simple documentary.
Aperture first released the book in 2012 and then the second edition in 2013. The first edition looks a little different, its much thicker and the images are set more like a family album. Its also a little more expensive (last I checked for 350 GPB). This on the other hand is rather affordable, about 15 GBP.
I’ve had the opportunity to look at almost all Martin Parr books in publishing in the Magnum Archive and I have to say that this is the one I fancy the most. Its beautiful, funny, harsh and at the same time very emphatic. Martin Parr’s English temperament really pulls you in and he keeps you engaged with every single picture. This is one book I’d definitely recommend.