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Shooting star

Photographer Martin Parr is best-known for his unsparing portraits of Englishness. Is he a cultural curiosity or a talent of enduring significance?

At the turn of the millennium, the photographer Martin Parr edited a book of pictures of—though not by—himself. Titled Autoportrait, its contents were culled from a collection amassed over years of travelling. At each stop, he would have his picture taken by a local photographer, or sometimes duck into a photo booth. The resulting shots are uniformly kitsch, each inflected by the local aesthetic—or rather, the local tourist aesthetic. Parr is garbed like a sheikh in Abu Dhabi. In Funchal in Madeira, he stands with his hands jammed in his pockets against a painted woodland scene. A monkey in polka-dot…

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