The pioneering photographer has been documenting Britain for 40 years. In a cemetery cafe, he talks about his gallery … and his collection of space dog ephemera
I arrive at Martin Parr's new gallery in Bristol soaked through having tramped, in sheeting rain, around the former industrial site in which it is housed, trying to find it. Parr, Britain's foremost documentary photographer, is up a ladder in the large back office of the pristine space, doing one of the things you guess he secretly likes doing best, filing pictures. I stand dripping on his new floor while he comes down and casts his never quite neutral eye over me. He is notably dry, in all senses. It is a small relief that he does not have a camera to hand.
Parr's photographs have always been about juxtaposition and incongruity. He made his name photographing the tribes and clubs of northern England, Hebden Bridge's “Ancient Order of Henpecked Husbands” and so on. That obsession continues, 40-odd years on, in the BBC “idents” that he currently choreographs (those punctuation marks between programmes of sea-swimmers and wheelchair rugby players and night kayakers designed to suggest our eccentric “oneness”). Through his viewfinder the way we would like to see ourselves is set against the way that others see us.