Life Unfiltered: The Anonymous Project meets Martin Parr

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Lee Shulman, founder of the project, discusses a new book blending Parr’s archive with the vintage slides he’s collected for almost half a decade 

Lee Shulman first met Martin Parr in Arles. It was 2019, and Shulman was exhibiting a collection of images from The Anonymous Project in a show titled The House, at Maison des Peintres when the Magnum photographer “literally” bumped into him. Parr was, and still is, somewhat a hero to Shulman, and the two got talking. Fast forward two years, and they’ve collaborated on a book, Déjà View.

For those unfamiliar with The Anonymous Project, it is a collection of some 3000 vintage slides from the 1950s to 80s, which Shulman has been collecting and preserving since 2017. The ever-expanding archive began with a box of slides that the filmmaker found in a flea market. He was enamoured with the images of everyday moments captured by family and friends – lost or discarded, and likely forgotten. “I know almost every image off by heart,” Shulman says. 

It is from this collection and Parr’s archive, over which Shulman had free reign, that the filmmaker made 300 pairings of remarkably similar images. Of those published in the book, some are so remarkable in their similarity, that viewers might find it bizarre, even troubling. Most, however, recognise the amusement and joy in their pairings. The distinctive Kodachrome colour grade and Parr’s characteristic use of flash gives the pages a delightful brightness. Indeed, the book begins with an interview with Shulman and Parr, titled ‘Conversations in Colour’. 

© Marin Parr, courtesy of Magnum Photos.
© Marin Parr, courtesy of Magnum Photos.
© The Anonymous Project.

“Photography is for people, not just for people who work in photography.”

Lee Shulman

In Déjà View, Parr’s images appear on the left, and The Anonymous Project’s on the right. “But as you go through the book, you forget,” Shulman says. “I wasn’t trying to confuse the barrier, that wasn’t the intention. But [in it] there’s an amazing conversation that we both care about – that photography is for people, not just for people who work in photography.”

With its lemon yellow cover and metallic blue writing, the book, published by Hoxton Mini Press last month, is a charming, visual conversation between a photography icon and the amateur. “I suddenly realised the link between what I was doing and what he was doing,” says Shulman. “For him, being a photographer is not just taking a picture – because then everyone would be a photographer. It’s about the image that you choose.”

© Marin Parr, courtesy of Magnum Photos.
© The Anonymous Project.

“This book is pure, simple and direct. For me, it’s everything I love most.”

Martin Parr

There’s an honesty that we find in this [kind of] photography that is unfiltered,” adds Shulman, who notes that none of the slides from The Anonymous Project are ever cropped or edited. In the same way, Parr is known for his disregard for “over-intellectualising” his work. Indeed, in the printed conversation, Parr is quoted: “This book is pure, simple and direct. For me, it’s everything I love most.”

Anonymous-project.com

martinparr.com

Deja View is published by Hoxton Mini Press and is available now. For more information, head to their website

Deja View cover, Martin Parr & The Anonymous Project, Hoxton Mini Press
Izabela Radwanska Zhang

Starting out as an intern back in 2016, Izabela Radwanska Zhang is now the Editorial Director of British Journal of Photography in print and online. Her words have appeared in Disegno and Press Association. Prior to this, she completed a MA in Magazine Journalism at City University, London, and most recently, a Postgrad Certificate in Graphic Design at London College of Communication.