When Multistory contacted me to ask if I might be interested in doing a photographic commission, I could not say yes fast enough. With its famous industrial past, there was going to be an inevitable decline in the area, but what I had not counted on was the revitalisation that the many immigrant groups have brought to the area.
Multistory commissioned Magnum photographer, Martin Parr, to create a photographic portrait and archive about everyday life in the Black Country. Martin’s journey began in Sandwell in 2010 moving on to examine Walsall and Wolverhampton in the following years and Dudley during 2013/14. The project was supported with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, The New Art Gallery Walsall and Wolverhampton Art Gallery.
Martin’s work is close-up and intensely colourful. It is direct and uncompromising but also a respectful celebration of community life. Martin has visited factories, foundries, pubs, working men’s clubs, shops, markets, temples, mosques, churches, St George’s day celebrations, Royal Wedding street parties, horticultural shows, dog training classes and much, much more capturing and celebrating the unique mix of communities living in the area.
Click on the video to the right to listen to an interview we made with Martin in August, 2014.
The work culminated in ‘Black Country Stories’, a major exhibition that was shown at The Public in West Bromwich from 11 November 2010 to 23 January 2011; The New Art Gallery Walsall from 4 October 2014 to 11 January 2015; and Wolverhampton Art Gallery from 23 May to 22 August, 2015. It featured 122 photographs as well as 400 archive images; oral histories; and the four documentary films that we commissioned Martin to make about the Black Country; clips from all four are to the right. At each of the exhibitions, visitors had the opportunity to purchase an original Martin Parr print from the Black Country Stories archive.
To coincide with the launch of the exhibition, Multistory and Martin Parr released a photography book, produced in partnership with Dewi Lewis Publishing, that features images from the exhibition. Click here to purchase.
There have been several strands to Martin’s work for Black Country Stories, including photography, film and audio. Click on the images to the right to find out more about each area of work. You can also buy lots of products (including the films) from our online shop that have been made as a result of the project.