Museum profile – Martin Parr Foundation

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The Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol is a public photography gallery, library, studio and archive centre. It exists to promote the legacy of photographers making important work focused on the British Isles, and to champion overlooked and emerging photographers.   

We do so through a programme of exhibitions, talks, screenings and tours, and with the acquisition of significant photographic prints and photobooks. We also house the entire archive of Martin Parr, a collection containing an estimated 750,000 prints and associated books and ephemera. Since opening in October 2017 we have hosted 14 exhibitions and 50 talks, while accumulating a library of over 5000 photobooks and building up an extensive archive collection, preserving work of national importance.

Programme highlights
Our exhibitions have included rare prints by Tony Ray-Jones, a selection of some of the greatest works by the Magnum Photos collective, a collaboration spanning photography, fashion and several youth clubs in the Welsh Valleys, plus the first ever wedding photography show in an art gallery context.   

We’ve hosted David Bailey, Don McCullin, Marketa Luscakova, Alec Soth and Sian Davey, amongst others, in our Artist Talks series.  

In October 2019, in collaboration with the Royal Photographic Society, we held the inaugural BOP photobook fair, bringing publishers from across the UK to Bristol. We also teamed up with local art gallery the Arnolfini, to show new work made during the city’s St Paul’s Carnival.

Collection highlights
The archive holds all of Martin Parr’s negatives and contact sheets, dating back to the late 1970s, plus the entirety of his printed output which includes rare vintage prints.  

Other significant bodies of work have been acquired from Chris Killip, Graham Smith and Stephen Gill. We also house a number of rare book maquettes, such as Richard Billingham’s Ray’s a Laugh, Vinca Peterson’s No System and the as yet unreleased Power in the Blood by Gilles Peress. Our library collection includes David Bailey’s Sumo, first editions of JC Burrow’s Mongst Mines and Miners and Corrinne Day’s Diary.

Membership scheme
Launched in 2018, our membership programme provides vital funds for the work of the Foundation in return for a number of benefits. Members get access to the Foundation’s library and archive collection, discounts on events and free tours. Mid-tier supporters receive a signed Martin Parr print, while Patrons enjoy a portrait session and annual dinner with Martin Parr.

Visitor numbers, income streams and staffing
In 2019 we welcomed approximately 20,000 visitors to the gallery. Our exhibition opening parties now attract crowds of up to 300, while the majority of our Artist Talks reach our seated capacity of 150. We receive no core funding and therefore rely on a variety of income streams – principally through ticket and book sales, membership fees and fundraising events. 

The Foundation currently employs four staff on a full-time basis and three part-time. We are governed by a board of Trustees.

Current and future projects
We’re currently exhibiting a retrospective of the work of Chris Killip, one of Britain’s most important documentary photographers of the past 50 years. This month also sees the return of our popular Portrait Studio, where members of the public can have their photograph taken by Martin Parr. 

Our archive and library collections are slowly being digitised, while we are also working on a series of filmed ‘Sofa Sessions’, featuring Martin Parr in conversation with significant photographers who pass through the Foundation. 

Jon McCall | Head of Membership & Fundraising | Martin Parr Foundation | 

www.martinparrfoundation.org