Martin Parr: Working Men’s Clubs
Earlswood Working Men’s Club, Rumney
Until Sun 14 Mar
For his latest project, renowned documentary photographer Martin Parr has turned his lens on the working men’s clubs of Cardiff. This project is one of four photography commissions from the “Imagining the City” series paid for by the developers of the St David’s 2 development, and makes a change from one of Parr’s recent projects, where he documented the lifestyles of the world’s super-rich, moments before they were plunged into the Global Cashopalypse.
For Working Men’s Clubs the Magnum photographer visited five such clubs in the city. The results show a lively, inclusive social life perhaps unimagined by a sections of the city more likely to hang out in Cardiff’s city centre bars. For the launch Parr booked the function room at the Earlswood in Rumney, and laid on a night of buffet, bingo and an Elvis impersonator whose accent placed him in the midpoint between Mississippi and Merthyr Tydfil.
Parr’s career has been marked by controversy since his garish photos of the run-down seaside resort New Brighton in 1986 garnered accusations of an avowedly middle-class photographer exploiting, even deriding, the leisure habits of the working class for artistic gain: and making a fair bit of money in the process. Though such accusations could presumably be laid at Working Men’s Clubs – it’s hard to tell if he’s taking the piss when he commends the buffet’s cheese-and-pineapple-on-sticks in his opening speech – the photos themselves do nothing but celebrate the subjects – dancing grans, victorious bingo players and avid skittles spectators – having a good night out. Any reservations are cast out when Parr takes to the dancefloor as “Elfis” launches into Viva Las Vegas: the grin on his face and Dad-at-wedding moves suggest nothing but affection for his subject.