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Martin Parr casts eye over Black Country life

Dudley | News | Published:

A picture is worth a thousand words – and a new exhibition in Wolverhampton certainly has a lot to say about the Black Country.

A picture is worth a thousand words – and a new exhibition in Wolverhampton certainly has a lot to say about the Black Country.

Renowned photographer Martin Parr spent a year documenting life in the region to create a stunning display of photographs showing real-life in the Black Country, in all its glory and in some cases its gritty reality.

Martin Parr's Black Country Stories has opened at the Light House Centre, in Fryer Street, with an array of photographs taken across the area by the Magnum Photographer.

In total Mr Parr took more than 660 photographs charting modern day society and the cultural make-up of the area to create a portrait of Black Country life.

Around 60 images are on display at Light House with the rest held by Sandwell Library.

The work was commissioned by Multistory, a local community arts organisation, and captures and celebrates everyday Black Country living and working.

Mr Parr, from Bristol, photographed local factories such as Teddy Grays Confectionary, in Dudley, local markets, shops, gurdwaras, temples, mosques, churches, restaurants, cafés, clubs and pubs, weddings and cultural celebrations from West Bromwich's St George's Day parade, Easter and Vaisakhi.

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He will continue to develop the Black Country stories project over the next three years visiting Walsall in 2011, Wolverhampton in 2012 and Dudley in 2013.

The project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the New Art Gallery Walsall, Wolverhampton Arts and Heritage and Dudley Museum and Arts service.

He will also be at the Light House to present a talk about his distinguished career and his work looking at the subjects of everyday existence on July 27 from 6.30pm until 7.30pm. The talk will cost £3 although the exhibition is free.

The showcase of photographs is open to the public now and will be there until September 30.

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Digital marketing assistant Steph Jennings, aged 30, from Wednesfield said: "It's a brilliant exhibition of life in the Black Country and people outside the area would instantly recognise the pictures as being the Black Country."

During the project Mr Parr followed a Black Country Tours booze cruise around Black Country pubs and saw a whole new side to the region.

Mr Parr said before starting the work he had only ever been to Wolverhampton, but had been astounded by the cultural mix and diversity in the Sandwell area. He said: "We started out looking for factories, shops, pubs, really day to day life.

"It is an area in decline, we all know that the traditional Black Country industries are slowly disappearing – there are still some of those left, we found a chain maker, but it is a shadow of its former self, but the new input that the new communities and ethnic groups have brought to the area, the Polish, Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani and the temples in this area are phenomenal.

"That became an integral part and what we wanted to document."

The photographs will be accompanied by an oral archive of audio recordings to bring to life the unique humour and attitude of the Black Country.

By Shaun Lintern

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