The Black Country

Magnum photographer Martin Parr has spent the last year documenting the Black Country.  An exhibition of the results will run at The Public in West Bromwich until the end of next month.

Commissioned by community arts organisation Multistory to capture the borough of Sandwell, Parr jumped at the opportunity to photograph an area of the country which he hadn’t shot before.

Teddy Gray's Confectionary Factory in Dudley making sticks of rock by Martin Parr
Teddy Gray’s Confectionary Factory in Dudley making sticks of rock by Martin Parr

Parr says, ‘I feel I know Britain quite well, I have either visited or photographed in most major cities, from Plymouth to Wick in the far north of Scotland. I do have my blind spots and one was the Black Country, despite driving past this on the M6 on my journeys north on many occasions.’

From St George’s day celebrations to rock making, pubs to Gurdwaras, the exhibition of more than 650 images captures the diversity of the area.

Parr says, ‘With it’s famous industrial past, there was going to be an inevitable sense of decline in the area, but what I had not counted on was the revitalisation that the many immigrant groups had brought to the area.’

Running alongside the exhibition will be ‘Show Me A Secret’, a project led by Martin Parr, in which students and tutors from Sandwell College Photography Department collectively photographed their own interpretations of Black Country life.

Chain Makers at Griffin Woodhouse Ltd in Cradley Heath by Martin Parr
Chain Makers at Griffin Woodhouse Ltd in Cradley Heath by Martin Parr

The photographic exhibition is accompanied by audio files, which can also be  accessed at The Public gallery.

Parr says, ‘The one thing that binds all these spoken words and photographs together is humour, the diversity and the single-minded quality of the Black Country folk.’

The exhibition runs until 23 January at The Public, 
New Street, West Bromwich, West Midlands
, B70 7PG.

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