Candid Portraits of British Drivers in 1994

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When it comes to the car, drivers willingly give spontaneous, virtually automatic explanation – we could call ‘structural stories’ – to justify their use of it. (Freudendal–Pedersen, 2009).

In spite of the passing landscapes, motorways and drivers with their hair blowing in the wind, these photographs look deeply at the issue of social mobility. British photographer Martin Parr emphasizes social mobility to show its close correlation to travel made possible by use of a car. With this work, he revisits the social structure of English society, showing both its vertical and horizontal dimensions.
Horizontally, statements by drivers reveal how they take on a unique role behind the wheel. Even though people often play a role in their daily lives outside of the car, this role immediately becomes more intense upon contact with the later. Women described enjoying games of seduction in their cars, which offer a safe, protected environment. Men saw their company cars as symbols of their social status and rank within the company hierarchy.
Vertically speaking, the photos reveal the success and social ascension long addressed by classic sociology. The magnitude of the car’s social role makes this necessary. In such a context, alternative modes are categorically eliminated from among the possibilities. Thus does the artist reveal social spaces wherein altermobilities have very little chance of emerging.
Born in 1952, photographer Martin Parr – himself the son an amateur photographer – has authored many works in his field. He has likewise distinguished himself as an editor (of his numerous exhibitions), a professor and a documentary film production assistant. With his unique, frank view on British society, his work – what one could call a ‘social documentary’ – has earned him international recognition and acclaim.
“I feel that other women on the road react to me in a nasty hostile sort of way. For some reason this hate comes across. I mean, I give way to them so why don’t they give way to me.”

Driving in a convertible with cuddly toys on the dash board. 

“I like to think I’m quite successful because I’ve got a Cavalier 2 litre GLi. I sell industrial packaging machines – something with a bit of esteem not like Derek in Coronation Street who sells novelty items out of a bloody suitcase.”

“As far as my social life is concerned, the Metro is a no-go area. I think I’d look so much better sat in an XR2.”

G.B. ENGLAND. 1994.

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