Martin Parr Sparks Anger by Selling Face Masks Featuring His Photos

Martin Parr Sparks Anger by Selling Face Masks Featuring His Photos

Celebrated British documentary photographer Martin Parr has just started selling a range face masks featuring photographs from his archive. The response on social media has not been kind.

Four different face masks are available from the Martin Parr Foundation website, each priced at £20 ($25). The four photographs featured are from different collections in Parr’s archive.

The product page notes that the masks “are not medical devices or personal protective equipment,” but are intended to stop coronavirus from spreading from the person wearing the mask. They are not FFP2/N95.

Proceeds from sales of the mask go the Martin Parr Foundation, a charity that was created in order to “preserve the archive and legacy of Martin Parr, one of the most significant documentary photographers of post-war Britain.”

The response on Twitter and Instagram has been largely negative.

Parr is one Britain’s most widely respected documentary photographers, but his work has been criticized in the past for ridiculing his subjects, presenting them as objects to be mocked rather than creating a connection with them as might be observed in the work of a photographer such as Joel Sternfeld.

What do you think of Parr’s face masks? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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Selling a product that there is demand for is NOT exploitative. I'm so tired of this anti-capitalist crap.

If he was buying up all competing masks so that he can force the market to buy only his masks by forming a monopoly to generate a huge markup you could levy an ethics argument.

That isn't what he is doing. If you don't like the masks, don't buy them. If you do, enjoy. This is the free market and he is doing what free markets do best by creating a product that people want/need. Over the next few months there will be tremendous demand for stylish masks.

(note, I know nothing about Parr other than this article, I'm not commenting on any of his other activities, I hadn't even heard his name until 20min ago)

Given that the rate of return on capital exceeds the rate of wage increase; capitalism will always be inequitable.

Thats correct. Your mistake is in presuming that equity is the goal or even important. Free market capitalism wasn't created to make everyone equal. Rather it recognizes that there is a vast diversity in not only ability but also in motivation and desire across society so provides freedom to pursue life progress governed by your own agency while opening the floodgates for a vast expansion in wealth across the board. It does a fantastic job of that even if it isn't perfect.

Laissez faire capitalism is a subset of capitalism, which is in turn a consequence of liberalism.

Your assumption with respect to my "mistake" is erroneously inferred. And your comprehension of politico-economic philosophy deeply flawed, by virtue of drawing conclusions in the absence of any understanding of philosophical foundations.

However, your moral conclusion is utterly bankrupt and may be rejected on its face.

Edit: also, the notion of a meritocracy has been shown to be utterly false. Which you would realise if you understood the consequences of wage growth versus return on capital.

<<Laissez faire capitalism is a subset of capitalism>> but it doesn't last for long... before you know it you have competition, regulations, tastes change enforcing the producer to set rules/regulations upon himself. Overall though, what we call "capitalism" is not some 'theory on the top that is applied on society".
Capitalism is a consequence of multiple actions and laws and contains variations of all theories. Funny examples: a) The Marxists say "from those who can to those who need", and that's exactly what the free market does (Canon can make cameras for those who need them). b) Large corporations say they are for free market, but their own structures are like the Russian Communist Party (they dress the same, behave the same, say the same things, obey the same line from the BoD etc). We TRY to classify and label societies as capitalist or socialist, and anyone can find thousands of examples to prove the opposite to every label we place on anything.
"Return on capital exceeds the wage increase" -- let's apply that to the Soviet Space Program, was it capitalist or socialist?

Now, here is someone with some actual substance. I'll come back to you later.

I'm not looking to get into a debate on economics in this thread so I will just leave it at this. But you must realize that you just used a whole lot of big words to say nearly nothing and have completely failed to provide any sort of actual counter argument.

All you said was: "You don't know because you don't know and you are wrong because you are wrong. It is known."

I'm sure we can get into a huge debate where you start quoting socialist philosophers as your evidence while I cite evidence of free market success and the universal success of meritocracies on a global scale but I just don't see the value in the effort in a thread about selling face masks with someone who is completely anonymous and hides behind the avatar of a sociopath fictional vigilante. (Not meant as an insult, I actually quite like Watchmen, but my point is, I'm busy and don't have time to argue with a ghost)

I wish you all the best in your future pursuits.

"I'm not looking for a debate"

The words of a man who suddenly finds himself utterly out of his depth. STFU and spare us all your empty face saving rhetoric.

Trump is your meritocratic system.

As to my profile, if I am here under my own name with my own name (for all you know this is an alt), everything becomes a branding exercise, and I have to ignore the, all too frequent, trolls and ill-educated.

He's not exploiting anyone. People need masks. So why shouldn't an artist offer some creative options? Besides, the working class are going to buy £1 masks, not these £20 masks. Liam Maxwell: Nobody forces you to buy these.

This is not a good person.

This is not a good comment.

Explain why you agree with that sentiment and aren't just jumping into a perceived dogpile, please.

Maybe he can sell ventilator breathing tube with his art next.

So you believe that functional items shouldn't be silkscreened or otherwise made artsy? You have a lot of fist shaking to do towards all the sellers on amazon, eBay, and Etsy with decorated face masks.

If you don't believe that, then why, specifically, is this individual not a good person?

This guy is trying to profit during a pandemic. As a well-known photojournalist in one of the most prestigious photo agencies in the world, he has chosen profit over decency. HCB would probably roll over in his grave at what this guy is doing.

I'm not sure I share your opinion, but I appreciate that you shared it. Cheers.

I am a big fan of Martin. But this crossed the line. He overreached and should've stuck with Square print sales.

So what? What is wrong with people? The one thing that bothers me about all this mask thing is their high price. Everywhere I look they are at around $20-$25. It should not cost that much. He just sells it at the (high) going rate.

At home we have two very healthy cats (poop machines) so we bought a few boxes of disposable masks before all that happened. We still have enough for a couple of months. Prices of these masks in the stores (if you can even find them) is three times higher then what we paid in January. Unbelievable.

Totally believable, that is what supply and demand does. Thats also the reason you are paying a third less at the pumps than you were in January. Both supply and demand has shifted. I'd also add that cost of doing business has risen across the board while productivity has been lowered. The net impact of that will always be a rise in price.

Paying a third at the pump? Not where I live. Maybe 20% down. Supply and demand is the only way free market should work (as oppose to the trillions of funny fiat money printed) but there is also the matter of gauging. When a price of an item jumps three four times its previous market price (previous is measured by a couple of weeks), that is wrong.

Then again, if people are willing to pay (people also bought pet rocks so no surprise there) God bless them.

Saying that, he (the photographer) did not do anything that justify the angry reaction.

He said "a third less", so about 30% down. Not that far from your 20%.

My bad :) Cheers

Agree with most of your thoughts, but this one….
«If he didn't make them, there would be less masks on the market.»

That is untrue. He has removed a certain amount of resources from one area to provide yet another (unneeded) outlet, reducing common availability (although, by an inconsequential amount).

That argument sounds like the people in the US who went around from store to store, from town to town, buying up hand-sanitisers in a 300 mile radius, to sell on Amazon/eBay, (until their price-gouging stores were shut down), providing an artificial shortage, and claiming that if it was not for their online stores, people would not be able to buy hand-sanitisers; that they were providing a needed service.

They even went on to justify their price gouging, saying that it was just to re-coup the COGS, because of all the travelling they had to do, to buy the product at retail, and that they ought to be thanked, for providing a convenient place to get the product, since it is not readily available at retail outlets, (anymore, since they bought it all up).

No, this man is not doing anybody any noble deed by selling these masks. He is just creating another revenue stream from people who want his product, (photographs) or want to support his foundation, (whose job is to provide him a new revenue stream, by preserving his work, and creating a false demand).

I think the masks are quite cool and as a Martin Parr fan I would quite like one. However, his charity sounds a bit crap. I'm sure there are more worthy causes. Maybe I will start a charity to preserve my archive, memory is costing a fortune atm.

Who cares? Their his photos. It's not different than Nike or some other company displaying their logo on their products.

Really don't see the problem here. So he takes the risk of selling masks with his work on it. He even gives its profits to a foundation. There is a need for masks, why can't they be beautiful or interesting? This is really utter non-sense to be angry about it.

Yeah, though to be fair, this particular foundation is pretty self serving. It is his money he can do what he wants with it but to call this charity is quite an extreme stretch. ;)

I'll never understand this logic. "Masks are good! Wear masks, Make masks!, but you cannot make masks sir cuz you're rich already. Really?

It might be a bit gauche to run around with a dog licking its nose on a mask on your face, but the feigned outrage smells of satire. It's downright moral narcissism if not tongue in cheek.

Newsworthy, 100% Newsworthy.

I think William who had a lot of interesting things to say put it quite well with this ditty..." much ado about nothing"

Anger? While William was quite poetic in his comments, in all honesty, I think the masks look pretty crap.

Seems to have a very high opinion of hi,self. Me, not so much


As usual, there are other, worthy causes people should be outraged over. But today, there are FAR more worthy causes worthy of outrage. Can't believe this even blipped on the radar.

I would not purchase one. But they seem effective. Causes people to talk out their arses, which increases social distancing.


People who bother to complain about this do not have enough real tribulation in their lives.

I think it is rather tacky . . . to say the least.

BUT, I am not going to lose any sleep over it. I will register my distaste in a very simple way . . . I ain't gonna buy one.