Unseen City: Martin Parr

Drapers’ Company Dinner, Drapers’ Hall, City of London, 2014. Martin Parr (c)

I was excited to hear that Martin Parr had a new exhibition in London. I’ve always been an admirer of his work (much to the demise of my peers at university!) as he always had a knack for making the banal and everyday seem somewhat quite humorous. It was comforting knowing that I wasn’t the only one who participates in the naff and awkward holiday pictures as seen in Small World. If aliens were ever to take over the Earth and study what the customs of the human race were I would direct them to Parr’s body of work.

Silent Ceremony, Swearing in of new Lord Mayor, Fiona Woolf
Guildhall, City of London, 2013.
Martin Parr (c)


I had mixed feelings when I learnt about the subject matter of Parr’s latest exhibition. Unseen City is the result of Parr’s three year residency with the City of London Corporation. Capturing a behind the scenes look at the ceremonies, pomp and rituals that take place in the Square Mile.
Not many would think a community other than city workers exists within the Square Mile. It should be noted that these photographs have nothing to do with the City – the parts of London where the bankers play and deal with money. This “City” focuses on the City of London Corporation; a strange, secretive British establishment which resides in the Square Mile. It is an establishment that is unaccessible to outsiders and leaves us all feeling very confused as to who they are and what they do. They must be very important if they have ruffle collars, fur capes and banquet dinners in Medieval halls. What is immediately apparent (and probably unsurprising) is that the City is very elitist, very white and very male – a drastic change from the previous exhibition, No Colour Bar, which was exhibited in the same space.

While the exhibition wasn’t quite what I expected at first, it does demonstrate how multi-faceted and complex the communities that exist in London are. Parr may have strayed away from what is considered to be the everyday but shares an insight into a world many of us are deeply unfamiliar with. It’s unsettling to know that such an elitist establishment has great influence and power in contemporary London. “The City sees no reason to change its ways and will continue on its uniquely closed, uniquely powerful, uniquely unaccountable way.”


Unseen City is running from 4th March – 31st July 2016 at the Guildhall Art Gallery. Admission is £5 to find out more click here.

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