Ironic eye on the cross of cultures

BRITISH photographer Martin Parr has a thing about McDonald's. When he travels, the restaurant chain's global reach becomes fodder for Parr's ironic camera's-eye view of shifting cultural iconographies.

"I can hardly walk by one when I have a camera and not deal with it," Parr said. "They are different, but there's an eerie similarity as well."

Americanized fast food is just one of the cross-cultural references Parr found on trips south for his book "Mexico" (Aperture, October 2006).

In his signature style -- observations of the symbols and rituals of everyday life tightly framed and saturated with color -- Parr explores the often oil-and-water mix of American and Mexican imagery: Men wearing caps touting U.S. sports logos. T-shirts emblazoned with SpongeBob, Mickey Mouse and the Simpsons; Halloween competing with the traditions of the Day of the Dead; Jesus and Spider-Man trinkets; a rusty Coca-Cola sign mounted on a cactus, pictures of tourists taking pictures.

"Parr is a critic and a humorist," Mexican cultural critic and writer Rogelio Villarreal writes in the book's foreword, "and his camera is his passport between the two."

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