Sunday, 17 July 2011

Tony Ray-Jones

Tony Ray-Jones (1941 – 1972) was born and schooled in England, went to Christ’s Hospital School. He then studied Graphic Design at the London School of Printing. During his 2nd year he was taught photography by Bill Brandt’s brother. In 1961 he moved to New York to Attend Yale. He stayed in America until 1965, mainly in New York during which time he developed an interest in street photography, mainly using black and white. He met with many of the now famous names from that era of American photography, including Brodovitch (who was a major influence).
In 1965 he returned to England and took photographs of festivals (formal and informal) and English culture and customs, seeing it from an eye that was partly English but altered by his 5 years in America. This was collected and published (posthumously) under the title ‘;A Day Off – An English Journal’.

When I first looked at Ray-Jones work I was not sure how to take it. Many of the scenes are evocative of my childhood, as I lived on the South Coast, near Brighton. (and we had a Butlins's).

Butlin's Holiday Camp, Clacton-in-Sea. c.1968 - Tony Ray-Jones

Initially I found the images cruel and stark (much as I had originally seen the images of Diane Arbus), but as I examined them further I found that many had a quite gentle humour and reflected the quirky nature of the English on holiday and at leisure well.

Glyndebourne, 1967. Tony Ray-Jones
‘ My aim is to communicate something of the spirit and mentality of the English, their habits and their way of life, the ironies that exist in  the way they do things’  (Tony Ray-Jones, Creative Camera 1968)

Clacton-on-Sea. 1967. Tony Ray-Jones
‘For me their is something very special and humorous in the English way of life’  (Tony Ray-Jones, Creative Camera 1968).

Boarding House, Newqyay. 1968. Tony Ray-Jones.
This final picture of his is evocative of the whole series, someone outside looking in. Although Tony Ray_Jones was English his photographic eye and mind must have been altered by living in America. The pictures give an accurate view of the times, shown with understanding and a degree of love, but still reflect someone 'looking in' at the the scene not 'partaking of' it.  I wonder what his pictures would have been like if he had lived even another 10 years.

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