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Tony Ray-Jones – Through a Looking Glass

Beachy Head, Tripper Boat, 1967, by Tony Ray-JonesI was initially prompted to add this section on Tony Ray-Jones by two almost coincident articles published about him in 2004. The first was in Source magazine, where Ian Walker conveyed a fascinating tale of detection and discovery entitled 'Summer of Love' based around one photograph by Ray-Jones, reproduced on the left.

The second article, by Liz Jobey in the Guardian Weekend magazine (Oct 2004) and entitled 'The English Seen' , featured the same photograph leading into a brief biography and synopsis of Ray-Jones's work and influences linked to the major show of his work held in the UK in late 2004.

Since then, these pages about him have attracted thousands of visits from all over the world, testimony to the enduring legacy of the man and his work.

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Only in England - Review

The catalogue coverOnly in England, an exhibition of work by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr, was held at the Science Museum, London, 2013-2014

This is an exemplary exhibition.  Bringing together vintage work by Tony Ray-Jones, a selection of his unpublished pictures and a welcome return of Martin Parr’s Non Conformists, itis visually arresting, photographically illuminating and conceptually thought-provoking.

At a time when so much exhibition photography seems intent on bludgeoning the viewers into submission through sheer size and strong colour, Only in England seduces with modesty and the subtle, calming pleasures of monochrome. These are pictures that invite the viewer to get in close, to be drawn into the scene and enjoy the simplicity of gesture, expression and body language. There are multiple narratives to be teased out, apparent dislocations to be understood and mysteries outside the frame that become the subjects of conjecture.  In the work of both artists this is achieved not least through marrying content with a strong sense of design, there are no dull or boring pictures.

The exhibition also taps into the guilty pleasure of nostalgia.  At a general level this may simply be a fascination with seeing how things were in the past, in having revealed something of a make do and mend society that seems so far removed from our on-line easy-credit world.  At a personal level, and this applies to viewers of any age: we may be looking at ourselves, our parents, our grandparents, at our great grandparents, even.  Through the images we are drawn into the worlds of our predecessors; and we may stop for a minute to reflect that in 45 years our lives today will be the object of nostalgia and curiosity too.  Visually arresting images indeed.

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A Day Off: an English journal

Reproduced in full here is the introduction to Ray-Jones' first and ground-breaking book 'A Day Off', the book that he did not live long enough to see published. Written by Ainslie Ellis, a contributing editor for The British Journal of Photography at the time, and used in that journal two years previously, it gives an excellent overview of Ray-Jones' life and work.

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Creative Camera 1988

This article on Tony Ray-Jones, written by the late Peter Turner, appeared in the July 1988 issue of Creative Camera magazine.

In the early 70's pictures and attitudes made visible by the late Tony Ray-Jones gave young photographers a fresh set of hopes for their medium. Searching for a new and British photo-cultural identity, people like Martin Parr and Homer Sykes were impressed by Ray-Jones' ability to make pictures of a quality and kind they found stunning. In their own back-yard, as it were, he introduced ideas of intelligence and independence into a regime dominated by a value system based on the mythic powers of the globe-trotting, high-flying photographer with a Life magazine assignment. 16 years after his death Ray-Jones' influence still looms large, transformed by time from visual imitation to a more mature understanding of how he defined the photographer's role.

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Essay by Peter Marshall

Peter Marshall is a London-based photographer and educator whose work may be seen here.
He also runs the extremely informative My London Diary site.
This essay is taken from a presentation given by him in Poland in 2005.

Ray-Jones's life and career was tragically cut short by his sudden decline and death from leukemia in 1972, aged only 30, when he had completed only one major project, ‘The English Seen'. His illness had only been diagnosed two months earlier and he had been photographing up to a couple of weeks before he died.

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Creative Camera 1968

Creative Camera, Issue 52 October 1968, featuring the work of Tony Ray-Jones

As far as I can ascertain, the first time that non-assignment photographs by Tony Ray-Jones were published in the UK was in the October 1968 issue of Creative Camera magazine, then under the editorship of Bill Jay.

The magazine featured on the cover one of the photographs Ray-Jones had made during his stay in America and the article comprised a statement by him, together with a comment on the work by Frank Charlton. These are reproduced in full below.

Read more: Creative Camera 1968

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