‘Only in England’ exhibit features photographer Tony Ray-Jones
LONDON –The first ever major London exhibition of work by British photographer Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972) will open at Media Space on Sept. 21. The exhibition titled “Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr” will feature over 100 works drawn from the Tony Ray-Jones archive at the National Media Museum alongside 50 rarely seen early black and white photographs, “The Non-Conformists,” by Martin Parr (b. 1952).
Between 1966 and 1969 Tony Ray-Jones created a body of photographic work documenting English customs and identity. Humorous yet melancholy, these photographs were a departure from anything else being produced at the time. They quickly attracted the attention of the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London, where they were exhibited in 1969. Tragically, in 1972, Ray-Jones died from leukaemia at the age of 30. However, his short but prolific career had a lasting influence on the development of British photography from the 1970s through to the present.
In 1970, Martin Parr, a photography student at Manchester Polytechnic, had been introduced to Ray-Jones. Inspired by him, Parr produced The Non-Conformists, shot in black and white in Hebden Bridge and the surrounding Calder Valley. This project started within two years of Ray-Jones death and demonstrates his legacy and influence.
The exhibition will draw from the Tony Ray-Jones archive, held by the National Media Museum. Around 50 vintage prints will be on display alongside an equal number of photographs, which have never previously been printed. Martin Parr has been invited to select these new works from the 2,700 contact sheets and negatives in the archive. Shown alongside these are Parr’s early black and white work, unfamiliar to many, which has only ever previously been exhibited in Hebden Bridge itself and at Camerawork Gallery, London in 1981.
Tony Ray-Jones was born in Somerset in 1941. He studied graphic design at the London School of Printing before leaving the UK in 1961 to study on a scholarship at Yale University in the U.S. He followed this with a year-long stay in New York during which he attended classes by the influential art director Alexey Brodovitch, and became friends with photographers Joel Meyerowitz and Garry Winogrand. In 1966 he returned to find a Britain still divided by class and tradition. A Day Off- An English Journal, a collection of photographs he took between 1967-1970 was published posthumously in 1974 and in 2004 the National Media Museum held a major exhibition, “A Gentle Madness: The Photographs of Tony Ray-Jones.”
Martin Parr was born in Epsom, Surry in 1952. He graduated from Manchester Polytechnic in 1974 and moved to Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, where he established the Albert Street Workshop, a hub for artistic activity in the town. Fascinated by the variety of nonconformist chapels and the communities he encountered in the town he produced The Non-Conformists. In 1984 Parr began to work in color and his breakthrough publication The Last Resort was published in 1986. A Magnum photographer, Parr is now an internationally renowned photographer, filmmaker, collector and curator, best-known for his highly saturated color photographs critiquing modern life.
“Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr” will run at Media Space, Science Museum from Sept 21 through March 16, 2014. The exhibition will then be on display at the National Media Museum from March 22–June 29, 2014.
The exhibition is curated by Greg Hobson, curator of photographs at the National Media Museum, and Martin Parr has been invited to select works from the Tony Ray-Jones archives.
“Tony Ray-Jones’ pictures were about England. They had that contrast, that seedy eccentricity, but they showed it in a very subtle way. They have an ambiguity, a visual anarchy. They showed me what was possible,” said Parr.
Media Space is a collaboration between the Science Museum (London) and the National Media Museum (Bradford). Media Space will showcase the National Photography Collection of the National Media Museum through a series of exhibitions. Alongside this, photographers, artists and the creative industries will respond to the wider collections of the Science Museum Group to explore visual media, technology and science.
ADDITIONAL IMAGES OF NOTE