Location unknown, possible Morcambe, 1967 – 68 by Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum
The Science Museum in London has recently inaugurated a new Media Space. I was expecting it to be filled with photos of super computers and distant planets. Instead, i found Only in England, a retrospective of Tony Ray-Jones’ photos curated by Martin Parr. Which is completely fine by me as i’d rather spend an afternoon looking at eccentric English ladies than at moons around Jupiter (no disrespect to satellites.)
In the late 1960s, Tony Ray-Jones traveled across his country in a VW camper to document the leisure and pleasures of the English. He was a man who lived by his own rules. One of them was to never take a boring photo. There are dozens of images in the exhibition and none of them is remotely insipid. It’s easy to see why the photographer had such an impact on Parr’s work: he had a taste for the quietly humorous, the compassionate detail, the ironic narrative.
Ray-Jones died of leukaemia in 1972. He was only 30 but in his short career, he invented a new way of looking at society.
Beauty contestants, Southport, Merseyside, 1967 by Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum
Only in England exhibition © Kate Elliott for Media Space
Blackpool, 1968 by Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum
Eastbourne Carnival, 1967 by Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum
Bournemouth, 1969 © Tony Ray-Jones, Courtesy James Hyman Gallery, London
Location unknown, possibly Worthing, 1967-68 by Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum
Strongman Contest, Mablethorpe, 1967 (James Hyman Gallery)
Windsor Horse Show, 1966-67
Windsor Horse Show, 1967
Ramsgate, 1967 by Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum
Brighton Beach, 1966 by Tony Ray Jones
A black and white photo series by Martin Parr, The Non-Conformists, is also part of Only in England. The work follows the religious life of the Methodist and Baptist communities in and around Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire. Shot in the mid-1970s, just after Parr graduated from art school, the photos have a gentleness i wasn’t expecting from Parr.
Mankinholes Methodist Chapel, Todmorden 1975 by Martin Parr © Martin Parr/ Magnum
Tom Greenwood cleaning 1976 by Martin Parr © Martin Parr/ Magnum
Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr is a the Science Museum until 16 March 2014.
You might also want to check out Another Country. Vintage Photographs of British Life by Tony Ray-Jones which is up at the James Hyman Gallery in London until 7 November.