Only in England: Tony Ray- Jones and Martin Parr
Martin Parr has been highly influenced by the works of Tony Ray-Jones, and excited for that matter too. His work has had a great impact on him and gave him inspiration to produce his own style of work from Ray-Jones. He was devastated at the early death of Tony Ray-Jones and bought any book he could find the years they were published after the death, for example, he bought his book ‘A Day Off’ two years after Ray-Jones death when it was first published and then used it as his main inspiration for his work and for the work he created for the ‘Only In England’ gallery.
Similar to Tony Ray-Jones, Parr used Ray-Jones style of everyday chaos and the space he presented between his subjects with an elegant balance between them, as his main inspiration. However Parr further created a heightened sense of wit and melancholy with the inspiration as a background influence for his pictures and created a tonal range just like Ray-Jones had as well but bigger.
The exhibition ‘only in England’ explores the relationship between the two photographers Tony Ray-Jones ( 1941-72) and Martin Parr (b.1952) who specialize in street photography. Tony Ray-Jones worked in New York for a bit working with photographers like Garry Winogrand, Joel Meyerowitz and many others, from this he took home the street photography techniques they had and the language to then apply the formula to his own work that he acquired, and to England to apply it to a country that had never been photographed in this way before. Tony Ray-Jones wanted to apply the street photography of New York to the British seasides; as the city of New York street photography was very American just like the British seasides particularly depict the British style. The beach therefore became a significant feature of Ray-Jones work and created personal dramas that could be explored and constructed. Martin Parr was immediately inspired by his work as he recognized the new language he had applied to his work which he saw as successful.
‘A Day Off’ is a book of Tony Ray-Jones’ English photos and these were the biggest influential photographs that inspired Parr. Parr had moved to Hebden Bridge to photograph the community there over a period of five years, and they now make up the non-conformists work which accompanied the Tony Ray-Jones exhibition. Then, 10 years later after Ray-Jones death he too took to the beach as the central subject matter but in colour, using a flash.
The ‘Only in England’ exhibition is named after the typically English style photographs presented in their work; this is due to the inspiration of the New York street photography shoot Ray-Jones brought back with him to create typically English style shoots, and then Martin Parr’s inspiration to make it witty, humorous and create commercial dramas from it.
Street photography is an important profession that should be kept as time moves on. As it shows part of a heritage for an area, community, country, etc and also, specifically shows us through these imagery what it was once like or still is like and how times change as industries and modern life expands with more mass production and societies constantly changing. For example, Street photographs differ from the streets now. On the other hand, seasides have the same typically English events and objects that may not have changed at all. Another example of this is the beach huts, the towels lead out along the beach, the picnics of sandwiches and general, typical English foods, and finally cafes and amusements along the beach for tourists to enjoy and explore. This therefore infers the different periods, visually, throughout the periods in time and gives a clear suggestion of our past.
These are a few images of Tony Ray-Jones work:
I like this image as it’s a natural everyday photograph but seems humorous in the situation that’s taking place to how it would today. This is a clear suggestion of time with the many things going on within the composition. For example, the clothes they’re wearing, the open gap between where they’re sitting and the cows (as we’d probably have a fence between us now). However, in some ways it’s similar to now, as we’d still have a picnic in a field with garden tables and chairs, relaxing in the countryside.
This image in particular depicts the chaos Tony Ray-Jones would capture in the typically English seaside holidays/trips that Parr referred to:
Martin Parr’s, Non-Conformist, Photography:
An Example of Parr’s humor and wit put in with space and composition that had been inspired by Ray-Jones:
This shot is a favourite of mine, as I like the use of space Parr has captured that particularly infers the space between the subjects in the image, that likely inspired him from Tony Ray-Jones’ work. The image is in a black and white film giving good light and dark contrasts between the two halves of the image. The composition in the photograph is inspiring and makes the image seem as if it’s two totally different photographs with two different angles within the church, only when you look closely and for a period of time you realise it’s one image all together and therefore creates a very clever and unique photograph. The fact the top half is looking central and the bottom is looking to the left it creates this illusional image, and the top half is almost scattered with the people and the bottom opposite in the sense it’s more organised and a line of people- women. Parr had photographed this from the same level as the people on the top balcony with his camera portrait to then capture the bottom half, down below them.
The curator was Greg Hobson, along side guest curator Martin Parr. The exhibition guides you round, starting from the early works of Tony Ray-Jones to his later creations near his death, then with added glassed boxes on tables that show various archives of their own work. For example, notes from Tony Ray-Jones diary of where he went and others of notes with marking and correcting his photographic mistakes some of which say ‘BE MORE AGGRESSIVE‘, ‘COMPOSITION’ and ‘DON’T TAKE BORING PHOTOS’ with some underlined, also a newspaper dating back to Tony Ray-Jones death. Then, the exhibition guides you to Parr’s non-conformist work from the start to his later works. There is also a short video showing you Martin Parr talking about Tony Ray-Jones and the inspiration Ray-Jones gave him. Parr looked through almost three thousand contact prints of Tony Ray-Jones and then picked the ones he thought most suited to the print for the exhibition.
Near the back of the gallery there is a whole wall just for around three thousand contact prints mounted on a light box so you’re able to see them, with marks made by Martin Parr, He allowed them to be shown for all to judge.
The gallery in effect is more Martin Parr’s than the work of Tony Ray-Jones. Although Tony Ray-Jones is said to be a major influence on the works of many photographers today, the gallery has big, white prints like that of Parr than the dark, tiny, vintage prints of Ray-Jones.
These are images of the gallery:
Martin Parr and Tony Ray-Jones, those of whom never met. Throughout this exhibition you can clearly see the influence Ray-Jones had on Parr, with images of vintage prints and new creations by Parr.
Ray-Jones took his influence from working with street photographers in New York and then took this back to England to photograph the cultural English seasides. Parr however, took this inspiration from Ray-Jones to then create a copy of his work in the modern life of today, where he spent 5 years in Hebden Bridge photographing the community and Methodist Chapels.
Parr tries to depict the English cultural decline within his own photos that show similarities to Tony Ray-Jones. For example, the back to back composition of a 1976 photograph of gamekeeper and his dog by Parr echoes the same composition in a 1968 Ray-Jones photograph of an elderly couple in Blackpool. These such photos show the evident influence Ray-Jones had on Parr and therefore there is no better person to help curate the gallery than Parr who makes a temporary assessment of the importance of the work.
The exhibition shows the erasing cultural English values and events that are ever declining. Parr links his major body of work around this influence to create his non-conformist work with added humor and wit. You can see throughout the gallery the typically English aspects along the seaside that have either changed or stayed almost the same.
The exhibition uses the film prints, notes and diaries of Tony Ray-Jones, alongside Parr’s body of work influenced by his in black and white film prints. You can see many of the negatives from Parr’s work and but most of the gallery is formed by the film prints by both photographers.
The exhibition is very inspiring to see. The influence from the American street photographers that Tony Ray-Jones took back with him had a great effect on Parr and many other artist, and to be able to witness the similarities and links between the change in British seasides is influential. The exhibition showed a great body of work from both artists and had many notes across the walls and tables that gave a clear example between the photographers and what each place and print meant and showed through the imagery. The wit and humor Parr created has inspired me to create and look more carefully into what is happening in the moment to then create my own humorous prints. I like the use of space Tony Ray-Jones used and the contrast between each subject and how he noted what went wrong and what he could improve on after each shoot. Capturing the cultural aspects of everyday life is also inspiring in itself and to therefore go and create this myself with my own work would not only give me great practice in working like these photographers but further being able to go back and see a cultural change over time which is ever so important to record. Given that Parr had created some prints by Tony Ray-Jones to put up I think I would curate a smaller and more vintage looking print that fitted Ray-Jones’ style. Overall, the exhibition was an inspiring event that I would persuade others to go and see.