Tony Ray-Jones 1941-1972

Tony Ray-Jones (7 June 1941- 13 March 1972) was an influential British post-war photographer who is best remembered for his light-hearted, quirky images of the English social landscape. The documentation of his fellow countrymen engaged in various leisure activities embodied a uniquely distinctive vision; quite a departure from the objective style of the 1960s war photographer. Ray-Jones' subjective and artistic approach to photography subsequently influenced a new generation of independent photographers emerging in 1970s Britain including Martin Parr, Daniel Meadows, Chris Steele-Perkins, and Simon Roberts.

Ray-Jones was born in Wells, Somerset to a physiotherapist mother and the British artist Raymond Ray-Jones (whose etchings are included in the collection of the Victoria & Albert Museum). At the age of eight, Ray-Jones lost his father, forcing the family to rely on financial support from the Artist's Orphan Fund. Ray-Jones studied graphic design at the London School of Printing where he first encountered the work of Bill Brandt, whose brother taught at the school. In 1960, at the age of nineteen Ray-Jones won a two-year scholarship to the prestigious American university, Yale, after submitting a portfolio of photographs taken from the window of a taxicab in Algiers. He studied alongside Joseph Albers and obtained a MFA in graphic design working with colour. A chance encounter with Alexey Brodovitch, art director of Harper's Bazaar for two decades, steered Ray-Jones away from furthering a career in graphic design for advertising agencies. Brodovitch was teaching at the Design Laboratory in New York, held in the studio of Richard Avedon. Ray-Jones was a student from 1962-3; other students included Robert Frank, Art Kane, Irving Penn and Garry Winogrand.

Brodovitch would prove to be a lifelong friend and a mentor to Ray-Jones, who adopted his artistic approach. A brief stint as associate art director of Brodovitch's Sky magazine was followed by freelance photography work for publications such as Car and Driver and Saturday Evening Post. In 1966, he returned to England and began the project of recording the English at leisure whilst supporting himself through more commercial assignments from The Sunday Times Magazine and others. Between 1966-68, Ray-Jones travelled around England in a VW camper van, capturing the customs and eccentricities of the British people; holidays in seaside towns, beauty pagaents, parades and other social events. His work was first exhibited in 1969 at the Institute for Contemporary Art in London which also featured the work of Dorothy Bohm, Don McCullin and Enzo Ragazzini. In fact, Ray-Jones was the first contemporary British photographer to have a one-man touring exhibition. However, economic difficulties demanded less attention be paid to personal projects, and Ray-Jones concentrated on commercial assignments. In 1971 he returned to the United States with his wife Anna after accepting a teaching position at the San Francisco Art Institute. He began to plan several new personal projects, including the plight of the American Indian, but was diagnosed with leukemia in 1972. Three days after returning to England to be treated at the Royal Marsden Hospital, Tony Ray-Jones died, aged thiry-one.

Although his photographic career spanned just over a decade, Tony Ray-Jones produced a richly diverse body of work that celebrated the melodramatic nature of the human character- synthesizing a personalized mélange of compassion, curiosity and irony. As he explained to Creative Camera in 1968:

I have tried to show the sadness and the humour in a gentle madness that prevails in a people. The situations are sometimes ambiguous and unreal, and the juxtaposition of elements seemingly unrelated, and the people are real. This, I hope helps to create a feeling of fantasy. Photography can be a mirror and reflect life as it is, but I also think that perhaps it is possible to walk, like Alice, though a Looking-Glass, and find another kind of world with the camera.




Selected Solo Exhibitions:

2014
Only in England, Media Space, Science Museum, London and National Media Museum, Bradford.
Tony Ray-Jones. Another Country, James Hyman Gallery, London

2011

Tony Ray-Jones: The English, Guernsey Photography Festival, June 2011

2010

Tony Ray-Jones, Starmach Gallery, Krakow

2009

The Photographs of Tony Ray-Jones, Louisiana Art & Science Museum, Baton Rouge, USA

2005

A Gentle Madness: The Photographs of Tony Ray-Jones, National Museum of Photography, Film & Television in Bradford
A Gentle Madness: The Photographs of Tony Ray-Jones, Nederlands Fotomuseum, Netherlands

2003

A Day Off: An English Journal, Ariel Meyerowitz Gallery, New York

2004

A Gentle Madness: The Photographs of Tony Ray-Jones, Les Recontres Internationales de la Photographie at Arles

2002

Tony Ray-Jones, Focus Gallery, London

1974

Tony Ray-Jones, Optica: centre for contemporary art, Montreal

1972

Master of the Medium, Optica: centre for contemporary art, Montreal

1970

Tony Ray-Jones, Recontre Gallery, Paris


Selected Group Exhibitions:

2012

Observers, Sesi, Sao Paulo

2011

Mass Photography: Blackpool Through the Camera, Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, England
The Antidote to Troubled Times, Alan Klotz Gallery, New York
The Lives of Great Photographers, National Museum of Photography, Film & Television in Bradford

2010

Let Us Face the Future: British Art 1945-1968, Fundacion Joan Miro, Barcelona, Spain
Autour de l'extreme, Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris

2008-2009

No Such Thing as Society, Photography in Britain: 1968-1987, Hayward Gallery, London (touring exhibition)

2008

Post WWII British Photography, Alan Klotz Gallery, New York
Silver - Artrage 25, Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts, Perth, Australia
Live Art on Camera, Space, London

2007

Between Today and Yesterday, Turnpike Gallery, Leigh, England
Being Beauteous, White Space Gallery, London
A Selection of Exceptional Vintage Photographs, Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago, USA
The British Are Coming: A Group Exhibition, Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto

2006

Beach Photography, White Space Gallery, London
Tiefenscharfe, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Baden-Baden, Germany

2005

La Photographie a l'epreuve, Musee d'Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne Metropole, France
La Photographie a l'epreuve, Institut d'art contemporain, Villeurbanne, France

2003

Collecting Photography, Focus Gallery, London
Les choix dCB, Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Paris

1996
& Tony Ray-Jones, Astley Cheetham Art Gallery, Ashton-under-Lyne, England

1990

Personal Views, Phototec, Nicosia, Cyprus
Personal Views, Odos Athinon Gallery, Limassol, Cyprus

1989

Through the Looking Glass: Photographic art in Britain 1945-1989, Barbican Art Gallery, London

1986

British Photography: Tony Ray-Jones, David Hurn and Ian Berry, XYZ Fotografie Gallery, Ghent, Belgium

1983

Personal Views, Musees Royaux des Beaux Arts, Brussels, Belgium

1982

Personal Views, Brazil

Les choix de l': la photographie depuis 1940, Musee du Bas-Saint-Laurent, Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec

1981

Les choix de l': la photographie depuis 1940, Musée dcontemporain de Montréal, Montreal, Quebec

1980

Personal Views, Galerije Grada, Zagreb, Yugoslavia

1977

Documenta 6, Kunsthalle Fridericianum, Kassel

1976

Portrund Situationen, Württembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart

1975

Portrund Situationen, Haus am Waldsee: Der Ort internationaler Gegenwartskunst, Berlin

1969

Four Photographers in Contrast, Institute of Contemporary Arts, London
Vision and Expression, George Eastman House, Rochester, New York


Publications:

A Day off: An English Journal, Thames & Hudson (1974)
Tony Ray-Jones by Russell Roberts (2004)
Tony Ray-Jones by Richard Ehrlich (1995)


National Media Museum
British Council
Arts Council
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Baio Collection of Photography
Victoria & Albert Museum
John Creasey Museum
Bibliotheque Nationale de France




British Photography / The Hyman Collection

Tony Ray-Jones

All images © the artist or copyright holder | Website © The Hyman Collection 2018