Friday, 27 March 2009

Silver lining

Beauty contestants, Southport, UK, 1967 - photograph by Tony Ray-Jones

They say that every dark cloud has a silver lining ,and that has certainly been the case for me. Looking around the web as i recover from this injured back, i rediscovered a wonderful British documentary photographer that I'd completely forgotten about. His name is Tony Ray-Jones.

I first came across his work in a photography magazine way back in 1988 but sadly he was forgotten during my years studying photography. I still find it hard to understand why photographers such as Tony Ray-Jones are not studied more by photography students. In the last two years I've come across the work of three photographers - Roman Vishniac, Peter Korniss and Tony Ray-Jones - who were never mentioned or discussed in any of the documentary photography lectures i attended. I suppose that you can only study so many photographers during your time on a course, but these three image makers really did create important ground breaking work - the type of work that should be seen, studied and talked about.

In Tony Ray-Jones's case it may be his early death that hindered his work from becoming more prominent than other photographers of his generation. The photographer died at the young age of 30 on 13th march 1972 - just 8 days before i was born in fact. He worked extensively but his best images were taken in the USA and UK. His work during the sixties and early seventies captured Britain in the transition from old world to new. The last vestiges of empire and the old life were fading fast. Modern Britain was emerging and was already starting to loose some of its own unique distinctive identity. Many of the photographs show the British for the mad and/or slightly eccentric characters that they actually were/are. Others reflect a darker side but most retain an element of humour.

A selection of terrific Tony Ray-Jones images can be found HERE. Expect to see a photographer profile post about Ray-Jones on the blog in late April.

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