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Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr


May 24, 2017
  • 30 previously unseen works by British Photographer Tony Ray-Jones touring the UK following the exhibition’s premier at the Science Museum in London in 2013.
  • Shown alongside early black and white photographs taken by Martin Parr in the 1970s also on tour for the first time.
  • The exhibition explores the relationship between these two seminal British photographers and their fascination with the English.


27th May – 3rd October 2017, Palace Arts Gallery and Kirkleatham Museum – Free entry

The first ever major exhibition of work by British photographer Tony Ray-Jones (1941-1972) is touring the UK following its premier at the Science Museum in London in 2013. The exhibition features 70 works drawn from the Tony Ray-Jones archive at the National Science and Media Museum in Bradford (formerly the National Media Museum) alongside 30 rarely seen early black and white photographs, The Non-Conformists, by Martin Parr (1952).

The exhibition will be on display at Palace Arts Gallery on Redcar seafront and Kirkleatham Museum.

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 aged just 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, was 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 draws from the Tony Ray-Jones archive, held by the National Science and Media Museum. 40 vintage prints are displayed along with 30 photographs which have never previously been printed. Martin Parr was invited to select these new works from the 2700 contact sheets and negatives in the archive. Shown alongside these are images from Parr’s early black and white work, unfamiliar to many, which had 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 Connecticut, US. 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. 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, Surrey 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 non-conformist chapels and the communities he encountered in the town, he produced The Non-Conformists. In 1984 Parr began to work in colour and his breakthrough publication The Last Resort was published in 1986. A member of Magnum, Parr is now an internationally renowned photographer, filmmaker, collector and curator, best-known for his highly saturated colour photographs critiquing modern life.

The exhibition is curated by Greg Hobson, formerly the Curator of Photographs at the National Science and Media Museum, and Martin Parr was invited to select works from the Tony Ray-Jones archives.

Greg Hobson said: “The combination of Martin Parr and Tony Ray-Jones’ work will allow the viewer to trace an important trajectory through the history of British photography, and present new ways of thinking about photographic histories through creative use of our collections”.

Martin Parr said: “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”.

Nel Hickson, Director of Palace Arts said: “Only in England might almost have been tailor-made for a Teesside audience, and Redcar folk in particular. Tony Ray-Jones’ images of the sixties and Martin Parr’s from the following decade pack a powerful nostalgic punch sure to appeal to both residents and visitors to our town”.

Councillor Carl Quartermain, Cabinet Member for Jobs, Skills and Leisure said: “Having a world-class exhibition right on Redcar seafront is another excellent reason to pay a visit to our town this summer”.

Jo Quinton-Tulloch, Director of the National Science and Media Museum said: “I’m delighted that the exhibition is travelling to Redcar and will continue to inspire audiences in the North East of England. The photographs have immediate appeal and the Palace Arts Gallery itself is right on the Esplanade so is a perfect place to display Tony Ray Jones’ images of people enjoying the seaside

By Emily