It may not be the most obvious thing for the Science Museum to host, but this new exhibition featuring photographic works about the quirks of British life will not doubt be brilliant all the same. Focusing on the two maestros, Martin Parr and Tony Ray-Jones (experts on all that is eccentric about the British and their customs) the exhibition will offer a glimpse into the past and the provincial traditions of England rarely seen today.
Parr is a British photographer synonymous with the oddities found around the British Isles, and this exhibition follows the thread between Ray-Jones’ practice and the lasting impression it made on Parr as a student in Manchester. Ray-Jones was a great talent but sadly died at the devastatingly young age of 30. Despite this, there is still a wealth of work that has been preserved, much of which comes from his travels around England in the late 1960s. His critical eye captured a society on the brink of change, leaving behind it’s ‘old-fashioned’ ways. As a documenting tool, Ray-Jones’ camera was keen and perceptive but his artistry and understanding of the moment was unlike anything seen before. The collision of incidents, styles and actions in the images are what make them so peculiar, humorous and unmistakably English.
Parr has selected 50 works by Ray-Jones to go on show and they will be accompanied by Parr’s very early black and white shots ‘The Non-Conformists’, executed around Hebden Bridge shortly after Ray-Jones’ death. It’s a different aesthetic from the trademark Parr of highly saturated colour, but these melancholic shots are testament to the visual legacy of Tony Ray-Jones. Not to be missed. (Words: Laura Thornley)