Island Life: Photographs from the Martin Parr Foundation

Tony Ray-Jones

Born 1941, Wells, died 1972, London

‘My aim is to communicate something of the spirit and the mentality of the English, their habits and their way of life, the ironies that exist in the way they do things, partly through their traditions and partly through the nature of their environment and their mentality. For me there is something very special about the English “way of life” and I wish to record it from my particular point of view before it becomes Americanised and disappears’.

After the London School of Printmaking Tony Ray-Jones got a scholarship to Yale University aged 19, remaining in America until 1965. He worked in the New York Design Lab run by Alexey Brodovitch, meeting Gary Winogrand and others, delivering assignments for the Saturday Evening Post. Back in the UK a photo-story for Architectural Review and an essay on housing estates followed before he returned to America to teach. Back in England, his US experience enabled him to see the extraordinary in the everyday and he developed a sharp-eyed brand of quintessentially British vernacular photography that illustrated the ‘stolen moment’ of Cartier Bresson in action. He died from leukaemia aged 31.