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Explore some weird and wonderful views of the British coast with this selection of photographs from the Tony Ray-Jones Archive.

Many of us will have been looking forward to a holiday this summer, only for Covid-19 to throw a spanner in the works. As an alternative to a beach getaway, we dug up some weird and wonderful photos of seaside life in the 1960s, captured by eclectic street photographer Tony Ray-Jones (1941–72). Images of the seaside are prevalent among Ray-Jones’ English photographs. He was less interested in landscapes than he was in people watching, his close-yet-unobtrusive style and eye for detail allowing him to find quirkiness in the mundane.

Ray-Jones spent his short but prolific career in the 1960s and early 1970s travelling around the UK, US, and other countries to document various customs, celebrations, and cultural scenes. The National Science and Media Museum is privileged to be the custodian of the Tony Ray-Jones Archive, which contains the photographer’s life’s work, including negatives, contact sheets, cameras, notebooks and other ephemera. The archive is currently being catalogued to item level and is available for researchers to consult.

Several of the images featured in this post were published in Ray-Jones’ posthumous book, A Day Off: An English Journal (1974) and were exhibited in our 2014 exhibition Only in England.

'England by the Sea' title page
England by the Sea hand-drawn title page by Tony Ray-Jones, 1969–70 © Science Museum Group Collection
Man asleep on a deckchair on Blackpool beach
Blackpool by Tony Ray-Jones, c.1967 © Science Museum Group Collection
Family sitting on a dinosaur-shaped bench in Blackpool
Blackpool by Tony Ray-Jones, c.1967 © Science Museum Group Collection
Family on the beach at Margate
Margate by Tony Ray-Jones, c.1967 © Science Museum Group Collection
Girl sat on a towel on Brighton Beach
Brighton Beach by Tony Ray-Jones, c.1967 © Science Museum Group Collection
Group of people in deckchairs on Scarborough seafront
Scarborough by Tony Ray-Jones, 1967 © Science Museum Group Collection
Family on Margate beach with clock tower in background
Margate by Tony Ray-Jones, 1967 © Science Museum Group Collection
Family on Blackpool seafront with seagull overhead
Blackpool by Tony Ray-Jones, 1967 © Science Museum Group Collection
Group of people on Brighton Beach
Brighton Beach by Tony Ray-Jones, 1966 © Science Museum Group Collection
Man moving stuffed bear on a plinth on Brighton seafront
Brighton Beach by Tony Ray-Jones, 1969 © Science Museum Group Collection
Group of passengers on a pleasure boat trip from Beachy Head
Beachy Head boat trip by Tony Ray-Jones, 1966 © Science Museum Group Collection
Couple sat at a portable table with cars in background
Weston-super-Mare by Tony Ray-Jones, 1969 © Science Museum Group Collection
Man asleep on a deckchair on Eastbourne beach
Eastbourne by Tony Ray-Jones, 1968 © Science Museum Group Collection
Group of people on the beach at Broadstairs
Punch and Judy Man, Broadstairs by Tony Ray-Jones, 1968 © Science Museum Group Collection
Large group of people dancing in a hall
Butlins, Clacton by Tony Ray-Jones, 1967 © Science Museum Group Collection

One comment on “By the seaside with Tony Ray-Jones

  1. Love this. I remember in the 50s going to Blackpool and my parents sitting on the beach in overcoats.

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