By Sarah Hanson, Touring Exhibitions Coordinator, Science Museum Group
‘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.’ – Martin Parr
Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr is a wonderful photography exhibition exploring the eccentric habits of the English at leisure. In 2013, it launched the Science Museum’s Media Space gallery, and in 2014 it went on to be displayed at the National Media Museum, Bradford. This unique exhibition draws from the National Media Museum’s archive of Tony Ray-Jones’ work. It features 70 of Ray-Jones’ photographs: 40 vintage prints accompanied by 30 previously unpublished, unexhibited photographs. These are shown alongside 30 images from Martin Parr’s first major body of work, The Non-Conformists.
The exhibition is now on a regional tour of the UK, with the first stop being The Beaney House of Art & Knowledge in Canterbury, where it opened on Saturday 9 July and will be on display until 25 September.
The installation at The Beaney was carried out over a period of five days, and the pictures were expertly hung by the fantastic technicians Julian and Paul, pictured below.
Martin Parr and Tony Ray-Jones’ closely related bodies of work about the English provide an elegant and exciting visual counterpoint for each other. A large portion of Ray-Jones’ work documents the habits of the English at the seaside, as he toured England in the late 1960s visiting the resorts of Brighton, Great Yarmouth, Margate and Blackpool, with both wistful and humorous results.
The team at The Beaney were moved by the many pictures of the Kent coastline, which is so familiar to them; Margate, Ramsgate and Herne Bay were particular favourites of Mitch, who coordinated the exhibition alongside me, and they found it so enjoyable to be able to see the pictures close up for the first time. Condition-checking the prints may have taken longer than usual, as we pored over the scenes captured by the photographers!
Only in England is funded by Arts Council England. Their funding has enabled this regional tour of these fantastic photographs, which will conclude in 2018. Look out for it at a venue in your region!
Find out more about the exhibition and the accompanying series of events on the Canterbury Museums & Galleries website.