Tony Ray-Jones died in 1972 from leukaemia, aged just 30. After studying photography in England in the late 1950s he went for further study in New York between 1961 and 1964. The exhibition explains that in America ‘the street’ was much more a focus of outdoor life and community and was much more photographed and described than in rainy England.
When he returned to the UK in 1965, Ray-Jones was determined to apply the American aesthetic to record the quirks and character of English street life and his pioneering approach to the drama and narrative of ‘ordinary’ life became hugely influential on all succeeding photographers.
Ray-Jones spent the later 1960s travelling extensively all over England, observing human beings in all their eccentricity and quirkiness. He was photographing what he saw as a disappearing way of life, aware of the onrushing encroachment of Americanisation, of consumerism, of white goods and conveniences which was replacing the England of back-to-backs, outside loos and heavy prams