“I want my pictures to bite like the images in Bunuel’s films which disturb you while making you think. I want them to have poignancy and sharpness but with humour on top,” said Tony Ray-Jones (7 June 1941 – 13 March 1972), whose work between 1966 and 1969 gave us a quite unique vision of the English. “For me there is something very special and rather humorous about the English way of life and I wish to record it from my particular point of view before it becomes more Americanised… Photography can be a mirror and reflect life as it is, but I also think that perhaps it is possible to walk like Alice, through a looking-glass, and find another kind of world with the camera.”
In 1974 Ainslie Ellis wrote an introduction to A Day Off, An English Journal:
In San Francisco on 18 February 1972 Tony Ray-Jones was told that he had an acute and rare form of leukaemia. He died in London at the Royal Marsden Hospital less than a month later…
It is difficult to think of any other British photographer but Tony Ray-Jones whose pictures have that rare blend of humour and sadness which is born of both compassion and irony…
David Burch, a friend of Jones from their time as students at the London College of Printing, is quoted in the book:
“I have seen him quoted as being influenced by Vigo, Bunuel and Fellini but it should also be remembered that he loved the films of the Marx Brothers and Jacques Tati. I went with him to see Mon Oncle and he was in hysterics in some parts of it. The scene on board ship in A Night at the Opera where the small cabin is bursting at the seams with people and Groucho invites yet another character to come on in and walk around was one of his favourite sequences. Chaplin, too, interested him very much. When he was sharing a flat near Baker Street he had a very erratic projector but used to run a Chaplin film just to point out the composition of the shots.”
“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 tradition and daily anachronisms in an honest and descriptive manner, the visual aspect being directed by the content. For me there is something very special and rather humorous about the “English way of life” and I wish to record it from my particular point of view before it becomes more Americanized. We are at an important stage in our history, having in a sense just been reduced to an island or defrocked and, as De Gaulle remarked, left naked. Nudity is perhaps more revealing of personality than a heavily clothed figure.”
– Tony Ray-Jones, Creative Camera magazine, 1968
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