Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr

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 (Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum )
Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum
 (Martin Parr © Martin Parr/ Magnum)
Martin Parr © Martin Parr/ Magnum
 (Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum)
Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum
 (Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum )
Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum
 (Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum )
Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum
 (Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum)
Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum
 (Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum)
Tony Ray-Jones © National Media Museum

This exhibition (intriguingly hosted by the Science Museum in its new Media Space on the second floor) shows work by two photographers fascinated by the eccentricities of English social customs.

The late Tony Ray-Jones spent the 1950s and ’60s traveling across England documenting a disappearing way of life and spearing English culture with his insightful black and white snaps. An inspiration to Martin Parr – a photographer who followed in his footsteps by taking candid shots of Brits, particularly at play by the sea – Ray-Jones was a creative predecessor to some of our best documentary photographers.

For this show, expect archive work printed by Ray-Jones, as well as a selection of the photographer's work chosen by Martin Parr from a massive selection of negatives stored in the National Media Museum’s archives. Parr is also exhibiting his own rarely seen 1960s and ’70s series, 'The Non-Conformists'.

The exhibition is open daily 10am-6pm, last admission 5.15pm.


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English photographer Tony Ray-Jones documented English customs and identity during the 1960s. Despite dying tragically young, his revolutionary photographs caught the attention of many, including the ICA who exhibited his work in 1969.

Ray-Jones’ contemporary, Martin Parr, was also captivated by his images, and sought to continue his legacy. Parr’s collection, The Non-Conformists, was shot in Yorkshire in the 1970s. Both series of photographs have a uniquely British sensibility, giving a snapshot of the lives of ordinary people enjoying typical British pastimes. Many scenes have a Carry-On humour to them, while others are touching and poignant. 

This exhibition features more than 100 photos from the Tony Ray-Jones Collection, held by the National Media Archive, chosen with help from Martin Parr. Fifty of these have never been printed before. These are displayed alongside 50 photos by Parr himself, many of which haven’t been exhibited in public for 30 years. This lovely exhibition gives an insight into what it means to be British and is well worth a visit.

The National Media Archive in Bradford holds over a million images in the National Photography Collection. In an effort to present these images to a wider audience, the Science Museum recently opened the 525 square metre Media Space. The bright and airy gallery will present a series of exhibitions and events, of which Only In England is one.

For more art in plain English, visit

Loved it. Whimsical grittiness. The show of British stoicism reinforces why the United Kingdom did not lose the World Wars

A quite superb exhibition of photographs, particularly if you are interested in people and their relationships.

MUST-SEE in London! Fantastic photos put together as a conversation between two artists. I envy Martin Parr going through 2500 contact sheets of Tony-Ray Jones, so good that this job has been done and his many great photos were rediscovered. Highly recommended!

take up analogue (film) photography its a great hobby ,don't be like the other sheep and buy a digital camera ,go out and buy a film camera there are so many second hand cameras 35mm and 120 and sheet film ,develop your own negatives and print your own photos there are a lot of darkrooms for hire in London ,or you can set up your own darkroom ,when you see that image appear on the paper as you rock the developing tray you will be hooked .I started at the age of 13 and I am nearly 60 now and still shoot film with Nikons and Hasselblad cameras and I have my own darkroom . have a go ,you will like it

Being familiar with Tony Ray-Jones' name, but not large amounts of his work, I still thought I had a fairly good idea of what to expect from this exhibition. What I did not expect, was to feel literally dropped into England in the late 60's. (Although I personally wasn't alive at this point, from tales from my parents and grandparents and photographs from our family collections, I felt the exhibition echoed all I'd learnt and heard about the era.) The way he takes shots as an observer, yet captures more than any family photo could has left me itching to see if I can ever emulate the same effect in my own photos. Ray-Jones' work transports you into the steadfast eccentricism of England, heels dug in against the new wave of culture making it's way over. It's fascinating, being alive in this age of diversity and wondering what he'd make of it all, how he'd photograph it now. His exceptional talent for capturing a busy scene without making it chaotic is entrancing, as your eyes wander around each frame like a Where's Wally poster, finding every tiny detail. I spent an easy two hours absorbing every photo, reading all of his notes-to-self and I'd highly recommending all photographers - even if street isn't your thing - to go and take a look at this excellent compilation of his work. Parr's selections after pouring through so many contact sheets are truly impressive and it's great to hear him speak about him. One not to be missed.

I'd argue that what Cartier-Bresson did for French social narrative, Parr (himself and through Ray-Jones' images) has done for the British. This is undoubtedly an insightful exhibition, with some absurdly creative and insightful images being supported by notebook musings and contact sheets. A celebration of eccentricity and individualism, as well as the idiosyncratic, certainly. But also a sentimental reminder of the earthy, stoic characters of childhood. I left the room wishing I'd done another lap, wondering how such captivating images could possibly be made from such mundane subjects. In both cases, works of utter genius and up there with the best of them.

An amazing retrospective. Truly humbling to see the beginnings of what could have been a great career from Ray Jones and how he influenced Parr so much. Parr's reverence for Ray Jones comes through in his words and selections. An amazing collection and a real insight.