Only in England: Photographs by Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr
21 October 2017 – 15 April 2018
Martin Parr's breakthrough work, the Non Conformists, is shown alongside the Tony Ray-Jones photographs that inspired it.
In 1970, Martin Parr, a student at Manchester Polytechnic, was introduced to the work of Tony Ray-Jones. For the aspiring young photographer the impact was long-lasting; the images, humorous yet traced with melancholy, were completely unlike anything else being produced at the time and he would later claim Ray-Jones to be the major inspiration behind his career.
Parr was not the only one to recognise Ray-Jones' unique ability for documenting English customs and identity. Having attracted the attention of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, Ray-Jones exhibited at the venue in 1969. Sadly he died just a few years later aged 30, yet his short career had a profound influence on the development of British photography.
Within two years of Ray-Jones' death, Parr began working on a project directly inspired by him. Fascinated by the variety of non-conformist chapels he encountered in rural Yorkshire, he shot a series of work, entitled The Non-Conformists, in Hebden Bridge and the surrounding Calder Valley. These early black and white images have previously only ever been exhibited in Hebden Bridge itself and at the Camerawork Gallery for a brief spell in 1981. Here, shown alongside works from the Tony Ray-Jones archive, there are clear parallels between the project and the photographs that inspired it.
A Magnum photographer, Parr has garnered international acclaim and also works as a filmmaker, collector and curator. Discussing the exhibition he says, '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.'