If you weren’t able to make it to the exhibition of the Mass Observation Archives, you will still have a chance to delve into the photographic archives of two documentary photographers now on show at the new Media Space at the Science Museum. These works both reveal and revel in humanity going about its daily business, but also delve deeply into the “nature of Englishness” in all its quirkiness and eccentricity: lounging in suits on deckchairs, at markets and village fetes, drinking tea at Glyndebourne opera amongst grazing cattle, or families on holiday eating ice creams at the seaside.
Tony Ray-Jones (1941-72) and Martin Parr (born 1952) were revolutionary photographers, whose approach to photography redefined British photography as an documentary art form. Tragically, Ray-Jones died of leukemia at an early age, and this exhibition, a collaboration between the Science Museum and the National Media Museum in Bradford, displays fifty-five previously unpublished photographs by Ray-Jones, chosen by Parr from the Ray-Jones archive.
Ray-Jones was an iconoclast, who was interested in the absurdities of daily life, particularly that of post-war England. His work was a great influence on his contemporary, Martin Parr. Both photographers documented England at leisure, preserving many images of this nation in all its absurdities and eccentricities. Many of the photographs capture England at its most absurd, even in seemingly ordinary situations. The effect is disarming and decidedly intriguing.
Only In England runs until 16 March 2014 at the Science Museum’s Media Space. Admission £8, concessions £5.