In pictures: English life in the 1960s, photographed by Tony Ray-Jones

Emma Slattery Williams explores the work of Tony Ray-Jones: a pioneer of British post-war photography whose images distilled the lighthearted, social side of English life in the late 1960s

A family at the seaside in the 1960s.

Between 1966 and 1969, photographer Tony Ray-Jones – then in his mid-twenties – travelled across England in a campervan, capturing on camera what he described as the essence of “the English way of life… before it becomes more Americanised”.

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His fascination with ‘Englishness’ – from manners and traditions, to eccentricities and comedy – saw Ray-Jones travel the length and breadth of the country, capturing amusing and often poignant images of people at work and at play, enjoying their leisure time in a uniquely English way, or focussed on their daily struggle to survive.

The resulting images encompass a wealth of English scenes – from disorganised family days at the beach, to the airs and graces of Glyndebourne: snapshots of history that are forever English. Here are some of BBC History Revealed‘s favourites, taken from a new Bristol exhibition on Tony Ray-Jones.

Mabelthorpe, 1967. A familiar and often chaotic family scene at the beach. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Mabelthorpe, 1967. A familiar and often chaotic family scene at the beach. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
The seaside, 1966. A couple catches some rays while listening to music on a portable record player, singles lined up on the blanket beside them. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
The seaside, 1966. A couple catches some rays while listening to music on a portable record player, singles lined up on the blanket beside them. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Glyndebourne, 1967. Music fans picnic in style at the annual opera festival. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Glyndebourne, 1967. Music fans picnic in style at the annual opera festival. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Notting Hill Gate, 1967. Although best known for capturing the lighter side of English life, Ray-Jones often recorded the daily struggle to survive. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Notting Hill Gate, 1967. Although best known for capturing the lighter side of English life, Ray-Jones often recorded the daily struggle to survive. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Windsor Horse Show, 1967. This annual event draws in horse lovers from across the world to watch dressage and show jumping. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Windsor Horse Show, 1967. This annual event draws in horse lovers from across the world to watch dressage and show jumping. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Epsom Derby Day, 1968. Horse-racing fans enjoy the summer tradition of eating ice-creams – from the relative comfort of their car. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Epsom Derby Day, 1968. Horse-racing fans enjoy the summer tradition of eating ice-creams – from the relative comfort of their car. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Brighton, 1966. The English seaside has long been a place of enjoyment for all ages, whatever the weather. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Brighton, 1966. The English seaside has long been a place of enjoyment for all ages, whatever the weather. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Brighton Beach 1967. An elderly man rolls up his trousers and enjoys a spot of paddling in the sea. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)
Brighton Beach 1967. An elderly man rolls up his trousers and enjoys a spot of paddling in the sea. (Image © Tony Ray-Jones/National Science & Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library)

EXHIBITION: The English Seen by Tony Ray-Jones will run at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol until 21 December 2019. Admission is free. 

READ: An accompanying book has been published by RRB Photobooks/Martin Parr Foundation, titled Tony Ray-Jones

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This article was first published in the Christmas 2019 edition of BBC History Revealed