Tony Ray-Jones

[Ray Jones'] most successful pictures have this strong, multilayered architecture, built up by the passage of people and events within the frame. There is a tension between control and the lack of it; between the structure of the picture and the chance encounters that undermine it.

- Liz Toey, The English SeenGuardian. 02/10/2004.


The latter half of the twentieth century witnessed a diversification of ideas surrounding documentary photography, as notions of objectivity were debated and the boundaries between 'documentary' and 'art' became increasingly blurred. The traditional intention to produce socially concerned images shifted towards a preoccupation with the subjectivity and personal vision of the photographer. Many photographers sought to interpret the human experience rather than record it; the publication of Robert Frank's The Americans (1959) inspired a new generation of street photographers including Joel Meyerowitz and Garry Winogrand. In the early 1960s, Tony Ray-Jones found himself at the forefront of this imaginative and stimulating period of American photography. The five years Ray-Jones spent in the United States were essential to his artistic development, specifically his interaction with other students at Alexey Brodovitch's Design Laboratory. He befriended Joel Meyerowitz and together they roamed the streets of New York, photographing parades or people in Times Square. Ray-Jones' first photographic project chronicled the lives of black Americans living in New Haven; the black and white images employ a straightforward approach and show exceptional formal organization.