It’s not what you shoot, it’s what you know.

Really nice piece by Ian Walker in this quarter’s Source magazine focusing on just one of Tony Ray-Jones’ photographs. Who, as if by magic, has a retrospective coming up at the National Museum of Film, TV & Photography.

Walker focuses on one single photo of holiday makers on the deck of a pleasure cruiser, he then explores the original incorrect captioning, the actual location of the shot and how that might account for the make up of subjects, and second guesses Ray-Jones’ movements by extensively studying his contact sheets. Ahh contact sheets. I’ve banged on about this before, about what we’re leaving with digitally to future archivist, and I’m a digital fan!

Walker goes on to say: If it had been made now, I might have worried about it being staged. But as Joe Rosenthal said about his famous Iwo Jima photo, if it had been set up, it couldn’t have been so good. For the ‘perfection of such a caught movement also involves the presence of all the peripheral, inconsequential elements as well.

Ray-Jones was shooting ‘The English’ long before Martin Parr, and it the idea of shooting what you ‘know’ that I was explaining to someone at the weekend. I’ve been touting my shots of a London Food shops around recently and talking about my work to magazines. In talking about my work I’m always reminded of at time in Mauritius. I was in the Market with a girl I met on the plane who just happened to a: be Mauritian and b: Work for the BBC… What are the chances! Anyway, we went to the market, the sort of place where tourist don’t really go, but locals do. There I was thinking I’ll get some great shots; piles of veg, rough hands and faces, saffron robes and spices… I get into the market and suddenly become the centre of attention, plus people are saying. ‘No photo’ to me as I discreetly move the camera off my new found friend and on to them. A friend was recently in Greece, and stopped by the side of the road to see a leather faced Greek Orthodox old lady sitting by the side of the road, the sun was setting, it looked a picture. The only words of English she knew were “my photo, three Euro’. What’s the point? Photograph what you know I reckon, and in his prime, Ray-Jones certainly did that.

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September 2004
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