Tony Ray-Jones American Colour 1962-1965
The book is a really nice small unassuming size printed square to allow the different images space on the page as Tony Ray-Jones seemed to use a variety of camera formats with some obvious 35mm frames and some that are square and he would shoot either landscapes or verticals. The format allows the images to hang together with out being to jarring when switching across all these different formats, (square, landscape & vertical). The book while a interesting take on the early work of this great photographer who went on to make one of the best black and white bodies of work of the English really in my opinion shines with the writing of Liz Jobey. I have read a lot about Tony Ray-Jones and have two books on him A Day Off and Tony Ray-Jones (the purple covered book). Yet this writing that Liz has done brings him to life for me as a young artist working on the streets of New York. I particularly liked Joel Meyerowitz’s recollections that he quotes about them working together in New York when it was a radical thing to be working with colour in photography, after all serious artists had always worked in black and white, colour was suspect as it was the preserve of Advertising photographers and amateurs and to be a serious photographer you were not wanting to be seen as a amateur photographer.
A few of the standout quote for me are below:
“The ability to select and order – or at least organise format of chaos – to see beyond the visual static of crowds the and capture a singular moment; to attract a meaningful frame from a constantly shifting scenario playing out in front of him, this was a skill that was found among the street parades and festivals in New York.” – for me this talks about how one develops as a photographer especially someone who is interested in making images from life, it is extracting and finding those moments that somehow cohere together to make it interesting composition and therein a statement about what you see in front of you with your camera.
“(We all have) to learn to overcome our inadequacies. We recognise them as strokes that we follow, because they’re easy to do, and then we realise: ‘ I don’t want to do this thing again. Keep falling back on it. It’s because my mind isn’t tough enough.’ And so you start to get rid of these things that you fall back on to easily.” – We all have these tendencies to repeat ourselves, to work within cliches, or to find working methods that other people have used successfully in the past. I still struggle with this myself, as I want my work to be uniquely my own, not that it’s some of the photographer with my interests bolted onto their approach to my making photographs.
“In that sense he was following some of Brodovitch’s* precepts: “try everything… Learn from your mistakes. Discover your own visual ABC”.” this is about exploring your own work looking for your mistakes, even looking at the good photos to see if you have made mistakes and looking for your own visual style that will enable you to create your own distinctive work.
*note: Brodovitch was hugely influential generation of photographers we grew up in the 60s and 70s in New York City primarily with his design laboratory, however his influence extended far beyond this because of his work at leading fashion magazine Harpers Bazaar.