Photography and Art

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Tony Ray-Jones

One of my favourite photographers is Tony Ray-Jones. He lived from 1941-1972, dying far too young from leukemia. I discovered Ray-Jones at a British retrospective show at the Stephen Bulger Gallery in Toronto.

For a number of years, Ray-Jones took some wonderful images of British life before the influence of America changed it forever. My wife and I liked a couple of images in the show very much, including the one on the left.

At Christmas-time, I was looking for a gift for my wife and thought seriously about plonking down a few thou' to purchase a print of the photograph from the Bulger gallery. The prints were produced from the original negs by the Ray-Jones estate and had the look of original prints, done in a traditional photo printing way.

Looking for a more reasonable solution, I started to poke around the web and found that the rights to the photograph were held by the UK Science and Society Picture Library. This library is a treasure-trove of pictures and well worth a few hours of on-line browsing. Not only that, but the library had an arrangement with a high quality printing house to reproduce its archive of photographs at fairly reasonable prices (around 50 pounds un-mounted). I ordered the Ray-Jones Glyndebourne 1967 photograph on high quality art paper and it was delivered the week before Christmas.

My wife was delighted with her gift, but I can't say I'm totally pleased with the quality of the reproduction. The print is much more contrasty than the gallery print that I saw and doesn't have the subtle grays that you see in the small web photo above. Interesting to note that the image on the printing house web site is very different from the one above (see below).

All the shadow detail has disappeared and the halftones are gone. Compare the tables in the two images and you'll see how horrible the printed version that we received is compared to the original.

I've sent off some e-mail enquiries to see why the reproduction is so bad and I'll update this post once I hear from the museum.

While it is nice to have an image on our wall that reflects the artist's flare for composition and captures a very amusing, very British scene, it would be better to have something that approximates the original photograph in quality.

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