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  • Writer's pictureMark Heathcote

Tracing Tony Ray Jones in Ramsgate

It's funny how some things get better as the years go by, while other things deteriorate. I happen to take an interest in old street photographs and like to spend time trying to locate where the shot was originally taken (see some of my other articles tracking down shots by Jesse Marlow and Trent Parke).

Since I am based in Kent, UK, it would be a major omission for me not to hunt down some of the work of Tony Ray Jones. His old book 'A Day Off' contains images from the Kent coast, and with Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate being a hunting ground of my own too, I tracked down and shot at several of his locations. Tony of course died young, in the 1970's I think, but this book is well worth adding to your collection if you can find a copy.

Here I am going to look specifically at a photograph taken in Ramsgate. I know this image well as I have a limited edition print hanging on my wall. It is an absolute delight to look at. I do hope though that by showing a photograph of my wall that I am not breaching Martin Parr's copyright (he owns the rights to all Tony's work I believe).

Ramsgate 1968 - by Tony Ray Jones - two years before I was born

If you know Ramsgate, you will probably recognise the location immedietly. The image shows a bustling seaside scene and a popular destination for visitors.

When revisiting this scene in 2014, the decline of the area over the decades was very apparent. Here is what it looked like then.

Royal Victoria Pavilion Ramsgate 2014

I have recreated the angle as best I could, and it clearly shows some changes to the beach front and the level of the sand. The ramp also appears to have been removed. The main thing this highlighted to me is how the location has become derelict and unused, but some families still gather there on a sunny day. I simply could not get an image that worked, and that reminded me that a single image on my wall was probably just one frame of many that Tony took as he looked to create something special.

The story doesn't end there though, Ramsgate has had a bit of a regeneration in more recent years, and this building has since been refurbished. It is now a Wetherspoons pub and renamed the Wetherspoons Royal Victoria Pavilion. How things have changed. I don't have a recent image to post here yet, but I plan to visit again in the near future, so watch this space.

I also have reshoots from other locations, like Margate, but would require permission to post some of the original images. So, Martin, if you are reading this, I would love to post the now and then of some other of Tony's work if you are happy to provide permission.

See my other articles for technique analysis, old photograph locations, and street photography tips.


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