Art & Photography

Todd Lemire

Mon Sep 30 2013 02:16:29 GMT+0000 (Coordinated Universal Time)

Less public than a park bench but more than a bedroom, our cars are in-between zones, roaming bubbles of personal space that leave us partly exposed. It's easy to be lulled into letting your guard slip a little—as with the woman Tony Ray-Jones found napping in a white convertible in Daytona, Fla., (above) in May 1965. The red of the blanket she rests her head against echoes the candy-apple coloring of so many of the hot rods gathered at the raceway. One can almost hear the engines revving in the background. Ray-Jones (1941-72) specialized in isolating such moments of intimacy in public scenes. He is best known for wry studies of street life in his native England, but 'American Colour 1962-1965' (MACK, 80 pages, $30) gathers never-before-published work done while he lived in America, first as a student and then as an art director for magazines (including Car & Driver). Coming from what he called a 'black and white country,' Ray-Jones reveled in the gorgeous garishness of American life, photographing people in parks, at parades, on motorcycles, in buses and on sidewalks. The layered, zoomed-in compositions he produced can feel uncomfortably close or even voyeuristic. A scene of four boys fishing under a bridge in Central Park, with a blurry scrim of branches in the foreground, adds a sliver of unease to an almost pastoral scene. In another image, a girl decked out with heavy rouge and a shiny hair bow stares from a car's back window. Her over-the-top adornments match the bright chrome and ornate styling of the midcentury sedan; her expression is jarringly morose. Ray-Jones returned home not long after his trip to Daytona in 1965. Among the items on his re-entry to-do list? 'Get driver's licence.'

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