Throughout the ’80s, photographer Dafydd Jones captured the well-heeled hedonists of England’s upper classes. ‘It was another world going on behind closed doors,’ he remembers.

Throughout the ’80s, photographer Dafydd Jones captured the well-heeled hedonists of England’s upper classes. ‘It was another world going on behind closed doors,’ he remembers.

While living in Oxford, Dafydd Jones won a photography competition run by the Sunday Times magazine with a series of black and white photographs of England’s latest generation of Bright Young Things.

The year was 1981, and the nation had just endured a period of austerity filled with unrest and deprivation. The government were going hard after trade unions and minorities. Punk tried to push back, but Margaret Thatcher was on her way to serving her second term as Prime Minister.

A new feeling was in the air, and Jones began to document it. “Students in Oxford were reacting against the old period,” he remembers. “They started dressing up and having parties. There was also had a political dimension. I remember going to one dinner where people were toasting Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and celebrating their election. It was another world going on behind closed doors, which I got very interested in photographing.”

Luciana Martinez and Deryck Healey, Terence Conran 50th birthday, 1981
© Dafydd Jones

 

Tina Brown, then editor of Tatler magazine, had heard about the photos and called Jones just before the Sunday Times magazine story ran. She offered him a freelance job shooting for the glossy. Three months later, she called Jones to let him know that if he moved to London, he could have a full-time job.

Tatler didn’t have fantastic access, so a lot of it was up to me,” he says. “We tried to get into parties, and a lot of people didn’t want their parties published in magazines. It wasn’t that easy.”

Now, a selection of photographs from “The Tatler Years” are on view in Dafydd Jones: The Last Hurrah at The Photographers’ Gallery, London. Among the photographs included is the celebrated image ‘Magdalen Commemoration Ball, Oxford, 1988’ – the sleeper hit of Here We Are, the 2017 group exhibition organised by Burberry.

Trinity Hall, Cambridge, 1984 © Dafydd Jones

 

Jones’ photographs have stood the test of time, as nostalgia has softened the appeal of the people in these photographs in retrospect. “At the time, a lot of people didn’t like the people in the pictures,” he says. “A lot of people in the ’80s didn’t like the pictures. But I think the world has moved on and changed I think there is a general decline in the position of the upper classes. I think they have changed and people miss their eccentricity and the very Englishness of them.” 

“Now Central London has been taken over by international money and what used to be called the Chelsea Set are no longer in Central London. They have been pushed sideways… Someone at my opening said she went to Oxford, and it was never like this when she had been – but she wished it was.”

Burning Boat, Oriel Oxford, 1984 © Dafydd Jones

Heatwave Ball, Hilton, 1983 © Dafydd Jones

Henrietta Thompson’s hand, Falklands Ball, Grosvenor House,1982
© Dafydd Jones

New College May Ball, Oxford, 1986 © Dafydd Jones

Halloween Ball, 1987
© Dafydd Jones

Trinity Hall, Cambridge, 1983 © Dafydd Jones

Dachshunds fighting over canapes, Barbetta, New York, 1990

 

Dafydd Jones: The Last Hurrah is on show at the Photographers’ Gallery, London until September 8, 2018.

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