St Helena Online

Tag: Jon Tonks

Don’t get too puffed up, Marcus, but… you’ve been framed

With the mask and goggles that protect him from the daily risk of an explosion – to say nothing of his vast balloon – Marcus Henry looks like a desert wanderer who’s been blown badly off course.

But now it’s his ego that’s in danger of being over-inflated.

His picture has earned a temporary place in one of the world’s most prestigious photographic exhibitions, at the National Portrait Gallery in London.

Picture by Jon Tonks, used with permissionClick the pic to see a larger image

Jon Tonks’s picture of him was one of just 60 chosen from more than 4,000 images submitted for the annual Taylor Wessing portrait exhibition, which runs until 22 February 2015.

The picture also appeared at the top of page three of the Independent newspaper’s Saturday magazine.

In a short video on Jon’s website, Marcus and weather station colleagues Garry and Marvin explain how they release a hydrogen-filled balloon into the sky every day to measure atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and wind speed.

The clothing they wear helps prevent static electricity making sparks when they pick up the balloon, and igniting the very highly flammable hydrogen inside it.

Jon visited St Helena as part of his Empire project, in which he travelled to several of Britain’s most remote overseas territories (and Gibraltar). A picture of young men on Tristan da Cunha was included in the Taylor Wessing exhibition in 2012.

Photographs from his South Atlantic travels also appeared in the Observer and Sunday Times magazines.

He said he was really pleased to be selected for the Taylor Wessing exhibition a second time.

“I never expected Marcus to get in,” he said, “but I’ve always enjoyed the story behind his job on St Helena and thought it was worth go.”

Now – has anyone seen Marcus’s camel? It must have floated off on the wind.

Click to watch: The St Helena Balloon Men 

See also: 
Raymond and Cynthia achieve a uniform kind of fame
‘Nationettes’ star in Sunday Times Magazine
The Taylor Wessing Prize

 

 

Raymond and Cynthia achieve a uniform kind of fame

Click the pic of Raymond and Cynthia to find out how to order Jon Tonks's book, Empire
Click the pic of Raymond and Cynthia to find out how to order Jon Tonks’s book, Empire

Nearly a million people read The Observer newspaper. And in the final issue of 2013, they have been treated to a picture of Cynthia George and Raymond Hudson, posing in their scouting uniforms on Jamestown seafront.

The photographer, Jon Tonks, has a thing about uniforms.

The Observer says they illustrate the strangely British, but not-quite-British culture of the South Atlantic islands he features in his new book, Empire.

The picture of Raymond and Cynthia is one of the thousands Jon took for the book – 400 rolls of film in all.

During a five-year tour of the UK’s South Atlantic territories, he’s photographed firemen, police officers and the governor of the Falkland Islands in their official garb, and others besides.

Observer writer Sean O’Hagan says the book highlights “the often absurd traces of an older kind of Britishness that linger in these in-between, out-of-the-way territories”.

It also, we’re told, “evokes the everyday oddness of life” in these remnants of the British Empire.

Scouting, of course, is found all over the world, so there’s nothing odd about two Saints wearing their uniforms – Raymond as “an honorary member of the St Helena Scout Group”, and Cynthia as assistant beaver leader.

Jon, whose pictures of the territories previously appeared in the 50th anniversary issue of the iconic Sunday Times Magazine, travelled 50,000 miles in the course of his project, and spent 32 days at sea.

He visited the Falklands, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, where he photographed two lifeboats that had been hurled up a cliff by storm seas.

The Observer’s verdict on his arduous mission: “It was worth it.”

Signed pre-launch copies of Empire can be ordered from Jon’s website, here

Click any of the thumbnails below to see larger images from Jon’s book:

SEE ALSO: ‘Nationettes’ star in Sunday Times Magazine

READ MORE: Empire, by Jon Tonks – Observer review

‘Nationettes’ star in Sunday Times Magazine

The iconic Sunday Times Magazines has chosen to celebrate its 50th anniversary issue with a superb picture spread from the UK’s South Atlantic territories. Well, naturally.

Jon Tonks has spent four years capturing the character of St Helena, Ascension, Tristan da Cunha, the Falklands and Gibraltar – ‘little rocky relics of empire’ that ‘cling to the motherland’s apron,’ as the magazine puts it.

Sadly, Jon’s picture of Tony Leo’s caravan didn’t make the magazine, but it can be found on his website.

Islanders may not appreciate the accompanying text by the celebrated writer AA Gill, which dwells much on the death of the British Empire but tells us virtually nothing about Gibraltar and the South Atlantic islands as they are today.

‘Now we’re left with these specks and corners of empire,’ he writes, ‘the tiny shards, little nationettes too small, too far and too slight to make it on their own.’ He’s got a point, though.

Gill does recall, interestingly, that his father made a television documentary about Tristan da Cunha in 1962, without actually going there. Since the Tristanians were all in the UK at the time, this is understandable.

He also rather wittily describes the loss of a succession of British colonies as ‘the end of stamp-collecting as we knew it.’

But The Sunday Times Magazine is renowned for its photo-journalism, and it’s the documentary pictures of Mr Tonks that carry the feature.

He doesn’t take the usual shots. The main picture on the opening double-page spread shows a couple of lifeboats that have come to rest amid rocks and lush greenery on Tristan, well up from the shore. Apparently they’re from the oil rig that bumped into the island in 2006.

Then there’s another of one of the beaches on Ascension.

Others show the governer of the Falkland Islands, posing in full uniform (which says something for the persuasive powers of Mr Tonks), fisherman Noddy with a freshly-caught tuna off Ascension, and a flight of steps on Gibraltar painted with a ‘defiantly British’ Union flag.

There’s also a picture of a past mayor of Gibraltar, slouching in a low chair in front of a placard that reads, ‘I was born British and I want to die British’.

There is only one picture of St Helena, looking down on Jamestown – a familiar view, but slightly different in a way that’s hard to pin down. The road up Ladder Hill can be seen snaking away to one side, so it has not been taken from the usual position at the top of Jacob’s Ladder.

However, there are 27 more St Helena pictures to be found on Jon’s website, including one of Governor Gurr at Plantation, and another of trainee mechanics Jamie and Dylan, working on an old truck at Prince Andrew School. We’re not told the names of the two girls snapped in their school uniforms.

In other pictures, Tara Thomas and musician Tom relax on the verandah at The Briars; Ivor Bowers, Fabian Peters and Cedrick Henry lean against a truck at Sandy Bay; Kerisha Stevens sits on a doorstep, toes turned inwards; Steve Biggs poses in an un-Saint-like cravat; ‘the only Frenchman on the island’, Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, stands in the garden at Longwood House; and Jimmy Thomas of Half Tree Hollow leans against a blue wall in a blue shirt, not looking blue at all.

There are landscapes too, and also quite a few pictures of cars. Jon had a gift of a subject in the 1930s Austin Ambassador that was used to drive King George VI and his family around the island in 1947. If Prince William ever turns up on the island, he won’t by riding in that.

Jon had an excellent guide to the island in Ed Thorpe, also a gifted photographer.

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