Tony Boxall, Gypsy Photographer, Dies at 81

Posted by David Ozanich — 24 Jan 2011


Tony Boxall, a photographer known for his portraits of Gypsies taken in the 1960s, has died at the age of 81. His photographs were published to acclaim in his 1992 book Gyspy Camera. An excerpt from The Guardian's obituary:

It was in the betting shop that Tony suddenly became involved with photo- graphy, a subject he had never had any interest in. He had never even taken a photograph. One day a punter asked if he could settle a gambling debt with a camera. This was a 6x6 Zeiss Ikon Nettar and Tony asked his boss whether or not to accept it. He told Tony he could have the camera and use it to take photos of his and Eve's two young sons, Colin and Kevin.

A neighbour showed Tony how to use the camera and develop his own film. Tony became a prolific photographer and began to win competitions in newspapers and magazines. By this time he was using a Mamiya C33 twin lens reflex camera, which was easier to operate, and he proved to have an instinctive eye for a good shot.

Here's how he got his start photographing his subjects:

One day in 1964, Tony overtook a Gypsy couple riding a horse and cart in a lane near Horley, Surrey. The man shouted abuse at Tony when he realised that Tony had stopped to take photographs of him. After he had driven away, Tony decided to find the couple, apologise and give them copies of the photographs. After several weekends, he tracked them down. Tony was then invited to take more photos of Jim and Louise Vincent and their family, but only in return for a cigarette and with a warning that the dogs might bite him.

Tony's photographs show that despite having no amenities such as electricity, no access to education and limited access to medical care, they were a loving, stable and devoted family. The pictures also highlight their love of animals, particularly the children's obvious affection for dogs, bantams and guinea pigs.


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