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Charles Jones

Parsnip Student, c.1900

Charles Jones (1866-1959) is one of the photography world’s most recent and mysterious discoveries. Born in England in 1866, he was a trained gardener who achieved public recognition for his horticultural skills. Between 1895 and 1910 Jones experimented with photography and produced a series of stunning gold-toned gelatin silver prints of vegetables, fruits, and flowers. He photographed his subjects isolated from nature, against neutral or dark backdrops. His technique was unprecedented for the time and foreshadows the photographs of Edward Weston, Karl Blossfeldt and other Modernist images from the 1920s and 1930s.  Yet, Charles Jones was not recognized as a photographer in his lifetime. It is likely that Jones photographed for his own private exploration and did not share his new found interest with family or friends. The artist’s work was unknown until discovered by a collector in a London street market in 1981. Charles Jones left behind no negatives, journals, or papers and died a near recluse in 1959.

A beautiful monograph of his work was published in 1998 entitled, Plant Kingdoms: The Photographs of Charles Jones with a forward by Alice Waters.