Born in Wolverhampton in 1866, Charles Jones has been accepted by many as a photographic figure to remain forever mysterious. Little is known of the life of the man or the reasons behind his creation of such a prodigious and concentrated body of work, in particular one that proclaims a subtle yet deeply felt sensibility for nature and provides an undeniably significant contribution to the worlds of both natural and art history.
His work was unacknowledged during his lifetime, it was only when in a Bermondsey antique market in London in 1981, historian and photographic collector, Sean Sexton, plucked Charles Jones photographs from certain obscurity by buying a trunk that contained several hundred images of turn of the century photographs. Most of these singular examples of initialed photographs depicted vegetables whilst a third of them were images of fruits and flowers. Charles Jones was fastidious in his executions as he was meticulous in his printings, which were gold toned gelatine silver prints from glass plate negatives.
A skilled printer, Jones' photographs show a clear and natural command for composition and tone. Seeming at first to conduct natural studies of the fruits of his professional labors, it is his isolation of his subjects and their presentation against neutral backgrounds that elevate them to the status of portrait; The style adopted by Charles Jones during the production of his work, featuring a delicate play on arrangement, light and focus, sees an anticipation of the modernist masters with which he is now associated and who would produce work further to Jones' beginnings: Edward Weston, August Kotzsch and Joseph Sudek to name a few.
Since their discovery 22 years after Charles Jones' death, his photographs have been exhibited in several institutions including The Museum of Fine Art in San Francisco and the Musée de Elysée, as well as been reproduced in the 1998 publication The Plant Kingdom of Charles Jones.