Charles Jones

The father of garden photography

Telegraph Cucumber by Charles Jones for Elphick's Catalogue (1910/1920) by Charles JonesGarden Museum

Born in Wolverhampton in 1866, Charles Jones was a gifted professional gardener who worked at several private estates.

Celeariac by Charles Jones for Elphick's Seed Catalogue (1910/1920) by Charles JonesGarden Museum

At Ote Hall in Sussex, his talents were recorded in 'The Gardener’s Chronicle', 1905.
“The present gardener, Charles Jones, has had a large share in the modelling of the gardens as they now appear, for on all sides can be seen evidence of his work in the making of flowerbeds and borders and in the planting of fruit trees. Mr Jones is quite an enthusiastic fruit grower and his delight in his well-trained trees was readily apparent…. The lack of extensive glasshouses is no deterrent to Mr Jones in producing supplies of choice fruit and flowers.”

Onions by Charles Jones for Elphick's Catalogue (1910/1920) by Charles JonesGarden Museum

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. These works show a clear and natural command for composition and tone.

Gyposophila Paniculata by Charles Jones for Elphick's (c.1910) by Charles JonesGarden Museum

A skilled printer, the style adopted by Charles Jones during the production of his work, featuring a delicate play on arrangement, light and focus, illustrates an unprecedented level of skill for the time and foreshadows the work of later photographers.

Material relating to Elphick’s nursery (1900/2003) by Elphick's NurseyGarden Museum

Little of his work was published during his lifetime. Some of his photographs were featured in Elphick’s seed catalogues. The seed company had a bold and innovative marketing strategy, at the centre of which were their catalogues with their brightly coloured covers and distinctive typography. Jones’ photographs greatly enhanced these beautifully designed booklets.

Bean Giant Windsor by Charles Jones & Printer's Block for Elphick's Catalogue (1910/1920) by Charles JonesGarden Museum

His work was unacknowledged during his lifetime and after his death in 1959 it fell into obscurity. In 1981 a trunk of his photographs was purchased at a market in Bermondsey and he was rediscovered by the photographic world.

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