Plant Kingdoms: The Photography of Charles Jones

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The elegant vision of British still-life photographer Charles Jones (1866 – 1959), whose work was only recently discovered, is finally shared with audiences through this exhibition of 59 gold-toned gelatin silver prints. A gardener by trade, Jones was at heart an artist and created an impressive body of work comprising of images of vegetables, fruits, and flowers. While his numerous photographs uncover both Jones’s appreciation for nature and his artistic style, which exhibits elements of modernism, very little is known about his life or work. He remains to this day one of the most enigmatic photographers of the early 20th-century.

Jones’s photographs might even today remain hidden from the world if it were not for photographic historian and collector Sean Sexton’s chance discovery of them in 1981. While at the Bermondsey antique market in London, Sexton noticed a trunk which happened to contain hundreds of photographs of vegetables. Immediately impressed by Jones’s aesthetic, Sexton purchased all of the works for a nominal price.

In the introduction to the book Plant Kingdoms: The Photographs of Charles Jones, Robert Flynn Johnson writes of Jones’s technique, “The close-up view, long exposure (to achieve depth of field and a full range of values in his subjects and their shadows) and spare arrangements anticipate later modernist photography such as the work of Edwin Hale Lincoln, August Kotzsch, Karl Blossfeldt, Edward Weston (II), Paul Outerbridge, Albert Renger-Patzsch, and Josef Sudek.”

The body of work documents the variety found in nature, and although the photographs are undated, it is believed that these works were created between 1895 and 1910 because of the photographic materials used. Although Jones never sought public recognition for his art, he did, in addition to recording the full name of his subject, sign his initials on the back of each work. While he left no diaries or writings about his photography, these striking works are evidence of an artist’s passion and respect for the riches found in nature.


This exhibition is organized by the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Currently on view