Colin Jones (photographer)
Colin Jones (born 1936) is an English ballet dancer-turned-photographer and prolific photojournalist of post-war Britain. Jones documented facets of social history as diverse as the vanishing industrial working lives of the North East coalfields (Grafters), delinquent Afro-Caribbean youth in London (The Black House), hedonistic 1960s ‘Swinging London’ with pictures of The Who early in their career, the 1963 race riots in Alabama, Soviet Leningrad, and remnants of a rural Britain now lost to history.
Jones was born in 1936. He experienced a war childhood; his father, a Poplar, East End printer, went away as a soldier on the Burma campaign. Jones' family was evacuated to Essex and he attended a succession of thirteen schools whilst struggling with dyslexia, before the age of sixteen, when he took up ballet lessons. In 1960 Jones was called up for national service and served in the Queen's Royal Regiment. Fresh out of the army, Colin joined the Royal Opera House, later moving to the Touring Royal Ballet and embarked on a nine-month world tour. Jones met, and for four years was married to, the great ballerina Lynn Seymour. Whilst on tour and running an errand for Dame Margot Fonteyn, he purchased his first camera, a Leica 3C rangefinder, in 1958 and started taking photographs of the dancers and backstage life during the Australian leg of the circuit. Jones admired the available-light backstage photography of Michael Peto, a Hungarian émigré, who agreed to mentor him. He remembers;
- "There was a Hungarian photographer called Mike Peto who used to hang around the corps du ballet when I was a dancer. He didn't take pictures in the way that the rest did. Instead, he crept around the back and caught us lounging around. Dancers come alive in front of the curtain, but he wanted to snap the reality: the endless tedium of rehearsals in dusty church halls in the North East, the sheer misery of it all. He really inspired me and I became obsessed by the work of other Central European photographers such as Andre Kertesz, who was also a great influence on Cartier-Bresson."
Jones took advantage of the ballet company's travel to photograph extensively in the streets of Tokyo, Hong Kong and the Gorbals, Glasgow in 1961. Driving with fellow dancers from Newcastle to Sunderland that year, he saw, north of Birmingham, coal searchers on the spoil-heaps. In 1962, having changed his career to become a photographer for The Observer he returned to produce a series of photographs recording the vanishing industrial working poor and mining communities in the North East of England, later publishing the essay as the book Grafters At The Observer he worked alongside photographers Philip Jones Griffiths and Don McCullin. He worked in Fleet Street for several years before turning freelance. Commissioned assignments took him to New York City in 1962; Liverpool docks in 1963; the race riots in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, where he made portraits of both 'Bull' Connor, and Dr Martin Luther King in 1963; Leningrad, USSR in 1964. In 1966 he photographed the British rock band The Who at the beginning of their career, and Pete Townshend, then Mick Jagger in 1967. He travelled to the Philippines in 1969 where he photographed the sex trade. He portrayed significant dancers, including Rudolph Nureyev for several publications.
The Black House
Jones was commissioned by the Sunday Times Magazine in 1973 to document the Islington-based Harambee housing project for Afro-Caribbean youth (the name ‘Harambee’ is Swahili for ‘pulling together’). The Sunday Times front cover article 'On the edge of the Ghetto' resulted from his frequent visits to the dilapidated terraced house on Holloway Road, a refuge for troubled young black men which was run by a charismatic Caribbean migrant, Brother Herman Edwards. The project, often visited by the police, was an irritant to neighbours who complained of noise and overcrowding. Jones gained the trust of the youths he photographed, many of whom embraced their portrayal in the media as iconic delinquents, reinforcing their status as outcasts. The building was named The Black House both by residents and by newspaper editors in sensationalist headlines, attempting to associate it with the reputation of the notorious original 'Black House' commune also situated on Holloway Road a mile away, run by Michael de Freitas and which had wound up in autumn 1970 and later burned in suspicious circumstances. This first generation of Afro-Caribbean young people to be born in Britain experienced prejudice and disadvantage in education, employment and with the law, and Jones humanised what had been a one-sided news story. Supported by grants from the Gulbenkian Foundation and the Arts Council, Jones continued to photograph the project until 1976 when the housing project dissolved.
Jones’ work has been published in major publications including Life, National Geographic , Geo and Nova as well as many supplements for major broadsheet newspapers, most prominently The Sunday Times, who dubbed Jones 'The George Orwell of British photography'. In his later career he covered assignments around the world, including Jamaica in 1978; the indigenes of the New Hebrides and Zaire in 1980; Tom Waits in New York, 1981; San Blas Islands in 1982; Ireland in 1984; Xian, China in 1985; Ladakh in northern India 1994 and Bunker Hill, Kansas in 1996.
Solo exhibitions have been devoted to his work at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and The Black House: Colin Jones at The Photographers' Gallery in London, 4 May – 4 June 1977 as well as at other galleries (see Exhibitions below). Martin Harrison’s Young Meteors associated Jones with other important British photographers including Don McCullin and Terence Donovan. In 2013 the Victoria and Albert Museum acquired three of Jones' historic photographs from The Black House series, along with a photograph by Dennis Morris depicting the original Black House associated with Michael X, both acquired as part of Staying Power, a five year partnership between the V&A and Black Cultural Archives, preserving black British experience from the 1950s to the 1990s through photographs and oral histories. The Arts Council also purchased his work.
- The Black House: Colin Jones, The Photographers' Gallery, London, 4 May - 4 June 1977
- The Black House - Colin Jones, Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, June–July 2007
- Fifty Years of The Who by Colin Jones, Proud Camden, 6 February - 23 March 2014
- A Life with The Royal Ballet by Colin Jones, Proud Chelsea, 29 January - 1 March 2015
- Retrospective - Colin Jones, Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, May–June 2016
- Country Matters, James Hyman Gallery, London, September–November 2013. Photographs by Jones, Bert Hardy, Roger Mayne, Tony Ray-Jones, Homer Sykes, Chris Killip, Sirkka-Liisa Konttinen, Martin Parr, Mark Power, Anna Fox, and Ken Grant.
- Jerusalem, Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, October–November 2011. Photographs by Jones, John Davies, Charles Jones.
- Stars of the East - Peter Blake, Colin Jones, Frank Worth, Britart Gallery, London, December 2002
Publications by Jones
Publications with others
- Great Rivers of the World. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1984. ISBN 978-0008383381. Edited by Alexander Frater and with photographs by Jones.
- The Black House. Munich; London: Prestel, 2006. ISBN 978-3791336718. Photographs by Jones and text by Mike Phillips.
- Sixties uncovered.(Features) Anna Burnside Sunday Times (London, England), May 20, 2007, p.1
- Schofield, Jack, 1947- (1983). How famous photographers work. Amphoto, New York, N.Y p.32-25
- Spencer, Charles (25 January 2011). "Colin Jones: an early prototype of Billy Elliot". London: The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
- “Lynn Seymour…on tour with the second company [of the Royal Ballet] in the Far East during 1961 […] had grown close to Colin Jones, a dancer with the corps who was taking photographs of everything he saw. “I didn’t meet her…she met me,’ says Jones. He wouldn’t have dared approach her, since she was one of the stars of the company and he was low down the hierarchy. ‘She was fascinated by photography and by the places we saw on tour.’ He took her to areas the other dancers did not visit, such as the slums of Manila and Hong Kong, and talked of things otters [sic] than dance. ‘I was beginning to lose the faith,’ he says of his ballet career. ‘I was already thinking of leaving and starting up as a photojournalist.’ Parry, Jann (2009), Different drummer : the life of Kenneth MacMillan, Faber, p. 251, ISBN 978-0-571-24302-0
- "The photographer feels that modern dancers lack passion" Times [London, England] 23 Dec. 2000: ^. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 22 May 2016.
- Clark, David (2009), Photography in 100 words : exploring the art of photography with fifty of its greatest masters, Focal, p. 52, ISBN 978-0-240-81300-4
- Books: Dockers' families a rein the frame' Liverpool Echo [Liverpool (UK)] 22 Mar 2003: 29.
- Jones, Colin (2002), Grafters, Phaidon, ISBN 978-0-7148-4253-0
- Strangleman, T. (2005). Book Review: Grafters. Work, Employment & Society, 19(2), 445-446.
- Prowse, P. (2005). Book Review: Labor Revitalization: Global Perspectives and New Initiatives. Work, Employment & Society, 19(2), 443-445.
- Joanna Pitman. "Picture gallery of delights and images to conjure with." Times [London, England] 7 Dec. 2002: 19[S3]. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 22 May 2016.
- Maximum Who: The Who in the Sixties: the Photographs of Tony Gale, Colin Jones, Chris Morphet, Dominique Tarle, David Wedgebury and Baron Wolman. Genesis Publications, 2002.
- Neill, A., Kent, M., & Daltrey, R. (2009). Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere: The Complete Chronicle of The Who 1958-1978. Sterling Publishing Company, Inc..
- including 'Interview with ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev' (5 photographs by Colin Jones) Petticoat 5 December 1970
- Sunday Times Magazine, ‘On the Edge of the Ghetto, The Way They See It’, 30.09.1973, p.28-46.
- Jones, Colin; Phillips, Mike, 1941- (2006), The black house, Prestel, ISBN 978-3-7913-3671-8CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Brooke, S. (2014). Revisiting Southam Street: Class, Generation, Gender, and Race in the Photography of Roger Mayne. Journal of British Studies, 53(02), 453-496.
- "'They were the hardest people Ive ever had to photograph,' comments Jones on the assignment. 'They trusted no one.' The intimacy of these images belies that statement, for clearly the inhabitants of The Black House came to trust Jones."Jones, Colin; Phillips, Mike, 1941- (2006), The black house, Prestel, ISBN 978-3-7913-3671-8CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Williams, John (2008). Michael X : a life in black & white. Century, London
- Arts Council of Great Britain Edition (1979) Arts Council collection: a concise, illustrated catalogue of paintings, drawings, photographs, and sculpture purchased for the Arts Council of Great Britain between 1942 and 1978. The Council, 1979
- Colin Jones. "« Rudolf Nureyev in his Sixties HEYDAY»." Times [London, England] 16 Dec. 2006: 4[S5]. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 22 May 2016.
- "Colin Jones". The Hyman Collection. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- Frater, Alexander (1994) Nearer to heaven: This is Ladakh in northern India... Guardian Newspapers, Limited Jul 31, 1994
- "Exhibitions at The Photographers' Gallery 1971 - Present" (DOC). The Photographers' Gallery. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- "Country Matters", James Hyman Gallery. Archived by the Wayback Machine on 14 July 2014.
- Harrison, Martin; National Museum of Photography, Film, and Television (Great Britain) (1998), Young meteors : British photojournalism, 1957-1965, Jonathan Cape, ISBN 978-0-224-05129-3CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
- Savage, Jon (2015). 1966 : the year the decade exploded. London Faber & Faber
- See: Victoria and Albert Museum collections website
- 'His exhibition, A Life with the Royal Ballet, which opened this week in London, documents some of his very finest work, dating from the 1950s onward. It focuses on the world he had left behind, not front of house so much as the goings-on backstage: namely, the endless rehearsals necessary for balletic perfection, and the make-up routines.' Duerden, N. (2015, Jan 31). 'The secret life of the ballet'. The Independent
- Coomes, Phil (9 May 2016). "British life through the eyes of Colin Jones". BBC News. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- "Country Matters". James Hyman Gallery. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- "Group Show Jerusalem". James Hyman Gallery. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
- "Stars of the East". britart gallery. Archived from the original on December 26, 2002.