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15 December 2006

Not Forgotten: Gardener - Photographer

The Constant Gardener - December 14, 2006 - The New York Sun

December 14, 2006
The New York Sun
December 15, 2006 edition

"Charles Jones was a gardener. In a country where not just castles, but very modest homes have prized gardens, and where theories of landscape gardening correspond to political ideologies, a gardener is more than someone who comes around with a flatbed truck to mow the lawn. Not much is known about Jones, but he was evidently a very good gardener. He received a glowing notice in the Gardeners' Chronicle of September 20, 1905, for his care of Ote Hall, a private estate in the parish of Wivelsfield near Burgess Hill, Sussex. Besides that, we know he was born in 1866, married in 1894, and died in 1959. But he was an intensely private person who left no diaries or other writings, and whose death as an old man was marked only by the few who knew him.

In 1981, the author and photographic collector Sean Sexton chanced upon a trunk at the Bermondsey antique market in London that contained several hundred exquisite gold-toned gelatin silver prints, about twothirds of vegetables, the rest of fruits and flowers. The exact name of each plant was written on the back of its picture, and most were signed 'C.J.' A few had the photographer's full name, Charles Jones. Who this Charles Jones was, how he had made himself into such an accomplished photographer, and why he never publicly shared with anyone the results of what had to have been a considerable effort, was a mystery, and mostly still is. What Sexton realized immediately, though, and what remains apparent, is that this was an extraordinary body of work."

The Howard Greenberg Gallery currently has up an eponymous display of 29 of Jones's striking photographs of vegetables and fruits and flowers.

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