Colin Jones was born in the East End of London, in 1936. During the Blitz, the young and dyslexic Colin Jones had attended 13 different schools before being recruited by the Festival Ballet, later joining the Royal Ballet at a time when Kenneth MacMillan was embarking on some of his most controversial work. Described as the "prototype for Billy Elliot," Jones’ life journey reads like a Hollywood movie which saw him tour with the Royal Ballet performing alongside Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn, and in Kenneth MacMillan's “The Invitation” with Prima Ballerina Lynn Seymour, who he later married.
Jones bought his first camera whilst on tour in Japan, running an errand for Dame Margot Fonteyn and started taking photographs. These photographs capture the reality of life as a ballet dancer – the hard work and dedication required to succeed, and revealed the ballet as it had never been seen before. Travelling from Newcastle to Sunderland in 1961, Jones spotted some coal searchers scouring the slag heaps, and skipped his ballet class, heading out to photograph them. The following year Jones left the ballet in 1962 and went to see The Observer Magazine who employed him to go and photograph the Alabama Race Riots of 1963, and subsequently many other photo-documentary stories, often risky, including the Brazilian gold mines, gangs in Jamaica, prostitution in the Philippines, the boy soldiers of the Khmer Rouge, the Cargo Cults of the New Hebrides who worshipped Prince Phillip. He was fortunate to be working at the heyday of investigative and photo-journalism, alongside photographers such as Don McCullin and Philip Jones Griffiths, under the editorship of Harold Evans at the Sunday Times.
Jones, has documented facets of British social history over the years as diverse as the vanishing industrial working lives of the Northeast (Grafters), marginalised Afro-Caribbean youth in London (The Black House) and the high-octane hedonism of Swinging London in the 1960's with his iconic images of The Who early in their career (Maximum Who). His work has been published in every major publication, including Life, National Geographic and in many supplements for the major broadsheets. Jones has had exhibitions at The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, The Photographers' Gallery in London, The National Portrait Gallery London, Tate Modern and the Hayward.
He has been described as the George Orwell of Photography and his work as a social documentary photographer has been much acclaimed, Katharine Viner writing in the Sunday Times about his work from the "Grafters" series, writes "They look like something described by Orwell in one of his political essays, like photographs from the 1930s to illustrate "The Road to Wigan Pier", cloth caps and granite faced dockers" Katharine Viner, Sunday Times Magazine 13th October 1996.
The Exhibition is touring to Bermondsey Project Space 183-185 Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3UW. Tel 0203 441 5152 9th -13th July. www.project-space.london
Preview 6-9pm 9th July RSVP email@example.com
This exhibition celebrates his early career, some of the images have never been shown or seen before It also coincides with the launch of his website, which has been in the making for the past two years. We have really only just scratched the surface of his incredible archive and the process will be continuing over the next few months as we unearth more work.