“It’s as if he was photographing his children,” observes Miranda Salt when analyzing the work of British artist Charles Jones (1855-1959). He was an odd person who didn’t leave any trace of his work behind him save for some prints, part of which are currently on exhibit at the gallery, and which feature plants from his own garden. “Charles Jones worked as a gardener during the day, and at night he would do painstaking portraits of his vegetables, using a neutral background and lovely compositions,” the gallery owner expounds. To wit: the image of a cluster of tomatoes is so delicately rendered and lends to the image such a palpable quality that it makes you want to bite into it. In another photo, celery stalks are carefully placed against a well; in another one, two big heads of squash officiate like a king and queen; while in a third one, translucent green beans reveal the subtle round form of their peas.
An old trunk
These forms are also beautifully captured by the other photographer in the show at the Galerie Miranda, Karl Blossfeldt (1865–1932). A former foundry worker, he enjoyed photographing the weeds that sprung up all over Berlin in his meticulous compositions. He even invented a photographic lens specifically designed for capturing highly specific shots that bring out stunning details in the plants and lend unparalleled matter to the organic forms. Karl Blossfeldt is a contemplative observer who lets the natural beauty of plants guide him. He uses the medium of photography to bring out the whimsical forms and luxuriance of his plant subjects. The same can be said of Charles Jones, who sank into oblivion immediately after he died, and would have remained so if it weren’t for an art historian who happened to come across an old trunk filled with photos of vegetables at a London flea market in 1981. On the back of some of the prints was a name written in pencil: Charles Jones.
By Jean-Baptiste Gauvin
Histoire Naturelle: Charles Jones / Karl Blossfeldt
September 3 to October 26, 2019
Galerie Miranda, 21 rue du Château d’Eau, 75010 Paris