Professor Colin Jones was born in London in 1936, his creative life has followed an unorthodox path, taking him from a working-class childhood in the East End of London to dancing in the English Royal Ballet. Although he was not academic, and was severely dyslexic, at the age of 13 he was given the opportunity to train as a dancer with the Festival Ballet, his career blossomed. “I thought, I’ve got nothing to lose, I’ll have a go. This would be better than being a road sweeper”. Jones bought his first camera whilst on tour in Japan, running an errand for Dame Margot Fonteyn.
He became a photographer for The Observer newspaper in 1962, and never looked back, becoming one of the most celebrated and prolific photographers of post-war Britain. He has documented many facets of social history over the years as diverse as the vanishing industrial working lives in the Northeast which was published in his well-known book “Grafters”, and delinquent Afro-Caribbean youth in London “The Black House” to the high-octane hedonism of Swinging London with his famous pictures of The Who early in their career “Maximum Who”.
He has had many solo exhibitions including the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and at the Photographers’ Gallery in London, as well as at other venues internationally.
The exhibition is the result of a lifetime of photographing the English National Ballet and other great Ballet companies. It is because of his background and training in dance and his understanding of photography that this work is so exceptional. Jones understands that ballet dancers are athletes and he does not shield the viewer from the self-discipline and relentless hard work that is required to get to the top of world ballet. The portraits are not only of the earlier greats – Nureyev, Grey, Fonteyn – but also of contemporary dancers. The exhibition contains 30 images from this body of work and is a rare chance to see this astounding collection.
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