Colin Jones obituary | Artwork and design

One line that all the time produced fun from audiences watching the movie Billy Elliot was: “What’s greatest, to be a ballet dancer or to be a miner?” The photographer Colin Jones, who has died aged 85 from Covid-19, wouldn’t have thought this such a humorous query. He had labored in a type of worlds as a dancer touring with the Royal Ballet and had documented the opposite with very good images, printed within the Observer and the Impartial magazines and in a e book entitled Grafters (2002). He additionally did vital work for the Sunday Instances, specifically The Black Home venture within the Seventies, main one critic there to explain him because the George Orwell of British photojournalism.

Colin grew to become fascinated by the working lives of miners on his first task for the Observer after leaving the Royal Ballet in 1962. He was despatched to cowl some early pit closures within the north-east and later informed an interviewer: “It could sound unusual, however I discovered so many similarities between the lives of miners and ballet dancers. There was the identical dependence on energy, health and endurance, the identical comradeship of a tight-knit neighborhood doing a job. And after they end work, they’re each bodily exhausted and drenched in sweat – although miners are lined in coal mud and their work is stuffed with risks.”

Colin Jones in London within the Seventies. {Photograph}: Colin Jones/TopFoto

On a tour to Australia and New Zealand with the Royal Ballet in 1958, Colin purchased his first digicam, a Ricohflex, whereas on an errand in Sydney for Margot Fonteyn. He instantly started taking images of the corporate’s dancers exercising on the barre and dealing in rehearsals. In 1961, he met Lynn Seymour, a star of the touring firm, and she or he accompanied Colin on a few of his capturing expeditions when on tour, into locations such because the slums of Manila and the sidestreets of Tokyo. They married in 1964, a union that ended after 4 years when Seymour left for the Stuttgart Ballet to work with the choreographer Kenneth MacMillan, who had created principal roles for her in Royal Ballet productions.

The best affect on Colin’s pictures was the Observer’s arts photographer Michael Peto, whom he met backstage on the Royal Opera Home within the Nineteen Sixties in the course of the golden period of Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Seymour and Christopher Gable. Peto was a Hungarian émigré whose work Colin had all the time admired. “Michael didn’t take photos in the best way that the remainder did. He may see the ballet for what it was – plenty of exhausting work. A lot of his photos had been of exhausted dancers after the limitless tedium of rehearsals in dusty church halls.”

Scottswood Road area, Newcastle, 1963.
Scottswood Street space, Newcastle, 1963. {Photograph}: Colin Jones/Michael Hoppen Gallery

Peto launched Colin to the Observer’s image editor, Dennis Hackett. The north-east task resulted in Colin’s first huge image unfold – astonishing pictures of women and men scrabbling for coal on a colliery waste tip close to Sunderland and taking it dwelling in sacks on the crossbars of outdated bicycles.

Quickly after, I grew to become image editor of the Observer. In 1963, whereas Colin was on vacation within the US, I diverted him to cowl the Alabama race riots, the place he photographed the civil rights chief Martin Luther King and the hardline segregationist police chief “Bull” Conor, who had set canine on peaceable protesters.

Born in Poplar, east London, Colin was the son of a printer, George Jones, and his spouse, Maud (nee Armstrong). For many of his early years his father was away within the military, serving within the Burma marketing campaign. Along with his mom and his older brother, Colin was evacuated to Essex; he was evacuated twice extra, attending 13 colleges whereas battling dyslexia. When he left faculty at 15 he had no {qualifications} however, after listening to a careers adviser encouraging leavers to contemplate changing into dancers, he enrolled at a dancing faculty within the entrance room of a semi in New Eltham, Kent. Later he attended a extra skilled dancing academy in Soho, from which he gained a scholarship to the Royal Ballet College in 1952.

A dancer from English National Ballet, 1999.
A dancer from English Nationwide Ballet, 1999. {Photograph}: Colin Jones/TopFoto

After graduating, his innate intelligence, sense of humour and powerful, wiry physique made him well-liked within the ballet firm, attributes that served him effectively in his second profession. The Observer’s photographic group on the time included Don McCullin, Philip Jones Griffiths and the employees photographer Stuart Heydinger, and it was tough for the younger former ballet dancer to achieve their acceptance, however he had already proved his mettle throughout two years of nationwide service from 1955. Whereas serving within the Queen’s Royal Regiment, he had taken up boxing and was expert sufficient to characterize his battalion. He misplaced one among his bouts – and 4 entrance tooth – to a knockout punch from a a lot taller Welsh soldier who had been a coal supply man.

From the Observer, Colin started freelancing on publications together with the Sunday Instances Journal. The author Peter Gillman, who labored with him, recalled how on one task, researching meals help distribution in Chad, Colin saved them from being stranded within the Sahara when their employed Land Rover broke down. A mechanic within the nearest city couldn’t diagnose the trigger till Colin took over and located a carburettor drawback. “He used one thing within the workshop, both wire or a bit of metallic, to restore it and I used to be misplaced in surprise at his sensible mechanical talent,” Gillman stated.

Their most profitable collaboration, begun in 1973, was the documentation of residents of a dilapidated terrace home in Islington, London, generally known as the Harambee Challenge (Harambee is Swahili for “pulling collectively”). A bunch of largely younger black males lived there, the primary technology of Caribbean immigrants, who had been introduced over to affix their mother and father and change into alienated by the bias they skilled. Most had been unemployed and a few had felony convictions.

For six weeks the Sunday Instances duo stored visiting what grew to become generally known as the Black Home to win the younger individuals’s belief earlier than {a photograph} was taken or a pocket book opened. “Colin actually caught with it,” stated Gillman. “He even corresponded recurrently with one among them who had been despatched to jail. Along with his mild and beguiling method, he was in a position to persuade the younger males to let him {photograph} them.” Their endurance was rewarded with {a magazine} cowl story, On the Fringe of the Ghetto. The images had been exhibited on the Photographers’ Gallery in 1977 and in 2006 printed as a e book, The Black Home.

photograph of young black men
A picture from The Black Home venture, 1973-1976. {Photograph}: Colin Jones/TopFoto

Colin continued working with Gillman for the Sunday Instances in the course of the 70s – in Jamaica to doc the Jimmy Cliff car The More durable They Come (1972); in Scotland, protecting the diminution of North Sea oil; and in Panama because it threatened to take over the canal from US possession. He by no means retired however stayed busy in his darkroom at dwelling in Barnes, west London, making museum-quality prints of images from his archive, a few of which he bought to collectors.

He informed me the accolade he valued above all others was a letter, framed on his darkroom wall, from the acclaimed photographer Invoice Brandt about his 60s portraits of gunslinging characters in a feud between rival scrap metallic retailers in Fulham. “Pricey Colin Jones, I really feel I need to inform you how delighted I’m along with your characteristic in yesterday’s Sunday Instances. I feel they’re the strongest images I’ve seen for a very long time. Congratulations and greatest needs.”

In 1970 Colin married Priscilla Tanner, a mannequin. She survives him, as does their daughter, Sarah.

Colin Jones, photojournalist and ballet dancer, born 8 August 1936; died 22 September 2021

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