Around 1900, probably whilst gardening at Great Ote Hall in Sussex, Charles Henry Jones (1866-1959) created an incredible body of work, presumably for his own benefit as it lay undiscovered until 1981 when writer and curator Sean Sexton purchased, in a market, a chest containing a huge collection of albums and images. Some of these are now in the V&A’s collection in London, including an album with pages of beautiful small prints - presumably hand-made by Jones - of pears: No less than 45 different varieties of pear were photographed and collated in grids spanning five separate pages with 9 prints on each page, a format that pre-dates the work of the Bechers by several decades and serves as a reminder of not just how fruit was home-grown in previous days, but also the sheer number of varieties that were grown.
Nowadays, we are largely restricted to what the supermarkets stock, albeit with year-round, out-of-season availability imported from sunnier climes. Typically, however, this amounts to just a few varieties (Conference being the most common), not all of which are stocked for their flavour, but shelf-life and transportability seemingly being more important factors.
This ongoing series not only pays homage to Jones (with a debt of gratitude, too, to Sexton), but also reminds us how fruit was grown in the past and how many varieties there actually are (even Jones’s collection being just the tip of the iceberg) which today’s 'supply chain' ignores.
These pictures are from 'phase 1' of the wider body of work, taken in 2015-2017. A second phase is currently work-in-progress.