Ted Jones: Master of the Contemporary Gum Process Photograph

Exhibited and Sold By
Contemporary Works / Vintage Works, Ltd.

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By Alex Novak
Ted Jones - Self Portrait
Ted Jones - Self Portrait

Ted Jones was born in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1927. He attended Augusta Military Academy in Virginia between 1942-1944 and then joined the Army Air Corps in 1944. He became a sergeant-ECO and left after the end of World War II in 1946.

After his stint in the service, Jones traveled through Mexico, in particular through the Yucatan during 1946-1947. He then settled down to academic studies at Penn State University, where he received a BA in Journalism and Advertising with a minor in Theater and Art in 1951.

He became Walter Reed Army Medical Center's information specialist in 1951, but then moved on quickly to television at WRC-TV, an NBC affiliate in Washington, D.C. He worked in live TV production, directing and producing shows, and worked as film editor on various NBC network news projects.

Ted Jones - Susan, 1999
Ted Jones - Susan, 1999

In 1954, he received the prestigious Sylvania Award for Television for the first water pollution special on television, called "Our Beautiful Potomac." Jones also received an Emmy for his work on the cinematography and editing of the program "Urban Sprawl." He then won a Peabody Award and Governor's Award for producing and editing "Science in the Schools", which was the first TV series used in public schools. Jones produced, edited and photographed "Chosen Country", the first film on noted American author John Dos Passos, which earned him a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. His list of film and video credits also includes "I Touch the Future--I Teach", a video production on Christa McAuliffe, the teacher-astronaut aboard the ill-fated Challenger, for the Prince George's County School System where she first taught.

Among these many awards, he won a Special Jury Gold Medal at the Atlanta Film Festival for his time-lapse film on his own stone carving. Jones was also an accomplished sculptor, who had had seven one-man shows of this work. Over 200 of his sculptures are in private and public collections worldwide. He conducted a demonstration of stone carving on the White House grounds at the invitation of the National Park Service and the District of Columbia Government.

In 1960, he began work at Stuart Finley Films, Inc., where he worked as an independent film producer. The company and Jones spent the next 17 years producing films in the environmental field.

In 1977, Jones began to freelance, making videos, films and black and white photographs.

He had many picture credits, including Time, Fortune and LIFE magazines. He photographed and printed a traveling exhibition entitled "People of the Northern Neck", which portrayed the work ethic of the watermen of historic tidewater Virginia for the Rappahannock Community College Educational Foundation.

Jones was well-known for his work in 19th-century non-silver photographic printing processes, particularly the gum-dichromatic process, but he took a contemporary approach. He even applied modern computer technology to a number of these 19th-century techniques.

A retrospective show of Jones' gum process contemporary photographs was curated by Leif Preus of the Preus Fotomuseum, Norway, and was exhibited throughout Scandinavia during a two-year traveling show.

The work is simply astounding for its virtuosity. Jones often used multiple color passes and an artist's brush (used to manipulate the image while still wet) to create images that often have more in common with fine art graphics than photography. Yet these images are still grounded in the world of the real, albeit often overlaid with a strong dose of fantasy.

Jones often printed in large sizes (some larger than life-size) that are very rare for this medium, which has to be worked quickly before a print dries. His images range from urban landscapes that share much with Edward Hopper's desolate vision to portraits and nudes that that take as much from Demachy's classicism as from Nan Goldin's personal sociology and contemporary feel.

His photographs are in the collections of the St. Louis Art Museum, the University of New Mexico Art Museum and the James A. Michener Museum of Art. A large body of his work is in the personal collection of photography dealer Alexander Novak.

He passed away quietly at his home in Falls Church, VA on August 23, 2007.