Cyril Elijah Jones

Life and Work

Born 1939 in Aberysthwith (Wales), into a family of Punch and Judy puppeteers. During his youth, Jones decided to leave for London to train as a stage actor, instead of following in his parents footsteps. In 1965 he graduated, together with Mike Leigh, from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.

He made headlines for the role that almost cost him his life, when portraying a character who died of a heart attack in the science fiction play Underground (Armchair Theatre London). Off-stage he suddenly collapsed and had a real heart attack between his scenes. The other actors and director improvised to account for his absence. No recording of this play exists. After his recovery, Jones took a break from life on stage and embarked on various journeys that led him to the Middle East, Africa, Americas and Eastern Europe.

Since an early age Jones had taken photographs of the people around him but when he had moved to London he became immensely fascinated with people from different cultural backgrounds that he encountered there in manifold. Intrigued by their customs and ways of living he turned into an enthusiastic hobby anthropologist, using every opportunity possible to travel and to document human life around the world. Although time and time again he had to come back, to take on roles in plays and films to finance his trips, his heart really is set on exploration.

His photographs though clearly reverberate his background in theatre, since his archive of the world and its cultures contains not one single snapshot, all the different peoples he has portrayed, pose in front of backdrops. Nevertheless, this working method, choosing the means of stylization, opposed to documenting the natural flow of life, doesn’t make his images and the individuals he encounters all over the globe less authentic. Quite on the contrary, since a certain stylization occurs in all types of photographic representation. Unequivocally using the stylistic device of posturing and a composed setting, is in a way more genuine than its concealment.

Jones believes that through cultural customs and traditions the essence of life is revealed, and he understands the task of his life, to be the collector of all those astonishing details. To this day he travels and documents human life forms on earth, by taking portraits and gathering detailed information about the individuals he meets in his meticulously kept travel journals.

C.E. Jones during a film shoot, in the O Le Pupu-Pue National Park

Upolu, Samoa 1976