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Charles Jones was a gardener and photographer who lived from 1866-1959. His photographs of garden produce and flowers were found at an auction in 1981 and have since been acclaimed long after his death.

Examples can be found in a google image search.

I find the images to have a pleasing aesthetic quality, along with a surprising clarity and resolution for photographs of that time. I would like to know what type(s) of camera(s) he may have used and what developing/printing processes, so I can try to re-create this effect.

Are the off-white colors part of the developing process, or just aging of the prints?

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According to what I've just read, none of the negatives have been discovered, just the prints and he wasn't known to be a photographer -- so the rest of this will be guess. The reports do say "gold-toned gelatin silver prints from glass plate negatives." This probably accounts for some of the tones in the prints, but I don't know anything about the process used.

Based on the descriptions and some of the dimensions mentioned, I would guess a 4x6 view camera with the prints being "contact prints" -- so no enlargement of the captured image at all. In my experience with a 4x5 camera, contact prints (because the negative plate is in contact with the light sensitive printing paper) allow you to more easily get an nice print (the image is at its native size, and no issue with having to pass the image through an enlarger's optics).

If you look up other examples of "1900s glass plate prints" you can find images that look similar or better, so I don't think it is astounding that the images don't look worse than they do.

Note -- if you like these images, you might want to look up Edward Weston, he also did still lifes but with somewhat more modern equipment and it is pretty well documented what kind of equipment he used.

More info regarding Charles Jones can be found here. In this article, the collector who discovered them compares both the composition and the process used to make the prints to Eugene Atget. We know that Atget used a large format wooden bellows camera with rapid rectilinear lens and dry glass plates.

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  • Thanks for the informed response, and even more for the mention of Weston-- his work is even more breath-taking! – user151841 Nov 18 '16 at 14:47
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I'm a 73 year old very "old school" photographer, and the author of the first published "how to" book on digital photography, which was published in 1991. To my eye, the photos linked-to reek/scream "digitally enhanced/photoshopped". Photos 'way back then didn't look anything like the ones linked to.

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    In what way do they seem digitally enhanced? Karl Blossfeldt's incredibly sharp and detailed botanical photos certainly were not (he died in 1932). – MikeW Nov 17 '16 at 23:06
  • @Norman Do you realize many of these photos were taken on glass plates before the appearance of film? Many photographers still mixed their own chemicals, both for the emulsion on the glass negative, for the developing of the glass negative, and for the printing paper. There was a LOT more variation with glass plates than with standardized commercial films, the standardized chemicals that were sold to develop film, and the standardized photosensitive papers used to print from film. – Michael C Nov 18 '16 at 4:22

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