Pirkle Jones (January 2, 1914 – March 15, 2009) was a documentary photographer born in Shreveport, Louisiana. His first experience with photography was when he bought a Kodak Brownie at the age of seventeen. In the 1930s his photographs were featured in pictorialist salons and publications. He served four years in the army during World War II in the 37th division and went to the Fiji Islands, New Georgia, Guadalcanal and the Philippines. After the war, Jones entered the first class in photography offered by the California School of Fine Arts. There he met the artists and instructors that helped him develop his talents: Ansel Adams, Minor White, Edward Weston, and Dorothea Lange. Jones worked as Ansel Adams' assistant for 6 years and the two photographers forged a lifelong friendship. Dorothea Lange came to him in 1956 with an idea to collaborate on a photographic essay entitled "Death of a Valley". The essay chronicled the death of the town of Monticello, California in the Berryessa Valley, which disappeared when the Monticello Dam was completed. The photographs were taken in the last year of its existence. Jones later described the project with Lange as "one of the most meaningful photographic experiences of my life." Jones also took part in numerous collaborations with his wife Ruth-Marion Baruch over the course of their 49-year marriage. In 1968 Ruth-Marion introduced herself to Kathleen Cleaver, wife of famous Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, and spoke of her interest in the Black Panthers and their portrayal by the media. It was her desire to present a balanced view that inspired Jones and Ruth-Marion to photograph the Panthers from July to October 1968 in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jones was the recipient of an honorary doctorate from the San Francisco Art Institute, where he taught until 1994.
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Born 2 January 1914. Jones began to photograph in 1930. From 1946 to 1949, Jones studied photography with Ansel Adams and Minor White at the California School of Fine Arts, now the San Francisco Art Institute. From 1949, Jones worked as a freelance photographer in San Francisco, California. In 1947, he photographed the architecture of Bernard Maybeck in San Francisco, California. From 1949 to 1952, Jones worked as an assistant to photographer Ansel Adams in San Francisco, California. From 1953 to 1958, he was an instructor of photography at the California School of Fine Arts, and since 1970, he was an instructor of photography at the San Francisco Art Institute. In 1956, Jones collaborated with photographer Dorothea Lange on a project to document the flooding of the Berryessa Valley, California, to form a reservoir. The resulting book entitled 'Death of a Valley' was published in 1960. In 1964, Jones photographed the town of Walnut Grove, California. He documented the Black Panthers in 1968, and exhibited the photographs at the De Young Museum in San Francisco. The photographs were published in book form as “Black Panthers,” with an introduction by Kathleen Cleaver.
Artist, Teacher, Photographer
Pirkle Jones
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License