I snatched up a(n extremely inexpensive) copy of Colin Jones’ Grafters after watching the Camera YouTube review some months ago. I think I paid less than $10 for it, shipped, which seems ludicrous for such a fine collection, and makes for both despair and thrill. Despair at the thought some/many/most of the books I bought new for full price will likely someday be remaindered for $10 or so; Thrill at the ability to pick up excellent, if older and used, photobooks for $10…

Anyway. Grafters (Phaidon, 2002) is a collection of Jones’ photographs of working classes in early 1960s Britain, the soon-to-be-demolished “slums” that look for all the world like tidy British row houses, children at play, the coal workers and ship builders at work and at leisure, and, not so strangely as you might imagine, ballet dancers at rest.


Grafters is organized into five chapters: Life, Coal, Ships, Time Off, Dance. Opening with an Introduction from Mark Haworth-Booth, each section begins with a quote or poem that adds a bit of feel or suggests a point of procession through the photographs that follow.

And the photographs show snippets of working-class life from all angles: children at play in front of older row houses, in narrow alleys, looking apprehensively at the camera as they stand next to piles of rubble; coal miners at work, filthy from the coal dust, straining with massive drills, cleaning up; shipbuilders at work or waiting for work, tattooed, waiting and waiting, waving as the ship leaves the dock; people at leisure, getting ready for a night out or passed out after a night out, napping, eating ice cream sandwiches.

So what does this all have to do with dance?

Well, dancers are no less engaged in physical labor than coal miners and ship builders. They finish work drenched in sweat, bloody, exhausted, and they nap and go out and go home to squalid flats just like everyone else. Don’t imagine that ballet dancers are part of the 1% or anything. They’re down here in trenches with the rest of us, despite rubbing shoulders (or simply performing for) the upper crust.

Colin Jones captured it all, in gorgeous black & white, and Grafters has it all.


You can pick up a copy of Grafters for cheap. If you’re hunting for one, I recommend bookfinder.com. Just enter a title or author or ISBN, and it’ll show you a ton of new and used copies available at fine booksellers (and on ebay), sorted by price including shipping.

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