Frederick Nelson Jones, better known as Freddy, or Pompy to his friends, was a man of many talents who made a huge contribution to Nelson.
Born in Nelson in 1881, Jones worked in his father’s Tattersall’s Stables. In 1904, news spread that Nelson College’s main building was on fire. Quick as a flash, Jones “packed three plates and my camera and raced to the college on my bike”. Three weeks later, he had sold more than 1,500 mounted photographs – enough to buy land and set up his own photographic studio.
Jones never looked back. Nelson Provincial Museum has more than 5,000 of Jones’ photos on glass plates, most of which are studio portraits of business men, soldiers in uniform, women in their best attire, children and babies cajoled to sit still, and family groups arranged and poised.
But rather than sticking to studio portraiture, Jones took his camera outside and developed a strong social documentary style.
One of his specialties was photographing special occasions along Trafalgar Street – civic receptions on the Church Steps, farewells to soldiers, welcomes to injured servicemen, the many fundraisers for the war effort, and the annual Daffodil Day and Flower Queen Festival. Jones photographed the ever-modernising region: the A&P Show; orchards and tobacco farms; every manner of sporting matches; the aftermath of the Murchison earthquake; and Charles Kingsford-Smith landing the Southern Cross at Saxton Field.
A significant aspect of Jones’ photography was his perspective. He built a three-legged ladder (reputedly the precursor to orchard ladders) so he could rise above the crowds. While it does look precarious, it became a common sight at public gatherings.
In 1921, Jones and his wife Ivy opened Coney Park, initially on Haven Road before moving it to Halifax Street, near the Nelson Mail buildings. Later, he created Magic Caves and Pixietowns.
Freddy Jones played a big part in our Nelson’s history, both in photographing people and events, as well as creating entertainment that thrilled and enchanted for decades.
Nelson Provincial Museum’s photographic collection is one of national significance comprising an estimated one and a half million photographs dating from the 1850s onwards. With the earliest photos dating from soon after European settlement, it is an observable record of the development of a colony, both the area and its people. Included is the renowned Tyree Studio collection, which is inscribed onto the UNESCO New Zealand Memory of the World Register, as well as other important collections of negatives from Frederick Nelson Jones, Hugh and Reg Kingsford (Broma Studio), Ellis Dudgeon, Geoffrey C Wood, The Nelson Mail and The Nelson Photo News.