JOSH ADAM JONES – XO

I first met Josh Adam Jones in London, at the South West Graduate Prize, arranged by Fotonow in November 2018. Josh, alongside myself and several other talented photographers, was selected to exhibit his graduate project XO at The Old Truman Brewery in Shoreditch. Fresh out of university, we were both on our own paths, myself with The South West Collective, while Josh was heading to UWE in Bristol to start an MA in Photography. Since then, Josh has progressed massively and, in this piece, we will be discussing XO and the subsequent publication of it as a photobook.

XO is a photographic body of work that Josh started during his BA and sets out to:

“Unearth and communicate stories about the expatriate communities of Muscat in Oman. XO concentrates on the relationships between local people and outsiders, with an emphasis on human aspects of the Middle East.”

Oman as a country finds itself in a peculiar position. Its geographic location and close proximity to Iran and other conflict zones, has meant that the West has been proactive in supporting and befriending Oman and allowed it to be a safe haven, away from the conflicts of the region. XO focuses on stories that the majority of us, especially from the West wouldn’t even know existed. Josh touches on this:

“XO was partly a response to Western misconceptions of the East, and misrepresentations of Oriental values and beliefs.”

 

 

Josh was fortunate enough to work with the British Embassy, Oman Tourism College, and the British School Muscat on the project, which helped form the basis of the work. These relations built by Josh demonstrates to us as the viewer, how much detail, time, effort and research have gone into this work. XO began in April 2018 and was subsequentially commissioned by the British Council and Ffotogallery in late 2018, allowing Josh to continue the project into 2019. The project is due to be exhibited internationally later this year, into 2020.

In 2018 Josh started a Go Fund Me, with the goal of publishing XO as a book. In 2019, he successfully self-published the book with a first edition print run of 30 copies, compiling of 86 pages. The book is well-produced and well designed, even down to the cover. The cover art reflects the colour palette of the project and is a nod to Omani culture, a lovely touch to say the least.

The photographs are refined, sharp and technically perfect. They tell the spectator a clear story as we flick through the work. The particular focus on people is the glue to the project. We meet residents, workers and individuals who tell Joshes story in crystal clear detail. The photographs are well seqenced, framed and are a joy to look at. Even though they are shot on Medium Format, Josh has been able to avoid the repetitive, similar nature of film that currently plagues our industry, truly finding his own style along the way.

What interests me most about the work, is Josh himself. Throughout the book, it is evident that Josh has kept calm and controlled. His portraits are precise, with little signs of error. His control over subjects, even when faced with a probable language barrier is sublime. His positioning, lighting and approach to how the subjects look is spot on. Josh especially deserves credit with the portraits. It is no secret that portraits are difficult. Keeping your subject calm and relaxed is crucial to getting a good portrait. This is something that Josh achieved in all of the portraits in the book.

However, there is more to XO than just the photography. We talk about no jobs, no opportunities, but yet here we have someone who is a year out of university and has been signed by the Lisa Pritchard Agency and is about to exhibit a project internationally. Hardwork pays off. Josh has worked and worked and worked on this for over a year. Luck has come his way in the form of a commission, but the majority of the work is self funded. He has gone out of his way to find an idea, visit a new country, meet new people and build up contacts within national organisations in order to tell this story.

 

 

Josh Adam Jones XO

This work ethic is the key to success. The hard work, dedication and desire to tell this story is evident in the book. Its design and execution are near perfection. Within the photographs, you can see how the relationships with the subjects have led to new friendships. You feel like these individuals are caring, generous, perhaps most importantly of all, they feel like human beings, not just pictures of people. I think Josh sums this up nicely:

“With over forty-five percent of the population falling into the expatriate category, Muscat plays host to a rich, diverse and colourful culture. The notion of ‘home’ as a recurrent theme quickly became evident, and the word itself contained a multitude of meaning for different people. Regardless of social status, occupation or nationality, there seemed to be an enormity of pride throughout the country’s populace for the place they call home. There was a huge amount of hospitality and generosity shown by the people of Oman”

 

Josh Adam Jones XO

With regards to XO, Oman and its people face an uncertain future. With tensions flaring between the West and Omans neighbours, the Omani people may be dragged into conflcit within the region. With the country hosting bases by the United Kingdom and others, this seems sum what of a inevitability given its proximity to Iran. Perhaps something Josh will explore in the future?

Joshes approach to storytelling is one that we should all adhere too. The notions of no jobs or opportunities are true in some ways, but like myself with the Collective, we have both tried our best to make our own paths and our own livings. Only you can change your situation and nothing is impossible.

Joshes debut book XO is avaliable to purchase here, but with less than 10 copies left, wont be around for much longer.

For Joshes full description about XO, take a look at our feature from last year here.

 

 

Josh Adam Jones

All images used by Josh Adam Jones.

Represented by the Lisa Pritchard Agency

Website: www.joshadamjones.co.uk

About

As a social documentary photographer from Cheltenham, Josh Adam Jones’ practice seeks to communicate stories about often misrepresented places and those who live there. From the aging Irish populations of U.K towns and cities, to the expatriate communities of a lesser known Middle Eastern country, Josh hopes to facilitate conversations about identity, home and interculturalism through his work.

Spreading his time between working as a photographic assistant or on commissions, Josh also works on and disseminates self-funded projects through the means of publication. The British Journal of Photography, It’s Nice That and Then There Was Us have provided a continued platform for communicating his stories, both online and in print.

Josh is now making work whilst studying a part-time MA course in Photography and has recently been involved with a collaborative commission from the British Council & Ffotogallery: The Place I Call Home. This joint project has enabled Josh to continue making work in line with similar themes investigated in XO and has provided a worldwide exhibition platform in which to showcase the work.

Article by Collective Founder, Samuel Fradley

If you enjoyed this article by Sam, check out our interview with Dan Wood: https://thesouthwestcollective.co.uk/dan-wood-talks-skateboarding-publishing-and-photography/