Ethan Aaro Jones (b. 1985) is a photographer based at Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. He holds an MFA in photography from Columbia College, Chicago. Ethan’s work has been exhibited internationally besides numerous publications in print and online magazines and blogs.
The photos featured here are from his 2013-15 project ‘Last Summer’ - “an exploration of summer leisure and how such outdoor relaxation has a positive and necessary effect on our psyche.” It is dreamy and nostalgic for fleeting summers in his part of the world. It has a bright and warm visual appeal and it’s about transience of time, beauty, and joy.
A discussion with Ethan about his work and photography in general is below:
I live in Minneapolis, MN and broadly consider myself to be a field photographer. There is no doubt that my experience as a photography student has shaped how I think about and make my work. I generally work best when I have an idea of what I’m looking to photograph, but also have enough freedom to find or photograph new and unexpected things.
I think photography is initially a tool for observation, and then a way to communicate and express a point of view. In a very basic sense I photograph what I see and find worthy of sharing with other people, but the photographs that I find to be my best work are always about more than pure observation. I’m interested in the potential of photographs to be evocative of an experience or idea.
I like photographing people the most because the experience is often more intense and fulfilling than photographing landscapes or inanimate objects. I’m not really aware of how my work is categorized, so I’m not sure that means very much to me at the moment. As far as the monetization of my work goes, I think that it should have a monetary value because my prints are something that I produce and it takes me a lot of time and money to make the work, so that alone should mean that it carries a monetary value with it. Certainly my work shouldn’t be free.
I have used various methods for creating work over the years. In general, I like to go make pictures with some purpose. I often find pictures made without a goal or intention to be less fulfilling, and I then don’t have any criteria for editing. I think the most difficult thing to do is to articulate my work clearly and accurately.
I haven’t really been looking to find a style. One might be developing over time, but for the most part that hasn’t been planned. I’ve been interested lately in this idea of me as a protagonist in my work. Not in the sense that I’m physically in my pictures as a character, but my pictures are in fact made by me from my point of view, and I think that over this becomes more noticeable. The little things that I do when I look and photograph then begin to permeate into my work. So with that in mind, the elements of places and people that influence me tend to circle back to my disposition to the world around me, and I think that’s essentially what makes up my style as well.
I use a variety of medium and large format equipment ranging from a 4×5 with a few different lenses to a 6×9 and a 6×7 and occasionally a 35mm. I use film because I like the way film cameras work, and I like the color palette and tonal range I can get by scanning it. The camera I use depends on the situation I am photographing in, some require tripods and make moving slow and difficult, others are easy to walk with and allow for more spontaneous photographs.
I don’t really have a favorite photograph. I’m less interested in an iconic singular image. I always find myself more impressed and interested with a photographer when I see a series of images, and even to a larger extent, the course of their career.
In terms of relating pictures to memory or travels, I will say that because I’m photographing away from home that my process has lead me to interesting locations. I value that time I’ve spent out of town photographing, and I’ve learned a lot about a variety of things because of it.
I’m not sure that I intend to self publish my work. I might end up making a book at some point, but it is not the primary goal. I’m more interested in making pictures and figuring out how they go together and if I can make a body of work out of them. A book seems like a means of distribution and collection at once, so in that sense it would be a final step, and most of my projects aren’t finalized.
I think there is a broad range of contemporary photography, and that’s a good thing! Much like anything else, I see social media as a tool that photographers can use, but I also don’t see it as essential or necessarily game changing. A photographer can still shoot film and make pictures without social media, although it’s probably good to be aware of it’s uses, implications, and general existence. I think it’s important to be flexible with your career. It’s difficult to only photograph the things that you want to and make a living. I make a living by scanning and printing other photographer’s work in addition to being a photographer in my own right.
I don’t know what my future projects are yet. I’m always making pictures and trying to figure out what I’m interested in pursuing as I see them. My ambitions are to have exhibitions and publish my work more extensively. I’ve found that over time I can be inspired by almost anything, I’m not sure I know what inspires me until it happens.
Martin Kollar, There Will Be Blood, Ironweed, and I don’t listen to music.
Something to say to our readers or aspiring photographers (or something completely random):
Thanks for reading and stay curious.