An Interview with Photographer Ethan Aaro Jones from USA

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:

Ethan Jones Photography (2)Tell ms about yourself and your relationship with photography. How does having university education in photography help in your work?

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.

Ethan Jones Photography (3)What does photography mean to you? What do you want to express from your images and how do you view your evolution as a photographer?

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.

Ethan Jones Photography (4)What kinds of images do you like shooting most? How much does the categorization and monetization of your work matter to you?

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.

Ethan Jones Photography (5)Tell me about your method(s) or critical approaches of shooting? What are the most challenging aspects of your work?

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.

Ethan Jones Photography (6)Do you believe you’ve found your style or signature? What elements of a person or a place or an environment influence you most?

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.

Ethan Jones Photography (7)Tell me about the equipment (camera, lenses, software, etc.) you mostly use and why:

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.

Ethan Jones Photography (8)Do you have a favorite photo or a significant memory related to photography or your travels?

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.

Ethan Jones Photography (9)Many photographers nowadays are self(publishing) their works as photobooks or zines, When do you intend to follow the suit?

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.

Ethan Jones Photography (10)What do you think about contemporary photography (current trends, social media, photography as a career choice, etc.)?

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.

Ethan Jones Photography (11)What are your future plans/projects, ambitions, aspirations etc.?

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.

Ethan Jones Photography (12)Please share your favorite stuff: photographers, quotes, films, books, music etc.:

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.

Ethan Jones Photography (13) Ethan Jones Photography (14) Ethan Jones Photography (15) Ethan Jones Photography (16) Ethan Jones Photography (17) Ethan Jones Photography (18) Ethan Jones Photography (19) Ethan Jones Photography (20)All photos © Ethan Aaro Jones : Website | Tumblr | Instagram

About Nishant Mishra

Nishant studied art history and literature at the university during 1990s. He works as a translator in New Delhi, India and likes to read about arts, photography, films, life-lessons and Zen.

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