Q&A: Ethan Jones — In Spite of Evidence


Have you recently been living by any life philosophy? No. What will baffle future generations about our day and age? Our inability or unwillingness to adapt to a changing world. Are you aware of any conspiracies? Yes. Conspiracies themselves exist and they have a common place within our culture. The tricky part is that because conspiracies do exist, there are numerous conspiracy theories aiming to find, uncover, and exploit more conspiracies. However, I often find conspiracy theories are the result of misguided or uninformed skepticism that shirk evidence in favor of continued agitation. It’s unfortunate because I think skepticism plays a crucial role in our culture as a basis for questioning and attempting to undermine systems of power. But a skeptic should also be open to new information that might put a line of questioning to rest. I think it is always important to consider the motives of any skeptic, and consider why certain conspiracy theories exist. The answers are often found in the cast of characters. What is it that interests you about photography? Photography lets me look at, and think about, all sorts of things a bit longer without the added anxiety of being caught staring. Once a photograph has been made and that extended looking begins, the places that photographs can take your thinking are nearly endless. I’ve always loved how photography can incite discussions about nearly anything, and create new meanings out of seemingly well known subjects. What is the worst thing about city life? The smell of hot garbage in the summer & various unknown spills on the sidewalk. What part of the planet would you like to explore? Places where previous explorations didn’t succeed. I’d like to look at the land and see what failure or thwarted expectations looks like. What do you think is the most plausible of the supernatural? I don’t have a specific answer, but when people talk about picking up on someone else’s vibes, I wonder if there are untapped and unknown ways that we communicate beyond the physical and literal methods we all know and can document. Perhaps we feel confined by the 5 senses and 3 or 4 dimensions we typically experience, and talking about vibes is a way to articulate feelings unrelated to our defined world. It is plausible that there is more beyond what we know we can experience.

Pick a field of science to be an expert within. Physics. What moment have you most wished you’d had a camera when you hadn’t? There are probably a few instances that this is true, but I can’t think of any specific moments. I suppose that I usually try to forget forgetting my camera. Choose a job you would be willing to do for free on the side. Any job related to Kansas basketball. Describe the most important photo you’ve seen. My first inclination is the Eddie Adams photograph of an assassination in Vietnam. But I’m also inclined to question how important any single photograph is. Something about the accumulation, combination, and context of photographs seems to increase importance beyond that of any single photograph. How often do you take other people’s advice? This almost entirely depends on who’s advice it is. Although I even have a hard time taking my own advice sometimes. Describe a personal hell. Chronic back pain. On what occasion do you lie? When it helps me avoid further explanation. What was the last crime you witnessed? People free-riding on the light rail (I’m not sure why this is treated as a crime, but it is). What is the best way to educate yourself? Asking questions. What is the next book you want to read? Listen to This, by Alex Ross. Ultimate camera? The one I have with me. Most used camera? Right now, Mamiya 7ii. What object do you want? I keep thinking that I need less objects, not more. But being a photographer necessitates adding and creating objects all the time. I’d prefer to make more objects and buy less.

How would you explain the internet to someone from the 1950’s? A communication and information sharing system. Are you satisfied with your level of physical strength? No. Describe a cheap thrill. People watching at the Mall of America. It’s easy to dislike the extreme corporate culture at the mall, but it is also the only place nearby that you can actually consistently see other people walking in the same space as you are. It is the only place that has anything close to the sidewalk traffic of a larger busier city. In a strange way, it is like the Times Square of the Midwest. After I’ve gone to the mall I’m usually exhausted and in need of a nap. Pick an historic moment from the last hundred years to bring a camera to. Is there an historic moment from the last hundred years that didn’t already have someone with a camera attending? This seems like a question more about access than visualizing a particular moment. I also think that many moments are historical (or more memorable) because they were photographed. In this current time, I’d like to think that having a camera might provide answers where there are none, but I’m reminded of many instances where photo and video evidence is still brushed aside and all-too-conveniently doesn’t tell the whole story. This is one of my favorite things about making my own photographs, but it is a failure of having a camera at historical events. More pictures doesn’t necessarily make the story any clearer. In lieu of all of this, I’m thinking about how emotions might be visualized and and photographed at various historical events. It might have been interesting to be with and able to photograph Hillary Clinton as she realized she lost the election, or be with Richard Nixon when he decided to resign. I’m curious what well-known faces look like in times of struggle and how the realization of defeat or failure might be evident. Are impulses more important than consequences? I’m not sure all impulses have a significant consequence. In terms of photography, I tend to think that impulses far out weigh consequences. In daily life, however, there are plenty of potential impulses that are not be acted upon because of their negative consequences. Which talent would you most like to have? Singing. I’d like to know what it is like to care and be passionate about music. As I am now, music and singing is so far off my radar that I’m often oblivious to it. What is your plan for the next 24 hours? Work. Then, hopefully, I’ll find some time to take a walk with my camera.

These photographs are inspired by concepts of wayfinding, misinterpretation, and preconceptions conjured by the numerous failed searches for the purported Northwest Passage. The end goals of these misguided quests required visual proof; discovery and the confirmation of beliefs are highly biased towards sight and observation. I am interested in how photography can parallel the dubious notion that confirmation is related to seeing since the medium is a conveyor of both truth and fiction as it simultaneously depicts and distorts what is in front of the lens. My work uses photography as a sly manipulator to examine the landscape and contemplate the intertwined ideas of deception and truth—ideas that I believe continue in a heightened sense today.

Ethan Aaro Jones (b. 1985, Washington, D.C.) is a photographer and artist currently living and working Minneapolis, Minnesota. He holds a MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago and a BFA in photography from Rochester Institute of Technology. Ethan’s work has been exhibited internationally, and he staged his first solo exhibition at the University of Notre Dame in 2014. To see more of Ethan Jones’ work visit — Website / Instagram.