Monthly Archives: October 2013

Crowded Isolation: an interview with the photographer Terence S. Jones

CC BY Terence S JonesAll images (CC BY 2.0): Terence S. Jones

The cover of issue ten went through many iterations. We wanted to capture the theme of isolation which threaded its way through a number of stories, but without the whole thing coming across as downbeat or sad. Eventually, a late night search on Flickr turned up the image above. It’s entitled Crowded Isolation, and was taken by Terence S. Jones, an American photographer based in Atlanta. Happily, Terence had licensed the photo under a Creative Commons licence, and so the final cover came together quickly soon after. We talked to him by email about his photography and about capturing his Crowded Isolation.

What drew you to take the picture which ended up as Crowded Isolation?

The picture was taken at a train station in Germany. I was travelling for some time by then and I was quite frustrated with some of the hassles that come with travelling. It was winter around the time when many of the German trains had to be cancelled due to heavy snow, etc. I then happened to look down into the main hall where I saw the guy standing with his luggage staring at the announcement board with all the cancelled trains. All the other people were rushing by and it created this weird contrast of an absolutely calm and isolated element in a high-paced crowd.

Did it capture what you hoped it would?

That’s a hard question. Often I feel that photos develop their full potential only some time after they have been taken, in particular the photographer needs to get some emotional distance. Otherwise the photo is overloaded by external emotions and one cannot really judge. So to answer your question: yes it does. In fact it has certain imperfections that I hated right after I took it and now I believe that they add to it (for example, the slow shutter speed blurred some of the people).

CC BY Terence S. Jones
A lot of your work is travel photography. What came first, the love of travel, or of photography?

That is very easy for me. I did not like travelling very much before I got into serious photography. Now I can motivate myself to go almost anywhere. Even if I expect to hate the location I can still capture why I don’t like it. Of course this approach comes with some serious risks – Susan Sontag wrote about those in her ‘On Photography’. Among one of her more popular statements was:
“The method especially appeals to people handicapped by a ruthless work ethic – Germans, Japanese and Americans. Using a camera appeases the anxiety which the work driven feel about not working when they are on vacation and supposed to be having fun. They have something to do that is like a friendly imitation of work: they can take pictures.” On a more serious note: photography turned me into an explorer. It brought me to places and let me experience things that I would have never gone to beforehand, because I could not answer the question “why should I go?” It is weird, for the very special places and experiences I do not even share the photos with anyone as I rather want to keep them, and what they stand for, to myself.

CC BY Terence S. Jones

If your Flickr stream is anything to do by, you move between portraits and still life, landscapes and cites, candid and posed shots. Do you have any favourite subjects?

I think at this point my Flickr stream is not very representative any more. At some point Flickr just did not work for me any more and there are time where I try to reactivate my Flickr-life but then fall short again. I think style wise I am really drawn to either ‘people shots’ be it staged, candid, fashion, or portraits and ‘geometric shots’, e.g., urban photography where geometry and strong composition are dominating – the latter however is more on my personal work side and not really for business.

CC BY Terence S. Jones

Any parting words?

I feel that all types of art have been severely threatened by the ‘likes’ and ‘hits’ driven evaluation and I urge anybody in any creative endeavor to free themselves from these very one-dimensional outside evaluations and rather find a circle of ‘friends’ to discuss their work with.

For more of Terence’s photography, head to his website.