Anthony Jones is a fantastic fine art photographer who resides in London. His work http://www.ajphoto.info/ is very stylized and romantic, which is exactly what he’s after. I had a great chat with him about his work and why he only works in black and white.
MICHAEL: Hey Anthony, I love black and white photography and you clearly do as well. What draws you to it?
ANTHONY: Hello Michael, I've been taking photographs for over twenty years and before that I painted. I was drawn to photographs by the likes of Agtet, Andre Kertesz, Brassai and Bill Brandt. I didn't know their names at the time, but their timeless, modernist and unobtrusive work appealed to me. I know there have been lots of changes in photography along the way, but I've not yet seen a reason to change. I believe you only get better by sticking at it, changing when you get bored doesn't lead to quality or seeing new things.
MICHAEL: And so, you're seeking that timeless quality. You haven't yet seen a reason to change? Does that mean you still shoot and develop film? Now does it differ from digital?
ANTHONY: I do still shoot film. It’s slower, coming up with the photographs. I use a Hasselblad, 12 shots per roll and I don't see the results until I develop the film. I used to think there was no difference between film and digital, my stock reply was, "It’s all about looking," but that has changed. I now realize that my editing comes in the taking of the photographs. I'm using my experience/knowledge to get it right, the exposure and composition. With digital, you can try and try again. There's no snapping in my work, it’s thought out. That might sound stilted, but I inject movement and surprise with figures. Those I can't control.
MICHAEL: Are you saying that film is more creative and artistic than digital? Looking at your work, I do get a greater sense that it's maybe more organic like Henri Cartier-Bresson's work.
ANTHONY: It's unfair to say more or less creative or artistic, but because of the process, analogue photography gives more time to reflect. Photographs taken using a digital camera can be taken and distributed immediately which can lead to snap value judgments about the effectiveness of the image. A longer process doesn't guarantee a satisfactory result, but it does allow one to have quality control over the work at various stages of its creation.
MICHAEL: Black and white seems more nostalgic and dramatic than color, even still today. Do you ever work in color? Is it ever needed for you?
ANTHONY: Even though the world comes in colour, there is a feeling that black and white is closer to something real, not that my work claims to showing the truth. It's stylized and romantic. Romantic is what I am aiming for, not nostalgic, I refer to the past in my style, but I don't want to go there, I want that style, but not looking back, but rather style as something current. For what I'm doing, colour would be a distraction and there are so many textures, tones and lights to capture in monochrome that I can imagine it keeping me busy for a long time.
MICHAEL: What's your earliest memory of photography? How did you become a photographic artist?
ANTHONY: I was 4-5 in earliest school. My mother was pregnant with my eldest brother and my school teacher brought in a photograph of a baby eating chocolate and making a real mess. She said that's what babies were like. I used to paint, dark imaginary landscapes, like my photographs. My father died when he was my age now. From some of my inheritance, I bought a camera. All my photographs are in memory of my father.
MICHAEL: I have a theory that so many people today are almost obsessed with taking photographs because they're trying to capture life and hold onto it while still knowing they'll die one day. I don't know. What do you think?
ANTHONY: People take photographs to record, express themselves and later remember. There is a sense in which a photograph of someone who has passed is kept alive through a photograph. Victorian families would have photographs of their dead relatives (mostly babies and children) to keep them present. We seem to think other people are interesting in our lives and want to see us and what we are doing. A photograph, still or moving picture seems to provide proof of that interesting life. There used to be the idea of a 'private live,' but with the further democratization of photography mixed with social media, every aspect of our lives can be recorded and made public.
MICHAEL: Are you in London? That seems like a very edgy, sophisticated art city like New York. It must be great being an artist in Great Britain in general. They appreciate art and culture. No?
ANTHONY: We seem to have everything in London, edgy and traditional and a great history. My work belongs to a modernism photographic tradition which isn't 'in' at the moment. I often think I should have been born fifty years earlier. Photography forms a very small section within art and achieving a 'fanbase' is a slow business. One reads great things about the U.S. and Europe, maybe I need to move?
MICHAEL: In recent years, I've seen contemporary photography explode on the scene. Your work is certainly in line with that. What do you think photography does that painting does not or cannot do?
ANTHONY: Many more people are practising photography, pushing the image in new directions. It's a healthy time. Everyone understands a photograph, which may also be the reason some people can't see it as art. I've never thought of my work as 'contemporary.” That word implies themes and approaches which I don't deal with. 'Contemporary' is confrontation and issue based. That's not to say I don't dealing with issues in my work, but they are more subtle, personal ones, about alienation and being an outsider. These issues are set within another tradition, the cityscape, they are 'psychological street photographs.’ The turmoil is inside rather than played out for all to see.
MICHAEL: Psychological street photographs. I love that. Finally Anthony, if there's a message to your body of work so far, what would that be OR what do you want people who see your work to take away from it?
ANTHONY: I feel my work is out of step with what’s on at the moment, but I have total faith that what I am doing is true to me, even if that takes a long time to be seen. I have the time. Go with what you believe in, that’s my message.
MICHAEL: Very cool. Thanks Anthony. This has been great.
Check out Anthony’s fantastic work at http://www.ajphoto.info/.