Image taken by Robert N Jones

Robert N Jones Q&A

The Black gaze means everything to me. It’s my (our) point of view. It is a reflection of our experiences. It’s everything we encounter, feel and live through. It matters because, it’s our side of the story. It’s our form of expression. You can’t tell the complete human story without our perspective! – Robert N Jones

How does the Black gaze relate to your photography practice?

It relates to me simply because I am black man that happens to be a photographer. My work is a reflection of how I see the world. It’s been shaped by my upbringing, my love, my struggle, my, pain, my relationships, and my ambition. I try to approach things with intention as well as empathy.

What do you want to say or address with your photography?

I want to address many things with my photography. I feel as though I was born an artist so all my life I’ve been on a mission to express my inner self. To take my thoughts and feelings and translate them into art that people can relate to. I never liked the idea of confining myself, therefore, I want my work address the world as I see it, but also fulfill my need to articulate my artistic side.

What influences and inspires you? How is this reflected in your work?

I’m influenced by many things. I’m a huge movie buff so cinema might be my greatest inspiration. Music is probably a close second. But, real life inspires me. Sights and sounds – from children laughing and playing, to people moving about their daily lives. Human emotions, faces, body language. Light inspires me. Colors inspire me. Textures and details inspire me. Weather inspires me. My dreams inspire me.

Who are your favourite Black photographers from the past? Why?

Gordon Parks is my greatest singular inspiration because of his versatility. In fact, my social media name is a tribute to my love for his talent. He was so good at so many different art forms. It’s both inspirational as well as motivational. Honestly, I love too many photographers to name, but, I also love the Kamoinge Workshop.

For so many years of my life and career, like most black people, I was under the impression that all the best photographers were apart of the Magnum collective. Upon discovering Kamoinge, I realised photography was yet another aspect of our lives where we were misled. There are a multitude of great black photographers worldwide!

Image 3 by Robert N Jones

Please describe the highs and lows of your experience as a Black photographer?

That’s a tough question. The highs would be, just being able to do something that I love so much. Finding something that I connect to so deeply and having the good fortune to do it on a regular basis. Another high would be, being able to share my work with people that love art as much as I do.

Being a part of a community that values creativity and expression. Lastly, I’d say one of the greatest highs is being able to inspire other individuals to follow and live out their dreams just as I have.

The lows, unfortunately there are plenty of those! Being denied opportunities and held to impossibly higher standards as a way to keep us out of contention. Being judged more critically and constantly being watched with suspicion.

Being harassed. Being told, “You can’t photograph here” or “Why are you taking these pictures?” Self doubt, creative block, low finances, lack of support. Having to compete with your contemporaries for the same few jobs. Dealing with gatekeepers that only look out for their own. Just to name a few.

Image 4 by Robert N Jones

What work are you producing and what more would you like to do?

Right now I’m concentrating more on printing my existing work and creating books. I’m also trying to expand my travel, documentary and abstract interests.

I’d like to do more long term documentary projects and portraiture. I’d love to document individuals or groups on a more intimate level. I’d also love to do behind the scenes photos on movie or TV productions.

Lastly, I’ve been working on one of my other dreams – shooting short films to accompany my photographs.

About Robert N Jones

Originally from Illinois, Robert N Jones is a freelance photographer who currently lives and works in the Southwest. His practice focuses on documentary, portraiture and landscape photography. The hallmarks of his moving images of family, friends and the community around him are keen observation, sensitivity and a huge love for life.

Connect with Robert

Website / Instagram / Twitter

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The Photographer’s Q&A is an ongoing discussion that is open to Black photographers of all ages, genders and genres. To take part, start here.