As a social documentary photographer, a great amount of time is spent working alone and often in unfamiliar places. Josh Adam Jones’ most recent ongoing project, 99 Peace Walls aims to document the people and places of Belfast, Northern Ireland.
99 Peace Wallswas born out of an ongoing interest with the Irish inhabitants of English towns and cities, namely Birmingham, Cheltenham and Bristol. As part of an earlier university project, Josh Adam Jones travelled to each of these places and produced a body of work which aimed to document the ageing Irish population living outside of Ireland.
Northern Ireland has experienced its fair share of political and religious unrest even in recent history, with both factors often considered to go hand-in-hand. However, the highly volatile and violent conflicts which were commonplace on the streets of Northern Ireland (and England too) were a result of opposing views on how the country should be run. Republicans, who were commonly Catholic wanted the Republic of Ireland to prosper, whereas Loyalists, who were commonly Protestant wanted to remain loyal to the United Kingdom. Religion was a contributing factor to The Troubles but cannot be seen as the single reason; national identity and territory were more important.
During his time in Belfast, an important and influential general election took place. Without a clear majority, Theresa May faced a hung parliament, and The DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) came to a “confidence and supply” agreement. The DUP, who are predominately anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage caused a small stir amongst the people of the United Kingdom, as many were concerned about possible influences on these matters within government. Upon returning to Belfast in November to continue this project, the clear divide of East and West was still apparent, and tensions seemed just as high.
How did your feature of 99 Peace Walls in the British Journal of Photography arise? Could you give any advice to other photographers who are looking to get their work published?
It was not long after getting back from my first time over in Belfast, and had finished processing and scanning the negatives when I decided to reach out to some creative platforms. The project that has become known as 99 Peace Walls was partly borne out of a previous interest in Irish culture, but also out of an impulsive drive to just make work in a foreign place. Belfast Photo Festival was a great thing to be a part of during my time in the country, and making photographs was more of a sideline thing at the time. Making a coherent project came later. I think the first outlet to take on the work was Unveil'd followed shortly by TRIP Mag. It might have been the other way around, I forget. However the point I am trying to make is that The British Journal of Photography was one of the many publications I reached out to on a whim, and for some reason they loved the work and wanted to feature it. The rest is history, and people seem to respond well to the imagery. The underlying advice here is to not be afraid to send emails with work embedded in it because you never know who is going to like what you're about. Chasing things up is important too.
We know the series is ongoing, is this something you are continuing to work on currently or something you will come back to in the future? If so, what are you currently pursuing?
I have plans to further the existing body of work, and have been working on a behind the scenes film about my process in Belfast. There is also a book in the pipeline, looking to be backed by a wonderful lecturer with his own publishing company, so watch this space. In terms of other work, I do not want to disclose too much at this stage as I have other intentions to revisit Northern Ireland, but moving away from this previous ongoing body of work. Next month (March 2018) I am travelling to Muscat, Oman where I will photograph the expatriate community, as well as the local people and places. Weirdly although very different from Northern Ireland, I have seemingly discovered some similarities; historical and current social challenges are still apparent, and there exists a political minefield of many different things. It certainly will be an interesting place to make work, and I am looking forward to meeting with the numerous forthcoming and friendly Omani people I have been in contact with already.
We see you are due to graduate this summer, what are your plans upon graduation?
After graduation in July (which I have ditched for a trip to Spain) I have a small internship lined up at The Print Space in London. I will then make suitable plans in preparation for the start of a Masters Degree in Photography at my current university, which only launched last year but is already gaining a prolific name for itself. Most importantly, I will continue to work on the smaller projects I currently have closer to home, as well as working with ongoing clients in Bristol.