Montreal-born photographer Gabriel Jones is stirring up reality with his latest series, "Irhann," based on an imaginary country where failed rocket launch attempts are a true part of our landscape. We had a chance to sit down with the Brooklyn-based lensman for him to explain more about his elusive images and fondness for mystery.
Where did your idea for the fictitious country come from?
I had the idea one morning after watching the news about Iran and about the media's presumption that Iran was preparing to produce nuclear energy for mass destruction weapons. I didn't know if the news was true or not but still I was affected by the negative vibe it was generating.
Are you trying to make a political statement with your current series Irhann?
No I am simply using absurdity to redirect negativity. This method is simply a protection reflex I am trying to learn. I am also trying to apply it to many other sources of negativity on a daily level. The only statement I could be making is that I am against nuclear weapons, whoever has them.
In your series "Somewhere on Time," how did you approach your subjects and do you think they were surprised to see themselves in such nondescript settings in the end?
In 2004 I traveled to London, Paris, Warsaw, New York and Montreal for this series. I decided I was going to create a little game. I had to leave the house with my two assistants and my portable flash equipment not knowing where I would set up or who I would photograph or what would be the story behind each shot. Everything had to reveal itself on the spot, instinctively. Somehow things just happened and interesting characters would pass by the set and I would simply go up to them and explain my project when I felt they would correspond to the "actors" I needed. It was quite rare to have someone that would refuse. When I show my model their "portrait" at the end they are usually shocked. They really don't see themselves like that.
When you show your work around the world, do you find the reactions to be different in each country? Is there a particular reaction you are looking for?
When I look at art I want to be surprised, I want to be shown a new way of seeing or feeling. I hope people can feel or see something new when they look at my work. I love to hear people's reaction to my images.
What do you find so interesting about mystery?
Mystery has the potential to reveal the new. when I create I try to believe that it is not about me, it's about a larger situation. I have the impression that the subconscious can affect my decisions when I am in an errand state of mind. That is how I create scenes.
Who are some of your favorite photographers?
I don't think I only belong to photography. I am very much influenced by artists like Mauricio Cattelan, Gabriel Orozco, Francis Alys, Marcel Duchamp and Sophie Calle.
What's up next for you?
A series of videos. I am presently interested in the process of reconstruction of memory. I am also trying to figure out where my great grandfather came from when he arrived to New York city illegally by boat during the first world war and then changed our family name to Jones. Lots of mystery.