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 Walls was 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.
Upon rounding this up with the production of a small book-dummy, coupled with the approaching summer of 2017, Josh decided to volunteer and work at the Belfast Photo Festival in Northern Ireland. Over a two-week period, balancing working at the Festival and exploring the Northern Irish city, Josh took the numerous chance encounters he experienced, along with the landscape these people lived in. “It was an instinctive process, in which not much planning was done previously. Armed with common preconceptions, mild stereotypes and a small historic knowledge of the place, being a stranger and foreigner to the city worked in my favour, although I thought hailing from England might cause a few issues.” Josh explains.
“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 my 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.”
“99 Peace Walls, which although makes direct reference to the barriers which divide the city on the basis of religion and politics, is not inherently a project about these issues. I am concerned with the people of Northern Ireland, and seek to humanise the problems which they have faced, and continue to deal with. There is a certain potency which surrounds Belfast, and although historical, political and religious factors are important to consider, I truly hope people can identify with the human side of the work.”
Josh is currently making work abroad in Muscat (March 21st 2018), the capital of Oman and will be exhibiting this work at the Clay exhibition.