Titled XO, Josh Adam Jones’ graduation project investigates expatriate communities in Oman. “I had informed myself about Middle Eastern culture and the social landscape in the country before visiting, so upon arrival I was eager to embrace everything I was presented with,” he says. “The atmosphere was hugely welcoming, albeit stiflingly hot.”
Born in Cheltenham in 1995, and a recent documentary photography graduate from the University of the West of England, Jones says his inquisitive nature pushed him towards social documentary photography. “I like meeting people, so looking outwards, as opposed to photographing my own ‘backyard’, always felt natural,” he says. “Images have a wonderful potency that other mediums cannot quite match.”
XO was shot in Muscat over a period of two weeks in spring this year, and locating subjects proved remarkably simple. Over 45 per cent of Oman’s population has come from elsewhere, and Jones found his way in via numerous Facebook groups and websites for expatriates. “I was able to talk with people who indirectly acted as ‘fixers’ for me,” he explains. “One person introduced me to another and then another, each of them with equally rich and interesting stories.”
Jones’ days were filled largely with pre-organised portrait sessions, organised via institutions such as the British Embassy and Oman Tourism College, but in his free time, he hit the streets. “Many of the people I photographed, I met purely by chance, and that’s a way of working I really enjoy,” he explains.
His previous projects have documented dwindling Irish populations in big English cities, and local communities in Northern Ireland. Though he cannot pinpoint exactly why he made his initial move towards Oman, he acknowledges the common themes of “religion, politics, identity and race” that have united his work.
It wasn’t always his plan to comment on those issues explicitly, however, and he says he has favoured personal narratives and “probing the quieter, more human side of things instead”. Jones has since won a travel bursary which will allow him to return to Oman to continue XO.