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Selected writing -

“The hazy, gentle lighting casts his subjects in an ethereal glow, making them seem personable and kind. The light sand and buildings of off-whites, creams and soft browns appear almost heavenly. His photographs – beautiful as they are – make you want to discover Oman, its people and its history.”

- Emma Latham Phillips (It’s Nice That), 2018.
“The focus on diaspora is a particularly significant subject matter at this moment in time and something we should all be thinking about. There is a sense of nostalgia to the series that resonates with the viewer and it successfully raises important questions about one’s history and heritage.”

- Catherine Hyland (EIZO Student Award), 2019.

After realising that all he knew of the Middle-East came from the news, Josh Adam Jones booked a flight to Oman, to challenge his perspective. The decision began a project that would keep him preoccupied for nearly three years.

Oman, like almost everywhere, is fascinatingly difficult to sum up. To its South-West is Yemen, where there rages a civil War, and to its West is Saudi Arabia, a country engaging in proxy wars across much of the rest of the Middle East. Yet Oman remains neutral, a stable country with strong institutions, and a relative safe haven from the surrounding unrest. Its diverse population and varied culture are most evident in its capital city, Muscat, which is made up of over 45% expats.

For Josh, a photographer making his name as a thoughtful documentarian, Oman offered the perfect contradiction to his picture of the Middle East; a view cobbled together from the bleak news stories we’re all so used to reading about the region.

Newsworthiness is a core theme of the work; we’re denied any reference to the country’s issues. There’s no political graffiti on display, no confrontational gazes, no suggestion of unrest. Instead, Josh takes a varied approach to build a deliberately positive picture. Sometimes, he wanders the streets of Muscat to meet its citizens, he asks them to sit for a portrait and to discuss their feelings towards Oman. Other times he’s welcomed into the homes of locals, or to the British Embassy, the Grand Mosque, or the Oman Tourism College. In all his encounters, Josh searches for meaningful interactions and honest sentiments. What results is a slow journey through Omani society, in part looking at the relationship between natives and expatriate communities, and in equal measure describing the landscape.

The series opens with a young girl wearing hijab, she stares up and past the viewer, the image is warm and unmistakably hopeful, setting the tone for the rest of the project. Further on, two children are playing amongst an idyllic backdrop, the scene is vibrant and feels equally positive. We see that a mix of ages, occupations, skin colours and modes of dress appear frequently throughout the series, it becomes a clear celebration of diversity in Muscat. These images do more than just set a warm scene, they aim to remind us that a place is both more than its stereotype, and more than the sum of its problems.

The idea of home emerges as another theme. In one image we’re invited into the front room of a British expat, whose house is situated in a small fishing village on the city's outskirts. He’s dressed in a local dishdasha, and despite being the only westerner in his immediate area, he looks comfortable and proud to be part of Omani society. Elsewhere, Josh shares the thoughts of citizens directly, through hand-written answers to his questions on the meaning of home. A common pattern surfaces among these responses, most simply distilled by 11 year old Dominic; home is where your loved ones are.

If our picture of a place is built upon whatever makes the news, our judgements will be narrowly slanted toward the extremes. The media trades in the sensational, and it can be hard to remedy that bias. What Josh offers instead is the day-to-day complexity of a country, resisting the urge toward drama. The resulting project is a series of photographs so deliberately optimistic that they verge on fiction, the offering of a photographer trying to remedy his own misconceptions. By combining his own images with words from citizens, Josh points to the un-newsworthy and yet salient truth that for many of its 4.6 million diverse inhabitants, Oman is a stable home.

Harry Flook (Loupe Magazine), 2019.