What’s The Story?
Reader reaction to his “Basic Jones” columns encouraged him. People responded to the fresh approach. “I began to explore where my vision of ‘how to photograph’ had come from,” Jones recalls. “Obviously, it had come from the Geographic. That training had made me a really good storyteller, so that even when I was shooting landscapes, I was always asking, ‘What’s the story?’ and then, ‘How can I tell that and get rid of everything else?’”
Jones believes he knows what is so special about National Geographic. Why do people keep towering stacks of back issues? “My answer to that,” he says, “is because the Geographic celebrates what’s right with the world. I always feel great when I read the Geographic. And this became my mindset toward photography—I went out and celebrated what I was looking at.”
A recurring theme in Jones’s personal philosophy and approach is a mindful choice to look for the positive. “I recognize that vision controls your perception, and your perception becomes your reality,” he explains. The work he was doing for National Geographic, finding stories that celebrated life, helped create his reality. “I shot for the Geographic; I didn’t shoot for the National Enquirer, you know.”
His constant search for people and places worth celebrating presented him with creative challenges unique to this mission. “I realized that one of the great lessons of photography was that there was more than one right answer,” he says. If your approach to photography is to find the one “perfect” perspective on a subject, Jones implores you to dig deeper. “Keep going. Try something different. Don’t stop shooting. Constantly look for the next right answer. I found that there were a lot more answers than I would ever suspect and that there wasn’t one right way of doing something—there were a thousand right ways of doing something.