Barrie Jones is a photo artist who combines a number of concepts and techniques in his work, which is known for its focus on the human figure as a site of complex personal and collective identities. Jones’s art is often large in scale. He works regularly with colour and B&W photographs, sometimes digitally generated or manipulated, sometimes mounted on canvas or other materials.
Jones’s central concern has been with the portrait and its complexities. His works explore the pliability and deceptiveness of human identity – sometimes with humour that is subtextual and subtly subversive – while commenting upon the fragility, tenacity, and inventiveness of the human species. An ongoing interest in the idea and use of the uniform – including organizational gear and regalia – has led to bodies of work with subjects ranging from fast food servers to firefighters, athletes, and military veterans. These works explore a dynamic that limits individuality as it simultaneously grants a compensating group identity, varying degrees of economic security, and the validation of recognized social roles.
His most recent photographs called Luxury/work, concentrate on work performed by people in the “new service economy” providing individual services, related to fitness, health, and beauty, to clients with the means and the desire to pursue such goals. These “negotiated documentary” works hover between social documentary and directed fiction. Each of these narrative photographs tells a story about the luxury of body modification, those paid to create it, and those who exhibit it – literally “in the flesh” – and the complicated issues of power, intimacy, and vulnerability evident in the relationships between client and employee.
Jones has long been associated with Vancouver and UBC, where he received his BFA before spending more than a decade in Ontario, where he received his MFA at York. He taught at the university level for many years before returning to British Columbia in the mid-1990s and soon thereafter coming to teach at UBC.