By Devon Michael


There’s a secret change that happens inside artists who work abroad. It’s hard to understand, beyond that the root of the trait is empathy, but it’s also perspective, and I think it’s imperative to anyone, in any field, who wants to do thoughtful, inclusive work. The more you’ve seen, the bigger your pictures are.


If you’ve been all over the world, you’ll recognize in jOnezi the familiar places you thought were memories you’d failed to capture at that moment. If you’ve never been out of your hometown, also, jOnezi’s photography will give you that experience. If he comes to your town, he’ll show it right back to you in a way you thought only you could see it, but perhaps never articulate.


Now, there’s a lot of careful precision that goes into categorizing photographic styles. I don’t know what jOnezi’s pictures are, mostly because I don’t think it’s important. What I do know is that he’s the kind of artist who is paying very close attention. His pictures are intimate, they begin close in. They begin very close in.



Every photo he takes, I swear I’ve been there. Every person he photographs, I think I know them. They look just like all my friends look, but in those moments of private jokes, or during outings that I don’t know why I remember. In the same way, you might recall people from high school, but in inexplicable circumstances, i.e. doing some funny impersonation, or dressing up for Halloween together. It’s that kind of intimate. It’s a surreal feeling, being brought into an image and made to feel a part of things. It’s almost interactive. His art all does this, from what I’ve seen, though sometimes in different ways. He makes things appear immediately familiar. You’d think that wasn’t up to him, but I feel otherwise. I believe he knows exactly what he’s doing. It can’t be an accident how what he captures is in my mind before I even see the photo. That’s it! I’ve solved it. His photographs are a wormhole into my subconscious, circumnavigating typical artistic presentation methods. That makes sense. That’s why every time I see his work I smile and mumble “Ah, yes, jOnezi. I remember that. Wasn’t that amazing?”


The truth of him is that his professional career, embarked upon in 1992, has taken him all around the world and into indigenous people’s lives to capture their culture, and monuments, and different ways of existing as a human that adds incredible depth to his work. jOnezi has a rare awareness for what makes things familiar and makes far away things appear knowable and close by. Now, he’s expanding. He’s started working in film, sculpture, paintings, installations. I have to assume, looking at the body of his work, maybe what he’s doing isn’t about taking an evocative photograph. Maybe his work is about a bigger picture, like finding all the common ground one can between you and the next person, or showing a distant doorway to be inviting instead of foreign, or make people an ocean away look like an old friend. You see what I mean? jOnezi-work starts close in, but then it pans out.


Whatever he does next, film, photography, what-have-you, I reckon the lens will begin closely focused, in that intimate way he makes you pay attention, but watch him work because there’s a whole lot just out of frame.


May 25-28th he’ll be on display at Art! Vancouver. 

Visit his page at:


Leave a Reply