Jono Wood is a photographer working professionally in the following photographic industries. Commercial, editorial photo essays and exhibits long term personal projects in fine art galleries, his work is usually focused on South African social issues.
Born in Johannesburg South Africa he studied at National College of Photography, after studying he assisted some of South Africas best photographers for 5 years on a freelance basis, during this time he continued photographing his personal projects focused on exploring social issues in South Africa and the inner city of Johannesburg. He was interested in how these social issues related to our everyday lives despite the massive ignorance divides deeply ingrained in a country such as South Africa with wide economic and cultural divides between its people.
2014 Sony Pro photo Awards
2016 Silver & bronze Loeries, ‘Children of Fire’
2018 Canne print bronze, ‘Daily Abuse
2018 Silver Loerie, ‘Daily Abuse’
2018 Silver Loerie, contributing towards Trace Mobile ‘Never Expire’
His final year student project was a photo essay about gangsterism in Eldorado Park where he spent time with some of the last members of a gang called Majimbos, he documented their daily lives and that of the community. It was the first time he would enter into a world of criminality and poverty and this began a topic that would span the next 10 years of his career.
His first solo exhibition in 2014 was a collaboration with journalist Nickolaus Bauer, a black and white portraiture series of addicts staying in a Berea park called Pullingerkop. It as a self discovery project where he explored one of the initial dangers told to him as a child about drugs and addicts in Hillbrow, here he was confronting the realities of these warnings based on photographic and social interactions with this community. He was able to put a face to one of the faceless dangers told to many young middle class South Africans to keep them away from the city, he needed to face these topics first in order to begin seeing the many complex layers making up Johannesburg’s CBD. It was a project that broke many chains of pre instilled fear in Wood about the Johannesburg CBD as he was able to cross a bridge for one of the first times and stand as a voyeur on the other side of the wealth divide, it further ignited questions in him about the relationship between the wealthy and poor in South Africa.
He wanted to understand the relationship between victim and perpetrator in a crime ridden country such as South Africa. Was there a connection between the luxuries of the financially enabled and those perpetrating crimes, It was on this project that Wood became close with an active drug user and street criminal who he then photographed and observed for a number of years. The complexities of the criminal mind became a point of interest to Wood intwined into the many layers of a city rediscovering its identity and future as well as Wood discovering his role and place in the city.
In 2016 he showed Dark City at Circa gallery in a collaboration project with then Architecture student Hariwe who was doing his thesis on a particular “Dark Building” named Dark City to its residents because of the lack of electricity and the dire situation within the building. Wood and Hariwe began the project together focusing on Dark City and other dark buildings for at least a day a week for two and a half years, later they invited Johannesburg film maker Dirk Chalmers to join the project and bring a video aspect. The prolonged nature of the project allowed the team to see how transient the space was for immigrants and the criminal aspect responsible for the high number of street robberies in front of the building, they were able to very closely document and observe a community very alienated by society and the city of Johannesburg as well as the role it played in Johannesburgs complicated genetical makeup. The project took an academic and artistic approach to looking at the issue of Dark Buildings in Johannesburg. Dark buildings are abandoned buildings were the poorest and most vulnerable squat without water, electricity or trash removal. Conditions were dire and massive risks lay inside and outside for residents as well as children who lived within, all scrap metal had been removed and sold, the building was a concrete shell resembling the bare skeleton of a textiles factory from an industrial Johannesburg long forgotten and buried under years of history and occupation. The occupants were partially illegals from other Southern African countries such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho with the rest coming from all corners of South Africa for various reasons. This interaction sparked a new interest in immigrants and where they come from in order to further understand the age old migration of immigrants to Johannesburg for work and money.
The most recent project was a two sided approach for Wood, he had begun his photography passion on a trip with a friend straight after high school where they kayaked the Orange river from source to sea beginning in the remote Maluti mountains of the kingdom of Lesotho. Here he first witnessed true village life and the remoteness of it all. Many years later he returned to these remote regions of Lesotho to photograph them properly and reconnect with where he first began his photographic journey.
The unbridled beauty and space helped him further understand the brutality of Johannesburg and the often tragic story of it’s immigrants and where they came from. Through his previous projects
immigrants in Johannesburg had become an unavoidable topic in his work.
Discussions with his subjects both within Johannesburg and in Lesotho had a common trend of people in search of a prosperous life in Johannesburg, a city where all dreams could come true.
Many people he had met over the years and photographed talk about home in a nostalgic manner often reflecting on the beauty of home and their inherent love for it but complained of the lack of opportunities and development available in these environments, those who he spoke to in the rural homelands asked of job opportunities in Johannesburg and shared their dreams of a prosperous life in Johannesburg.
The pursuit of wealth and a better life in the city of Johannesburg is a common pilgrimage for rural South Africans and African foreign nationals, the realities of Johannesburg are often far more severe than many could expect and this is what Wood had already seen and focused on for many years.
By photographing the Highlands of Lesotho he would like to convey a feeling of home that many foreign nationals have and the simplicity of life left behind through their journeys, he would like to place an emphasis on the fashion and culture that have been brought from far away to the CBD of Johannesburg and how the roles of herdsmen are now those of trash collectors, the expansive views from villages are now this of Dark Buildings and decay.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jn2gc_XIIwk , https://www.ormsdirect.co.za/blog/new-years-eve-hillbrow-jono-wood/ , https://sacreativenetwork.co.za/2014/01/drugs-and-gangsters-photography-by-jono-wood/
Dark City Exhibition Trailer
Opening Night Radio Interview
Dark City Exhibition Page
Mary Sibande "A Cresendo of Ecstacy" Eden Labs
Wayne Barker “Old Masters New Realities” Eden Labs