Physicist "Develops" Career In Photography

by Jeanne Belovitch

What's a physicist doing earning his living as a successful photographer? For South End resident Lou Jones, melding the sciences and the arts comes naturally.

Jones calls himself a commercial photographer, and works out of what he calls "probably the most diverse studio in town." His preference for change and his adaptive abilities move him easily from photographing an automobile ad to riding in a jeep through guerrilla territory in San Salvador while on assignment for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. Was he frightened on either of his two trips? "You go down there thinking of getting involved in some action," Jones explains. "When you get there you're more concerned for your safety."

Another trip to El Salvador is in the works, but, meanwhile, Jones has been playing it safe in the United States, committed to more "cushy" projects such as shooting the America's Cup Race at Newport for Minolta.

Jones' favorite subject area "involves," as he puts it, "man's imprint on the earth. Very often (the subject) is people," he explains. "But I wouldn't call myself a people photographer. Neither am I a nature or scenic photographer."

For a couple of years now, Jones has been working on a project which he has titled Urban Graphics. "It's the juxtaposition of man-made objects against the urban environment...things that man has specifically built like buildings or monuments.

"We're the most important things on earth," Jones says. "How we touch it and make it different for good or bad is what I photograph."

Of slight build, Jones exudes a sense of inner calm. He learned about poetry and photography while studying physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. "I had a roommate who introduced me to poetry," he explains. "Everything I wrote about evoked a picture. I tried to find photographs and illustrations to express what I wrote, but I never could. So my roommate put a camera in my hands and said, 'Why not create your own pictures?'"Little did Jones realize that years later he would establish himself in Boston as a photographer.

His training in math and science, Jones explains, helps him considerable in his work. "Math helps in the big projects where you have to solve problems. This is where the science comes in. Anything can be done; it's just a matter of putting your head to it and making it simple. A lot of artists and photographers think they can't do things because it's out of their scope."

Jones didn't begin professional work as a photographer immediately after college, however. He initially helped to start a computer company, but when it failed in 1971 Jones had to decide just what to pursue. "I didn't want to work for an IBM or Sylvania," he remembers,"so I thought I'd make my living at photography."

"I'm pretty much self-taught," Jones says. "All through high school and college I was heavily into drawing illustrations. A lot of photographers claim ther're painters or learned photography from painting. (Photography) has its own integrity. I never take a photograph to look like a painting. I get no influence from paintings."

What does photography do that other visual media do not? According to Jones, "A photograph captures a moment for all times. I think it has more to do with (photography) being an educational, newsworthy, journalistic tool---that it brings a much truer picture of what's really going on.

"When you bring a movie camera or a television camera into an event, the whole thing changes. People play to the camera. But you can go into a mosque or to the Middle East with a camera and take pictures of what's going on and not interrupt. Photography lets the event remain pure in itself."

His studio on Randolph Street is enormous. In fact, he thinks the building in which he works is one of the tallest in the South End. "You can see the entire city from the roof, he adds; even the Blue Hills. It's fabulous. I found a map from the 1790's. Randolph Street was on it. It referred to the area here as the South Cove."

"I think the South End is the most diverse area in Boston," Jones says. The rest of Boston is too polarized for me." This explains why Jones has spent most of his 16 years in Boston either living or working in the South End.

"The problem with the South End is that people have made an effort to change that diversity to an enviornment that's very homogenous," Jones says cautiously. "I didn't think the South End was going to survive. Things look better here now. The Syrians are here; and Chinese and Puerto Ricans." But he adds that too many blacks have left the community in recent years.

Source: South End News, Boston, MA; 1983