Focus on the collection: Barrie Jones

Barrie Jones, Woman with Bow, 2009. Inkjet print.

Barrie Jones, Woman with Bow, 2009. Ink jet print, 122.9 x 202.8 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa © Barrie Jones. Photo: courtesy the artist


Barrie Jones is a contemporary Canadian photographer who concentrates his practice on the human figure, along with personal and collective identities concerning site and space. He is interested in “social studies” and balances staged and unmediated depictions of his subjects to reflect social, economic and political arrangements.1

Jones recognizes the complexities of portraiture and human identity, and explores these ambiguities by framing social roles in conjunction with natural environments and urban landscapes. Instead of hiring actors as his subjects, he collaborates with individuals he encounters in his community, and works within their respective settings and activities.2 It is important for the artist to honour the authenticity and originality of his subjects by creating scenarios that could occur in reality.3

Barrie Jones, Lichen Picker, 2010. Inkjet print.

Barrie Jones, Lichen Picker, 2010. Ink jet print, 96 x 112 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa © Barrie Jones. Photo: courtesy the artist


Other key themes that Jones engages in his work are the concepts of lifestyle, body and boundary. He investigates these relationships by documenting exchanges between clients and professionals from personal-services industries, such as fitness instructors, estheticians and therapists.4 Such documentation emphasizes the peculiarities of body modifications and intimate interactions between strangers, foregrounding differences in social and economic status.5 Throughout his work, Jones creates playful, intriguing and unusual narratives that require careful analysis from viewers.

Although the photographs featured here come from different series, each documents Vancouver residents, and illustrates fragments of their livelihoods in relation to urban environments and nature. Jones amplifies these allegorical compositions by producing meticulously constructed large-scale, colour prints, rich in intricate details and symbolic characteristics.

Barrie Jones, Housesitting, 2011. Inkjet print.

Barrie Jones, Housesitting, 2011. Ink jet print, 122.5 x 150.6 cm. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa © Barrie Jones. Photo: courtesy the artist


Learn more . . .


Barrie Jones is a Vancouver-based photographic artist and professor with the Department of Art History, Visual Art & Theory at the University of British Columbia, who has been creating work since the 1970s. After receiving his BFA from the University of British Columbia, Jones spent a considerable amount of time in Ontario, where he earned an MFA from York University and began instructing at the university level. Since relocating back to Vancouver in the 1990s, Jones has established his career as a prominent artist and figure within the Canadian art community.

In the words of the artist:

“For a number of years my work has been concerned with portraiture and issues surrounding individual and group identities, as well as the impact of the continuing changes in popular culture on issues of the body and on self-determined identity. More recently I have been producing staged tableaux that combine elements of ‘social documentary’ and ‘directed fiction.’ These ‘negotiated documentaries’ explore a range of people’s activities in urban peripheral spaces and areas of nature, reflecting the fantasies and realities of living in the city.”6

1 Barrie Jones, accessed January 27, 2021,

2 National Gallery of Canada Acquisition Proposal, May 12, 2015.

3 Ibid.

4 Barrie Jones, The University of British Columbia, accessed January 27, 2021,

5 Ibid.

6 Barrie Jones, “Barrie Jones,” Windsor Review 46, no.2 (2013): pp. 119.

Share this article: