Award-Winning Photography Graduate Ventures Into Video
Tomiko Jones is headed to France, where she will study for the next several months.

By La Monica Everett-Haynes, University Communications
May 5, 2008

In this age of the Internet, digital picture making and cell phone photography, Tomiko Jones remains devoted to the traditional form of black and white images.

The evidence is in what she considers her core body of work – photographs that are narrative and exploratory – and also in her newest venture into video installation and multimedia, which also have black-and-white palettes.

Jones, who earned her undegraduate degree from Western Washington University, will earn her master of fine arts degree in photography with a certificate in museum studies at this month’s University of Arizona commencement.

"I am not a traditionalist per se, but I am committed to the traditional photographic process," said Jones, who is more actively exploring multimedia and the use of color images in her video work.

After graduating, Jones will complete an internship at SITE Santa Fe, a nonprofit arts organization, where she will work under the direction of an artist from Turkey before leaving for France to complete an artist-in-residence at the Museé Niépce in Chalon-Sur-Saône through the rest of the year.

Those stints are quite advantageous and will likely put Jones in a position to catapult her career. Earning such positions prove that she already is accomplished, said Sama Alshaibi, Jones’ adviser and a UA assistant professor of art.

Jones’ skill earned her the 2008 Freestyle Crystal Apple Award for Outstanding Achievement in Black and White Photography, a tremendous achievement in the field, Alshaibi said, adding that Jones has earned nearly 10 grants in recent years for her work.

It was the first time that the Society for Photographic Education – the field’s preeminent professional organization – provided the nationally competitive award to an artist whose work was rooted in traditional photography and imaging processes.

Her video work is “quite powerful,” Alshaibi said. “It can be quiet and meditative, but can also be very intense.”

The society, Alshaibi said, believes that “traditional photography is important and is threatened. A lot of universities can’t afford to keep up the traditional art work and, instead, replace it with 100 percent digital computer labs.”

The award came with a $5,000 prize for Jones a $1,000 mentor award for Alshaibi.

“They really believe the traditional method is foundational, so someone who has a very strong mastery of their medium would win that award,” Alshaibi said. “They see the full process and the full cycle of what it takes to get a student to that high achieving level.”

Jones has been widely recognized for her photographic work, having received awards and honors from various organizations and institutions in Tucson and Washington state. She also has shown her work or worked professionally in various parts of the United States as well as Tokyo, Spain and various countries in Latin America.

And with a background in performance, Jones has begun to explore the use of installation and video, many times appearing in her work.

“That’s what’s interesting about Tomiko. It shows the depth of her range. She’s a high-achieving student in a lot of different ways,” Alshaibi said

"If you spend a bit more time, you begin to understand her work. She is quite sophisticated and lures with beauty. But I wouldn’t say she’s sentimental or romantic," she said, adding that Jones' work does have "very troubling undertones."

One of Jones’ pieces, with a haiku-styled title of “draw forth, cast aside/small gestures of drifting weight/open sky above,” takes the viewer through several different stations, luring the individual forward with sound.

The piece is a documentary of sorts, one that explores ritualism through various mediums and in a way that the viewer becomes part of the experience. Jones said her work in many ways attempts to tap into liminal space – the in-between during any given process, the threshold.

“It is the space where social norms are suspended,” Jones said.

“You don’t get to be passive. You have to participate,” she said. “Art is not created in a vacuum and it is not experienced in a vacuum. We create from ourselves, but we don’t create just for ourselves, and that is how art gathers its strength.”

Extra info

The work of Tomiko Jones will be on display at The University of Arizona along with the work of several other May 2008 graduates and School of Arts students.



Currently on display at The University of Arizona Musem of Art and the Joseph Gross Gallery is the MFA 2008 Thesis Exhibition. Works will be on display through May 18. For more information, call 520-621-7567. Jones will have open museum visit hours May 7 and May 9 from 3-5 p.m. and on May 10 from noon to 4 p.m.


An upcoming exhibit, "The Kids Are Alright," opens May 7 with a 5-7 p.m. reception at the Union Gallery in the Student Union Memorial Center featuring work by nearly two dozen UA School of Art students. The exhibition will be on display through May 17. For more information, call 520-621-7570.