atlas

creative and inspiring photography from around the globe

Curtis Jones: Kites on the Gobi Desert

Curtis Jones is a Canadian professional fine art and commercial photographer. Currently based in Newfoundland and Labrador, Curtis is a talented visual storyteller as he ably combines his love for people, places, and culture through his magnificent and breathtaking photography. His work has been showcased in various esteemed publications such as National Geographic Explorer, Canadian Geographic, and The Globe and Mail. This week Curtis speaks to atlas about his kite expedition on the Gobi Desert, what the main highlight of his trip was, and the new photography project he is working on next.

Your photography series on the Gobi Desert is spectacular. You have a skillful eye for composition and light. What inspired you to travel to the Gobi Desert — for work or travel? What was your experience like photographing there?

Curtis Jones: A year prior to the Gobi trip, I had just completed a kite expedition over the Greenland Icecap with two close friends. While there we started planning the next big adventure. Mongolia seemed to be the likely choice for something new and challenging. We knew we wanted to do a large crossing of the Gobi and that we wanted to use kites. The planning began and we were on our way. The Gobi was certainly an environment none of us had really experienced before. The wind was erratic, the landscape beautiful, and the people incredible. There were obvious language and cultural differences but everyone we met along the way was so curious and supportive. I had envisioned a photo series similar to the Greenland trip, isolated and focused on the team. Mongolia turned out to be more about the people and the place and less about the expedition. It was a wonderful surprise.

Did you face any challenges while making this series in the Gobi?

I guess the obvious answer is sand. Growing up in Newfoundland and living in the Canadian Arctic, I am accustomed to weather proofing gear. Most of my experience lies in the realm of cold, wet and icy conditions, sand was a new kind of torment. I guess the other big challenge, aside from the physical elements, was finding a way to authentically document the trip. It was important to us that it was not just a set of epic action shots in desert landscapes. I really wanted to tell a story.

What was the highlight of your trip?

The highlight was definitely the people. We had prepared ourselves for beautiful landscapes but the Mongolian people really stole our hearts. To experience their connection with the desert and environment, I can not wait to go back.

If you could go on a photo shoot with any photographer (living or deceased), who would it be?

There are so many photographers whom I admire and respect. I feel like I find new mind-blowing portfolios every week. I would be honored to be able to shoot with any of them. To be honest, I have already been fortunate to get to shoot with the ones that inspire me the most. My small circle of creative friends is unbelievably talented and are just amazing people. I owe them so much. My favorite shooting moments are usually with one or all of these folks.

How did you first get interested in photography?

I was spending lots of time climbing and exploring with friends. More and more I was drawn to documenting these moments, people finding a connection with adventure and a love for the outdoors. My parents gave me an old Canon film camera and everything just grew from there.

Are you self-taught or do you have a formal education in photography?

I am self-taught but with the disclaimer that I have had many teachers. Friends, family, and photographers I respect have all helped nurture and support my growth. I feel I am constantly learning, which is one of the things I love most about photography.

Are you working on any new projects? 

I have started a series of black and white images that will document Nunavut, a place very near to my heart. The thread that binds these images will be space. I feel that the space in the arctic is really a character in itself. There’s room to breathe, to be lost, to turn into the wind and feel humbled. I love feeling small in a big environment, it keeps me grounded and I would love to be able to pass that feeling on to others.

Thanks for being our featured photographer of the week, Curtis!

For more information about Curtis, visit his website. All images © Curtis Jones.

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