Hard News & Extreme Sport Photographer

Interview with Passionate Photographer, Jono Wood

What does it take to be a successful ‘adventure/extreme/hard news photographer?’

I have always loved this quote by Robert Capa, "If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough." Being immersed in your subject matter is exactly what’s needed to capture its true essence.

What about the sport of base jumping most attracts you?

“Being immersed in your subject matter is exactly what’s needed to capture its true essence.”

Base jumping is a very weird experience to witness - it’s completely unnatural to see a person jump off a building. It brings a complex mix of emotions from terror to fascination and finally relief that the person who just looked like a suicide jumper is now safely on the ground.

From where do base jumpers jump in SA?

One of the legal sites is the Ponte building in Hillbrow.

How do you prepare before heading out to capture ‘extreme’ news shots?

You can’t really prepare because it’s the unexpected moments that you want. It takes a calm mind set and zero panic tolerance to get through them. A good poker face gets you a long way too.

Which of your captured images is your favourite?

My favourite image is of a man in a refugee centre during the xenophobic attacks. He had lost his four year old son in the confusion of escaping from his home in Primrose. It had been two days and he still had no news if his son was dead or alive. The local government wanted to put him on a bus back to Mozambique and this poor man was devastated. It was the first time I had ever witnessed this type of human suffering and it scared the hell out of me!

Tell us about your interest in capturing gang life in Joburg?

My initial introduction to the gangs of Eldorado Park started with a news story I was commissioned to cover while interning at the Daily Mail. I saw guys shooting marbles at the cops with cattys and when I asked what they planned on doing when the cops shot back with rubber bullets they didn't hesitate to show me their real guns. I immediately saw my opportunity to get to areas within the community that other press couldn't. I kept moving up the hierarchy of a one particular gang with the influence of an amazing contact who had grown up a gangster and committed crimes with many of them. He showed me the lifestyle of a gangster, from dog fights to funeral convoys and gun play.

You have some intimate photographs of young gang members – how do you manage your relationship with them?

I was trusted by them and we created real friendships during our time spent driving around with 9 mm's and pit bulls or just hanging out, they were eventually completely relaxed around me .The more time I spent, the more I began to know them each individually - I even drank tea and ate cake with one guy and his ouma.

How do you keep yourself motivated and your photography fresh?

My photography feels like one long adventure that constantly changes and evolves. I never actually know where I'm going to end up next or how things will turn out – it’s that unpredictability that drives me.

What is the hardest part of your job?

Not being able to change the outcome of certain devastating situations I sometimes find myself photographing, only observing and hoping it creates a shift in awareness amongst the people who see the photos.