Ian Jones: 1983 - 2015

by Brantly Martin

photography Peppe Tortora

18 August 2015

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      for Sherron & Tali

Ian possessed the most intense internal engine of anyone I’ve ever met. He was always ON. His only oscillation was from Full Speed to Hyperdrive. Earlier in his life—before he understood and harnessed his gift—this innate, Universe-given energy could get him into trouble. Through sheer determination, intelligence, and the acquired ability to transcend human-ingrained solipsism, he figured out a method by which to truly LIVE. This was something to behold. To witness a real-time, frame-by-frame—RIGHT NOW!—evolution taking place in another person was nothing short of magic. 


Here in 2015 there is much talk of Raised Consciousness, Mindfulness and Living in The Moment. Ian possessed and lived these things to such an undeniable, almost casual degree that one might forget that his state of existence was both earned and surrendered to with a transcendental grace and tacit acknowledgment of the responsibility that comes with the knowledge that he—Ian—was in possession of what can be called nothing short of Powers ... 
      The Power to reinvent himself and inspire others toward reinvention;
      The Power of being nothing but himself as he blended into and across all societal constructs;
      The Power with one smile to drive out apathy and sadness like an exorcism;
      The Power to materialize at the moment he’s most needed.


Henry Miller wrote a book called The Books In My Life. Not all the “books” in his life were books. Some of the books in his life were people he could no longer call on the phone, share a meal with, or receive a letter from. Yet these people and all they had to give remained more readily available to him than any great volume of prose. For me—and A LOT of others—The Book of Ian is a masterpiece in humanity. It needn’t end. The energy and spirit he manifested is not gone. 
      And yeah: I’m fucking serious. 
      I see Ian everywhere: those benches by the East River, Tompkins Square Park, running running running, leaning over the counter in my kitchen, the Starbucks on 2nd Ave, walking over the Williamsburg Bridge after dinner at Peter Luger, that squat on Avenue C, (those shirts), meetings meetings chairing meetings, the pages of Grey—that Smile!—those Ian Jones vibrations!


Ian had the ability to bend time. He could take a day, an hour, a moment—stretch it—and fill it with indelible memories. Ian could seemingly be in two places at once. I’ve never met anyone that could do that. I’ve only heard of one other person that could ... because of that I’ve always thought of Ian as my very own Neal Cassady: turning the mundane into Mardi Gras, turning the grind into Theater, turning a walk through the East Village into a Treasure Hunt. 


I’m only one out of hundreds of people that feel a special connection to Ian. We’re talking about a man that “if all he’d done” was help people overcome addiction had already accomplished enough for a lifetime. We’re talking about a man that saw his mother as his guiding light and found a way to live his life honoring her. We’re talking about a man that did not separate I Want To and I’m Doing. We’re talking about a man wise enough to know when he’d found the love of his life—Tali—and bless her with all of his raw positivity and gusto for life while accepting without reservation the obvious-for-all-to-see love she had for him. 
      I don’t know the details of everyone else’s unique connection to Ian, but I look forward to celebrating them. For me, it’s a series of magical occurrences that could only have been pulled off by the One & Only Ian Jones: 
      After almost 20 years in New York I thought I had a few locations—park benches, East River enclaves, this one spot between the projects on D, a hidden diner—where I could disappear for a few hours and not run into anyone. Unlike Ian, I’m not always a beacon of positivity. Sometimes I find myself wanting to be alone, miserable and angry ... and when one wants to be depressed and feel sorry for themselves the last person in the world one wants to see is Ian Jones. And for the first year I knew Ian, every single time, like Cosmic Clockwork, when I thought I was hiding out in misery: Here comes Jones! I would think: Can’t I wallow in a little self-pity and hate the world in peace for a few hours? But whatever dark cloud I’d summoned never had a chance against the rays of light shooting from that smile that was fixed to Ian’s face.


Ian was well on his way to becoming a great photographer. But for me, the most challenging and awe-inspiring art form is Living: how one treats those less fortunate than him, how one looks out for the people he cares about. In this Ian had already found what every artist seeks—a unique and singular Voice. 
      Ian—We Love You. 

Ian's Street Kids Project 


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