Ian Jones was a compassionate artist, a treasured friend, and a loving son. He was recognized by the world as a top fashion model, but those who knew Ian recognized him for his drive and excitement. In a tragic accident Ian was taken from this world at the young age of 32. Following his passing a retrospective of his photography was featured in our inaugural issue. The following is an interview with Ian’s mother chronicling the struggles her son faced and how he emerged to become a better man.
Written by The BASTARD Child
Additional photographs by Ian Jones
Sitting amidst a collection of framed images of her late son and stacks of notepads with his handwritten memoirs, Sherron Jones contemplates her otherwise empty house. Though she lived with her only son for 20 years in the Pennsylvania home, following his tragic death last summer she decided it was time for a change in scenery to help cope with the grief and heartbreak. She is in the process of leaving the East Coast for Florida, but just before we meet her at the nearly vacant location, we learn that she’s facing unforeseen complications with the sale of her house. We’re unsure whether she will want to take a trip down memory lane, especially considering the strength of the mother-son bond she shared with Ian. (“When he was 10 years old he gave me a ring and said, ‘Promise that you will never leave me,’” Sherron recalls. “He gave me another one just last year.”) With amazing strength upon our arrival, however, she quickly composes herself and in regards to what she though would be a seamless sale, says, “I’ve already dealt with the biggest tragedy in a parent’s life so everything else I can handle.”
“It was like he was carried by a swirl of water and placed in these beautiful lily pads.”
We first met Sherron in August when composure was nearly impossible: at the memorial service for her son, Ian Jones, who died at the young age of 32, when his boat capsized while kayaking in the Hudson River with his girlfriend. “She’s screaming for him and he’s fighting to get her,” Sherron remembers. “They were not wearing life vests and the current was too strong. The weight of his clothes pulled him under and he disappeared.” His girlfriend was later rescued, but the search for Ian lasted two days, until his body surfaced near the Poughkeepsie Yacht Club in the Hudson Valley. “It was like he was carried by a swirl of water and placed in these beautiful lily pads,” Sherron continues.
Although we’ve only know his mother for a short time, we worked with Ian, who modeled and was represented by IMG, over the years in various capacities, eventually developing a meaningful friendship. Full of encouragement, Ian supported us in our creative endeavors and we in turn supported him in his. He was a natural in front of the camera, having grown up with Sherron working in the fashion industry and with a photographer as a stepfather. It wasn’t his mother or stepfather who launched his career, however; it was Ian’s pure determination. The creative soul attended Drexel for filmmaking but “got thrown out…because he was caught drunk three times on campus,” Sherron explains. Immediately after, “he looked up the top ten men’s agencies and headed to New York on a mission. With IMG being at the top of the list, he walked in and said, ‘This is where I want to be,’ Sherron continues. “They didn’t know how to respond at first, because it doesn’t normally happen like, that but they took him. He was so self assured,” his mother continues. “He had a lot of confidence, even though in his writings he says he didn’t have any.” By the early 2000s, Ian was posing for major photographers, such as Peter Lindbergh and Steven Klein, gracing the pages of magazines including GQ and Harper’s Bazaar, and graced the catwalks for major designers, like Chanel and Marc Jacobs.
Despite his newfound success, Ian was living a personal hell. Sherron gave birth, as a single mother, to Ian Mark Jones on April 29, 1983 and raised him in Philadelphia, PA. “Philly was rough, so I enrolled him in private schools in hopes that he would stay out of trouble,” but trouble soon caught up with him at age 16, when he began developing a substance abuse problem with alcohol—something he faced for the next decade.“He wanted to be like everyone else but he wasn’t,” Sherron says. “Ian had learning disorders growing up. When he was in school, it was ADHD and he had to take prescription drugs to combat that. Then it was the alcohol, and then the drugs and the alcohol,” she continues. “I would get phone calls at two or three in the morning from the police telling me they had him, that he was found passed out somewhere, beaten up, in an auto accident, or in jail. He had numerous DUI violations. For 10 years, I lived with the fear of getting that dreadful phone call telling me that he was dead.
“He was in and out of rehabs and jail. He would have two or three months of sobriety and then the alcoholism would take him again,” Sherron tells us. “I always thought his rock bottom would be then, but the final finale was on a flight to California in 2010, when he was drunk out of his mind.” When intoxicated, “Ian would get very mean and angry,” and on the flight, he threatened to kill an attendant, which led to his imprisonment for 14 months. Serving time in a federal prison “was his ‘Aha’ moment,” according to Sherron. Upon his release and for the next—and last—four years of his life, Ian had a clean and promising future, one that allowed him to reclaim his presence in the fashion industry. He further developed his relationship with God, became and remained active in AA meetings, and expanded upon outreach efforts in support of the homeless and less fortunate, acts of service that he began as a child.
“He was a bright light to all who knew him.”
A natural storyteller, Ian soon chose to step behind the lens, using portraiture to document encounters and conversations with others. He could easily and genuinely connect with those who were struggling because of the hurdles he faced on his own. “He would talk to everyone,” his mom says. “He made such a difference in so many peoples lives…He was a kid at heart, a funny, down-to-earth, caring man. He was a bright light to all who knew him.” His work as a model may have showcased his exterior beauty, but it was his recent work as a photographer that shined the light inward. Ian’s untimely death came as a shock, and has since been difficult for everyone from his friends and family to his colleagues in fashion and even the homeless whose lives he inspired. “To see the clarity in his eyes and his passion for life these past few years brought me great joy,” Sherron continues. “For his death to happen when I least expected it—I let my guard down and that makes his death so much harder.”
Even though Ian “was born a bastard” in the traditional sense of the word, according to our definition, he was the epitome of one; Ian Jones sincerely personified Being Accomplished at Selfless Tasks and Righteous Deeds. His project called Street Kids brought attention to the ongoing issue of homeless youth in New York City, as he selflessly worked to help those youth receive the resources and aids necessary to leave the streets. Even while living in New York, he also continued to work with Cast Your Cares, a non-profit organization that helps meet the physical and spiritual needs of the homeless, broken families, and hurting neighborhoods in Philadelphia. So in memory of Ian and his love for helping others, we are honored to present a collection of his photographs that encompass the both struggle and diversity of New York as well as donate the proceeds from this fanzine to Cast Your Cares in his name.