Q&A with Jo Holland

The abstract photographer talks us through her creative process, how she finds inspiration, and her artistic journey, from a makeshift darkroom, to her latest ‘Appreciation Mandala' photography series.

By Rise Art | 20 Apr 2021

Jo Holland is a photographer who doesn’t use a camera. Instead she combines analogue and digital processes to create hypnotic abstract photographs. Forever inspired by nature, light, meditations and travel, Jo’s spellbinding images express the power of pattern, repetition and rhythm in art. 

Appreciation Mandala #11 by Jo Holland


How would you describe what you create?

I create transformative photographs that joyfully celebrate the beauty of life. Photography is my chosen artistic medium and power that I continue to explore deeply and express in various and often unorthodox ways, i.e. creating unique images without a camera or film as one of my methods of work. I play with the boundaries of the real and the surreal by merging analogue and digital processes to uncover a serenity in my art that's ethereal.


What are the fundamental messages you want to get across with your work?

My intention is to uplift the viewer by raising their vibration to a higher frequency. It has been scientifically proven that displaying images of nature within your home and work environment has a positive effect on your wellbeing. My mission is to spread joy and celebrate the magic of life whilst encouraging us all to connect/reconnect with the natural world and the nature of being.

Appreciation Mandala #9 by Jo Holland


Name a formative experience you've had in the art world and what it taught you.

Moving to London in the midst of the Brit Art movement and the Banksy era and making a conscious decision to not compromise my practice to fit, choosing to dig my heels in and follow my own creative path... It hasn't made that journey any easier. However, it was definitely the right choice to be honest to myself and my developing art practice.


What have been the key influences in your work?

Shortly after leaving university I had my first major commission at a hospital unit in Bradford which allowed me to set up and buy my very own darkroom equipment, that are essential for my creative practice.

Travel, yoga and meditation are also key to my creativity. Ironically on an artistic meditation retreat in Thailand, my photographic chemistry necessary for image creation was held at the border for the whole duration of the trip. This turned out to be a good thing as it opened me up to alternative ways of creating work which I otherwise would not have explored. Luckily I packed some polaroid film! This was also the time where I began reflecting and repeating imagery.

The journey of life itself with its trials and tribulations really feed into my work, moreover, having my work embraced by people continues to drive what I do.

Illumine #6 by Jo Holland


What's your connection with photography?

I've always been fascinated between the balance of light and shade. It wasn't until I was doing my art foundation that I truly engaged with photography as a creative art form and the processes involved in recording light. Inspired by a trip to Paris, I later experimented in the darkroom with solarisation and out-ofdate chemistry which shifted my journey and help shaped what I create today.

Fun fact: my first makeshift dark room was a broom cupboard in my sixth form!


What does the Mandala represent for you? When did this composition/shape enter your practice? Why?

The mandala composition came to me in a meditation whilst I was working on a commission for an eco-wellness centre in Richmond. The challenge thereafter was how to apply this to my practice.

Mandalas can be used to help concentration during meditation, whilst focusing ones attention on the breath, the mandala is a visual aid to still the mind, an image to focus on whilst bringing yourself back to your centre point, aligning the mind and body into a balanced state. It helps to instil a sense of stillness and inner peace. As an artwork they are perfect for bringing a touch of nature inside, whilst they are beautiful they also bring a feeling of relaxation and tranquility, lifting your environment to raise the frequency of any space... Positive vibes all the way!

Rebirth Mandala #3 by Jo Holland


Your photography not involving mandalas is very different to the mandala work – what's the story behind these more abstract pieces?

Even the mandalas begin with abstraction; for me it's about looking at the harmony, grace and beauty within the piece I am producing. I work with the energy of the object and intuitively follow my instinct when creating, so often times I will start with an idea and the results will be something completely different, which I quite like... It's about being in the flow.


What are your go-to photography subjects?

Nature, light, beauty... and of course joy. Flowers are a constant theme throughout my practice; in fact they were the subject matter for my very first unique analogue works at university. Flowers remind us of nature's beauty bringing a sublime balance of masculine and feminine energy within our being and into our awareness. In all ways possible, I welcome the blooming magic of flora into my creative space, and let it serve as a direct link and a reminder of what happens when my energy is channeled into manifestation.


What's the latest project you are working on?

During lockdown, I developed the Appreciation Mandala series (of which three brand new pieces are launching here); I created this collection from images of hydrangeas that I captured; exploring its range of colours, the different varieties, at different times of the day, in different weather conditions, at various points of the year. I would then repeat and reflect them into mandalas. There was a lot of trial and error, however, with practice some of them work out beautifully, composing expansive artworks that can hold your gaze and draw you in. This series is about appreciation – the act of being grateful and the purity of the energy of gratitude.

One thing lockdown has taught many of us is to appreciate the simple things in life, not to take things for granted and have gratitude for the things we love and hold dear.

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