We had the good fortune of connecting with Holly Jo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Holly Jo, what matters most to you?
In all aspects of life, reliability, kindness, open mindedness, and gratitude are my main essential values. If you are Reliable, people want to be your friend, they want to date you, they want you to work on the school project with them, they want to collaborate with you creatively, and they want to give you their money. If you are Kind people are attracted to you, they will tell you about themselves, you will be able to develop meaningful connections. Kindness can change a atmosphere, a day, or a whole life. Open Mindedness keeps you curious, allows for growth, learning, and creativity, and brings you opportunities and relationships (romantic or otherwise) that those without an open mind are shut off from. Gratitude helps you maintain balance and keeps you grounded. If you do them all together, you live a more meaningful life and everything within your life is more precious. I highly recommend it.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I love a good juxtaposition! My work is often moody and dark, but also humorous. I think contrast creates depth, and if a photograph has depth, people tend to look at it for longer. I have an older fashioned style. People have called it “Old Hollywood” or “Vintage.” This feels more tactile to me versus the shiny, untouchable, cloud-based, digital visuals of our modern day. Ultimately, I really want people to want to look at my photo over and over again, so my goal is to appeal to their emotions in some way. I work out a lot of my mental health progress in my self portrait photography. While this theme is not necessarily obvious, I do hope the overall mood is something someone on a similar journey can relate to. Most of my inspiration comes from old films and television rather than other still imagery. TV shows like Green Acres, The Twilight Zone, Star Trek TOS, The X-Files, and Twin Peaks; and Films like Le Voyage dans la Lune, The Night Porter, North By Northwest, Rear Window, Barbarella, and Eraserhead. I learned film photography before digital. I’m sure that presents itself in small ways in my work. I treat each shoot like I’m hunting, I do a lot of looking for something unusual or fun to catch my eye before taking the shot. I don’t always know exactly what I’m looking for, but when I see it there is a gut reaction. I am most proud of my progress and endurance to keep working and to keep taking photos. I’m most excited about some projects I intend to start in a post-pandemic world. They’re a secret for now, so connect with me on Instagram @hollyjophoto and stay tuned! I’m also excited about my ongoing project with the Aqualillies, a synchronized swim team. My professional journey is a whirlwind. It wasn’t easy to get where I am currently, but I felt capable in my skills and knowledge and was helped along the way by some amazing people who have given me plenty of sage advice. I started taking photos very young. My family always encouraged me, my Grandpa gave me his camera that he used in WWII when he was stationed in Okinawa. My photography teachers encouraged me, so I had a lot of support from the start. That encouragement created a good foundation for when I reached the parts that were hard. The bigger the clients get, the more pressure there is to perform well and really nail it. It’s so intimidating and you really start to battle imposter syndrome at this point. I found that talking to fellow artists and my old college classmates really helped me to gain a realistic perspective and shake off some of the imposter syndrome. You need to have a community around you to help with some of the hard parts. I have been on countless calls with artist friends where we are helping each other solve problems. We might talk through more technical business things like contracts, or proofing their pitch, or setting rates before submission to a client. We might give each other advice when one of us is doing something new, sometimes we just commiserate together. The thing about progress is it’s scary. Having that community around you helps make it slightly less scary. There have been plenty of challenges along the way. There will be plenty more, especially as a young, small, unassuming woman in a male dominated industry. Men aren’t always ready to make room for women in this industry. My partner suggested I, “Write about the time you had to yell at paparazzi”, and I was like, “Oh, the time I was being physically and verbally assaulted by several grown men and I spun around and looked them in the eyes and yelled, ‘Cut it out or you’ll be sorry’, with such conviction that they actually did stop…and then go into the paragraph about staying kind and being the bigger person?”. Please understand that I recognize the irony that is about to unfold here. While I did identify kindness as one of my essencial values, and I do not recommend yelling at people, just know that sometimes there are really difficult times out there! My patience has been tested! My blood has been boiling! Sometimes you think you’re just going to work, and instead you’re shoved around and hit in the head repeatedly with the dense end of a camera! But what matters is that you get the job done. I stood my ground, I told those guys what I was absolutely not going to tolerate, and I delivered quality results for my client. I made room. Ultimately, the best way to overcome challenges is to ask for or seek help when you need it. Always be open to learning. Stay kind and stand up for yourself. Surround yourself with people you can trust. I’ve learned you should always trust your gut, always pay attention, always be the bigger person, always back up your hard drives, and always keep your receipts. I want people to know my brand is just me, a person. Art is very personal. If I’m shooting a job, you can count on a reliable, professional, go-with-the-flow person showing up and just wanting to make the best images we can, no matter what comes our way. My New York roots make me fast paced, I have a natural sense of urgency. If there’s only five minutes to get the shot, hold onto your shorts. If you work with me or my company you will get organization, precision, our full attention, probably some laughter, and our very best work, every time. Whether the job is documenting a day-in-the-life of a celebrity, a collaborative shoot, or a piece of my personal art, you will always be getting something made with love.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
This itinerary is what I used to do before the pandemic. Sadly, many of my go-to’s have closed down during the this time. Some of these small businesses are open for take-out and delivery. I recommend giving them a try that way right now if you can. -Bay Cities Italian Deli, during the pandemic I like ordering their pre-made lasagna dinners and homemade pizza dough to make your own pizzas, though their sandwiches and wine selection are also incredible. -Cafe Dulce in Little Tokyo for some coffee and donuts, then some exploring Little Tokyo’s shops, sounds, and sights. -People from NY (my most frequent visitors) like to walk, so this one may be a bit ambitious for some. After Little Tokyo, explore Downtown LA on foot! Visit The Last Bookstore. You must stop to eat at Cole’s for a dipped sandwich. If it’s the evening, visit their speakeasy, too. Ask the bartender to make you a drink based on your favorite spirit and current mood. -See my friend Bobbi DeCarlo’s cabaret with her jazz band at The Barkley in Pasadena. You’re in for a real good time with Bobbi. Check out @Bobbidecarlo on Instagram. The Barkley offers outdoor dining! -See one of my many talented friends in a show. A lot of my performer friends are unable to work right now, but many of them are a part of virtual performances or have awesome merchandise for sale. I wish I could tag them all but check out @jessthndr, @officiallymosh, @cubanmissilecrisis, @milaspigolon, @missashleyhayward, and @brynnroute on Instagram. -Leo’s Taco Truck, the one in the gas station parking lot for my favorite tacos in town. -There is a rooftop bar called The Onyx on top of the Shangri La hotel in Santa Monica. I take almost all of my guests here for at least one sunset drink overlooking the ocean and pier. -Dinner at Frito Misto or Vito Restaurant, so far the best “New York Italian” style restaurants I have found here. -Dinner at The Prince in Korean Town for a uniquely Los Angeles experience. Order the kimchi pancake. -The Comedy store is a favorite stop for a classic “Hollywood experience”. -Visit some of my favorite vintage shops. In Los Feliz there is Squaresville, Playclothes in Burbank, Papermoon Vintage is now online-only (check out their Instagram @papermoonvtg); each of these shops are one of many on their respective streets. Shop and walk and shop and walk. -Los Feliz has Figaro Bistro, my favorite French Restaurant. They do a lunch special! I always sit at the sidewalk tables, but you must take a look inside.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
So many people, books, and experiences have made me who I am today. The core group is probably my parents and grandparents, my sister, Ray, my best friends who have stuck with me for so many years; Victoria, Becca, Dean, Riho, my Aunt Kathy, my martial arts instructor, all of my photography professors, my graduating class at F.I.T., my first boss and photographer I assisted for 5 years as well as my coworkers at that job, my therapist (she really should be listed several times), my business partner, my colleagues and friends that have all believed in me from the start, anyone that has ever collaborated with me or hired me, and David Lynch’s book ‘Catching The Big Fish’.