Interview with Josie Iselin/Loving Blind Productions

QuestionsForLiving Interview with Josie Iselin, January 11, 2013 centers on her unique process for creating her photography and books including Heart Stones and her new book An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed.


QFL: Were there specific questions that guided you toward a life long career as an artist?  If so, what were some of these questions?

Iselin: As an artist one gets deep into making, where the objects themselves—in my case photographs—ask the questions. But some overriding questions guide my activities as an artist and author:

  • How can I observe real life using the tools and techniques I have developed over the years and report on my observations poetically?
  • How can I create a meaningful gesture with my life and work?  or
  • How can I translate the passion I feel for the world around me into a meaningful gesture?

Regarding my books on forms in nature:

  • How can we learn from these objects we find in nature, not just about them? 
  • How can art and science come together to create meaningful change in our attitudes towards the natural world?

As an undergraduate I was asking questions like: 

  • How can I work with transparent images in three dimensions to make a new physical, photographic experience. 

In graduate school I was still posing the question of how to work with photographs in an architectural conceptual framework.


QFL: Were there some specific questions that you were asking when you wrote Heart Stones? If so, what were some of these questions?

Iselin: When making Heart Stones, I was asking:

  • How can the glory of each stone be revealed? How can its voice be heard?

My books are visually driven books so they start with imagery, but at some point the question arises:

  • What is the right combination of image and text to communicate what needs to be said?

The answer is unique to each book. Some use poetry (Sea Glass Hearts, Heart Stones), some use scientific explanation combined with historical and personal anecdote (Beach: A Book of Treasure, 2010 and An Ocean Garden, 2014) and some use straightforward scientific caption/explanation (Beach Stones etc.)


QFL: Are there questions that you ask yourself that contribute to the quality of your work? If so, what are some of these questions?

Iselin: The editing process in invaluable and involves the question:

  • What sequence of images creates a compelling visual narrative? How does the text complement the images to create the strongest message?

After my first three books I asked myself

  • Why can’t I write and design the books as well as create the imagery?

Writing has always been a part of my artistic practice and I appreciate the discipline and work that is required. I build the book as I create the imagery so the design, complete with the imagery and text is intrinsic to it.

When working on a specific project, completion always hinges on the question:

  • Am I satisfied with this piece of work? 

 I am a perfectionist and will work on a given image for hours/days to make it “right.” This state of rightness is a purely visual judgement call. For an entire book, outside editorial assistance is always helpful.

As we gain expertise in the techniques of our chosen discipline, instinct guides us as to when things are “working.” So its all the more crucial to step back and ask:

  • Am I using the right tools for this endeavor? 
  • What other materials or tools could I be using?


QFL: Are there questions that you are asking in the creation of your new book An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed? If so, what are some of these questions?

Iselin: Regarding the creation of my new book: An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed, the question I am asking is:

  • How can I reveal the mostly hidden forms, colors and spectacularness of marine algae?
  • How can I write about seaweed in a way that creates understanding about it's role in our coastal ecosystems and in our culture?


QFL: Independent of your work as a photographer and artist, what questions do you believe that people should / could ask to make our world a happier healthier place?


  • How can we get people to realize that creativity is not restricted to the arts?

Each choice we make is a creative act, like mark-making.  Raising a family, starting a business, operating a school, designing a city, getting children through college, helping a community, making energy,  these are all creative endeavors.  When this creativity is acknowledged, different approaches and solutions become part of the process. People are empowered by being labeled an “artist.”

For more information regarding Josie Iselin and her books please visit Josie's website @

For more information regarding and her new book An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed and Heart Stones please click on the book covers:

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