Hooray, it’s ‘Roid Week and I’m excited to introduce you to artist and designer Jojo Blöndal. I discovered Jojo’s Polaroids on Flickr and was immediately struck by the way she captures painterly tones and everyday scenes with her Polaroid Spectra and SX-70 cameras. Her “pola series” of instant photographs read like brushstrokes on a canvas — slow, contemplative, and captivating. These images depict daily life with a personal note. After seeing them, I wanted to sit down with Jojo over coffee and talk about her approach to photography and her work. In lieu of meeting in person (we’re on opposite coasts), I invited Jojo to chat with us here. Her voice is honest, both on the page and through a lens. Pull up a seat and listen in, this is a good one!
Tell us a little about your work as an artist and designer.
I work as a graphic designer for a natural pet food company. And when I’m not designing and I am able to ground myself I make art. Currently that is drawing, printmaking and photography. My job is creative but I design for consumer products and it doesn’t necessarily tap into self-expression. So art is where I explore. It’s a sort of meditation (and you could also add therapy) for my analytical mind. Working full time can be a challenge to fit it in on daily basis, but if I can make it to the garden at dusk with camera-in-hand I consider it a good day.
How did you get into photography?
About 7 years ago I began documenting more of my life through photos (I had the panic of life passing too quickly). As a creative person I wanted to get good at it. So I pored over my camera’s manual to absorb all that I could to (hopefully) take better pictures. But my interest waned because of the limitations of my camera (a point & shoot) and I was lost on what camera to turn to next.
Then in 2010 a friend gave me his Ricoh Singlex SLR. I had very little memory of f-stop and shutter-speed rules from my college days, but I was nostalgic about the technology and curious to learn (again). I began looking up forums on shooting manual and experimenting with different films, and it started to feel way more exciting. It definitely gave me the creative boost I needed. It was also a relief to be without the LCD screen and no longer have the luxury of shooting a hundred frames. I was happy with simply measuring, composing, taking the shot and moving on. It really has become a valuable Zen practice for me.
I have to add though that at first I was discouraged: my first roll did not knock my socks off. But with inspiration from Flickr and the desire to get better, I kept at it. I’m still doing just that. Even though the results are unexpected, picking up film or retrieving exposed Polaroids from my hall closet (or wherever I’ve stashed them) never fails to excite me.
What are your favorite subjects to photograph?
The everyday in its unhurried state. I’m attracted to the mundane details of my house and the rhythm of my day – which makes sense because I work from home. Definitely raw and unrefined scenes call my attention, and I know if I don’t grab a camera they might play out differently tomorrow.
I think the subjects (or themes) I am drawn to are comfort, contrast, cycles, refuge and solitude. But more often than not I am following my cat around the house or shooting in my garden: I have a particular fondness for the pods of my mimosa tree.
Can you describe your photographic style?
I’m still learning what that is because I am still learning who I am.
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”― Dorothea Lange
More than a specific style, photography has taught me two very important things: honesty and acceptance. I’ve learned to observe my life with fresh and kind eyes. It’s a practice that reminds me of the beauty in simple things that can soothe my worries or anxiety. Some days feel like a marathon and blend right into the next, so I’m pulled into the mood (and comfort) of the in-between because that’s where I want to slow down and stay a bit longer. It’s those little pockets that exist everyday between the ebb and flow that I have grown fond of and want to remember.
Can you tell us a story behind one of your Polaroids?
105 & 171 This corner of our house is always in transition (but then again, I guess they all are). It can feel like the entirety of a home is affected by the uncertainty of one room. But this room — oh this room — it faces south and gets the most beautiful morning light. This day my two (and only) plants at the time were soaking in it, and it reminded me of the magic that persists even when we are unsatisfied or feeling in a state of flux.
73 One summer my husband and I stayed at a small cabin in the mountains that had a big deck under a cluster of pines. It was a weekend to do nothing but soak up the clean air. It was also a tender time for me and I spent hours on that deck sketching, drinking tea and eating bing cherries. This trace of light landed right in my bowl. It was a reminder (cliché, I know) of the sweet things in my life and the need to be patient during delicate times.
7 This is Sarah in the morning light. She passed two months shy of turning 22. She was my husband’s baby. As cats do, she found the light, and I found her. This room and that bed, now transformed, was hers for a big chunk of her life. And she was a big chunk of ours. She was easy to photograph, easy to love, and that opened me up forever.
Favorite film camera(s) — and why?
My Ricoh Singlex loaded with Ektar 100. It’s my first 35mm and I’m still smitten. Plus shooting analog always feels like slowing down and that feels good.
My SX-70 and Polaroid Spectra are close seconds when I’ve splurged on Impossible film.
Where do you find inspiration?
Flickr! And the far-too-many-to-name great photographers there. I’m also inspired by documentaries, artist biographies, the natural world, the human condition, stories, and process. And seeing how other artists live & work, learning different techniques, and exploring new environments, always offer me a fresh perspective. Currently the NOW YOU workshop is energizing me with some really great approaches.
Where can we find your photographs?
Tell us an illuminating detail about yourself . . .
Hmmmm… in an alternate universe I could have easily been a professional organizer, a female MacGyver or perhaps a private investigator. Brevity is definitely not my strong point, but I’ll leave it at that 😉
Thanks for sharing with us, Jojo. I loved our conversation and learning more about you and your work!
Nikki | Art & Lemons