Photo by Mary Jo Hoffman
I’m absolutely thrilled to share an interview with Mary Jo Hoffman, photographer and creative behind STILL, a blog devoted to two things near and dear to my heart: nature and photography. Mary Jo shares a captivating photographs of found objects from nature on her blog which is like a virtual museum with a new exhibit to delight your eyes with each passing day. Read on to find out more about Mary Jo and what inspired her to create her blog.
Prints of each photo presented on Mary Jo’s blog are available for purchase in her shop and come in a variety of sizes. Keep a lookout for tea towels which will be available soon in her shop as well.
Share a little bit about yourself.
Hi. I am Mary Jo Hoffman. On my blog, STILL, I post one image a day of a natural object isolated on a white background. My nature specimens mostly come from my backyard or my daily walks with my puggle, but on occasion I will use objects from my collections.
My deep connection to nature started when I was a child. I grew up on the edge of Saint Paul’s suburban development in the 1970s. I was a tomboy, and spent almost all my time running wild, with my best friend Mary, in the fields, woods and wetlands surrounding our home. I think we may have built over 100 forts together.
After college, my husband and I moved into the city of Minneapolis, where we stayed for 16 years. Then, six years ago we found a little house, on a one acre wooded lot on a lake not very far from where I had grown up. It was odd to move right back to those very same fields and woods I had known as a child. I suddenly felt like I was eight years old again and my sense of wonder came right back. I had no idea this familiar setting would be such a source of new inspiration for me.
Share a little bit about your blog, STILL.
The idea for STILL was actually hatched in southern France. Two years ago, my family and I had an extended three-month stay in the Languedoc region of southwest France. We like to hike, and we often gather interesting natural specimens while we explore, especially my observant eight-year-old son. So in our rented house, we had an entire shelf full of striking nature specimens: stones, shells and sea glass from the Mediterranean, partridge and guinea fowl feathers, chestnuts, fig leaves, plane tree bark, and various dried stems. I couldn’t take it all home, so I decided to place the specimens on the blank pages of my journal to photograph them as a sort of keepsake. STILL blog was conceived!
For years I had wanted to try a project-a-day blog. Both the simplicity and the daily discipline appealed to me. As soon as I took that first photo of a wild teasel crouching like a spider on my white journal page, I knew I had stumbled onto my one-a-day project.
From the beginning, I wanted a very white-on-white minimalist design for STILL blog, but I couldn’t find any templates that had all the features I wanted. So I hired a friend to code up my minimalist vision. And just months after I launched, the blog won several design awards for its “perfect minimalism”. It’s funny, but I think STILL blog has gotten more visibility for the design of the blog, than it has for its content—a funny turn of events I did not expect.
What’s one of your favorite photographs you’ve posted on your blog?
My favorite image I have posted is the wild teasel image I mentioned above. The photo that gave birth to the whole idea of STILL blog.
Who are some of your influences in life?
This is actually a hard question for me. I have a stubborn streak and tend to go my own way. But when it comes to living simply and appreciating nature, I think I have two patron saints: Aldo Leopold and Wendell Berry. Both of them expressed their very deep connection to nature with words, and not images. But the sentiments they communicate are the same.
What are some things you enjoy about nature?
I believe my connection to nature has a lot to do with beauty. I am a visual artist, and I love design, and architecture, and art. But in the end, I think nature does beauty best. I can walk the dog on the same four-mile path every day for a year, and still be captivated most days by the variety and beauty of those surroundings.
I also love the solitude of natural spaces, especially wide open spaces like prairies. I never wear an iPod or headphones when I walk in nature. I want to hear the wind in the trees, the birds, and the skittering in the fallen leaves. I use my walks to gather my thoughts. I am guessing some would call it a kind of daily meditation practice. I suppose it is. I almost always come home more centered and peaceful.