Jo Hoban & Mindi Cooke

It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey itself that matters in the end.

– Ernest Hemingway

I wanted to end 2018 by chatting to a couple of Brisbane girls who, through friendship and a curiosity for the creative process, nurtured a desire to work together. After many years working in their respected fields, writer Jo Hoban and photographer Mindi Cooke decided to pool their knowledge and bring to life their shared project Space and Process (S&P). Interviewing such a creative team seems like an ideal way to end the year, plus I get to finalise my merry little Christmas month with a doubleheader journal entry.

I was drawn to Jo & Mindi by their connection with networks of creatives who work in unique, and sometimes unconventional fields. Facilitating such a community allowed them to share personal stories that reflect the lives and creative processes of these artists. Through their interviews S&P celebrates artistic accomplishments and enables readers to reflect on the meaning of the creative journey. Artists and creative thinkers are sometimes idealised as existing on an unattainable level to many who may aspire to imitate. They are often viewed as naturally talented individuals blessed with intuition, inspiration, and an ability to skate the boundaries between sanity and genius. However, the reality is often an ongoing progression of hard work, frustration, learning and mastering skills, while at the same time seeking inspiration and maintaining originality. Through their generous and enlightening interviews, S&P enables the reader to experience both the artists’ struggle as well as their sense of accomplishment. It has been an absolute pleasure to watch S&P evolve throughout the second half of 2018 and to see another aspect of the greater Brisbane creative community come together.

I am very pleased to introduce these two remarkably supportive artists in my final journal entry for this year. For me, 2018 has been a whirlwind of new opportunities and experiences; and as I look forward to the future, it is also nice to reflect on what has been achieved. Jo and Mindi are some of this year’s most inspirational Brisbane ladies and I feel privileged to share their story with you.

Jo Hoban (left) and Mindi Cooke (right)

Can you both share a little about your creative backgrounds? How did you come to be where you are today?

JO I’ve always had a leaning toward the arts. Both my parents are classical musicians so I grew up going to concerts and seeing them perform. I was a bookworm as a child and loved writing. After graduating from school, I studied an arts degree, spent time traveling in Europe where I worked in a pub, and interned at a magazine before returning to Brisbane where I started working in educational publishing. I always dabbled in arts journalism on the side, I even published a couple of editions of a full colour ‘zine’ called Don’t Mind Us which was a celebration of local culture. After having my first child, I completed postgrad studies and started freelancing as a writer and editor, which offered flexibility with a young family. Over time I’ve built up a diverse portfolio of experience, managing editorial and content production projects for clients and writing about culture, arts and design for different magazines. Three years ago Mindi and I started contributing Brisbane stories to The Design Files, which has given us a stronger profile and helped focus our experience as storytellers. With regard to launching the Space & Process website, I’ve had this idea to create more intimate content around ‘process’ since around 2012, so I’m pleased to be honouring that idea finally!

MINDI I grew up in a creative family and I always knew that I wanted to work in a creative field, I just wasn’t sure what that would look like. So after I finished school I enrolled in a BA of Visual Arts at QUT. I loved the QUT degree, it afforded me the chance to explore printmaking and mixed media and to just live the life of a creative and free-spirited uni student! It wasn’t until the end of my second year that I discovered my love for photography and that was quite a lightbulb (pardon the pun) moment for me. After my degree I studied photography full-time in Adelaide and then landed a job working for an incredibly talented Brisbane photographer. I have also been fortunate to work with many other local and international photographers. After I built my experience working with so many gifted mentors, I felt ready to take the plunge into a full-time photography career where I have continued to work hard and develop my personal style. While I was building my portfolio I collaborated with others and established some lifelong relationships with stylists. I worked for free, and I did everything I could to try and get a foot in the door. Eventually work started to come in and I was able to focus on particular areas of photography. I genuinely love what I do and feel very privileged to be able to work as a photographer.

Photography by Mindi Cooke of Mast Furniture from Space & Process

How did you both meet?

JO In our first year out of school, Mindi’s boyfriend was good mates with a friend from my high school – so there was a merging of friend groups during that time in our lives when we went out a lot. As a result of this social time, we were soon firm friends. I actually recall a time when we were 18 and camping with friends on Straddie. We were swimming in the surf and I said to Minds: “Hey we could work together – you can take the photos and I can write the words!” So from my perspective the inkling to collaborate was always there, it just took us a while to actually get to it.

Space and Process has a very personal feel. What was your initial inspiration behind the concept of connecting with other creatives and telling their story?

JO I flagged an idea with Mindi around 2012 for a book called ‘Process’ featuring personal, behind-the-scenes accounts with different creative practitioners doing their thing (Mindi had tried to get collabs happening before that but I was looking after babies and it didn’t really happen!). Rather than create a book, we started creating content for other platforms. Essentially we’re interested in demystifying creative processes and love visiting people’s studios or workspaces to delve more deeply into what they do. During our visits, we capture a moment of that in time and celebrate it. Over the intervening years that original idea has now morphed into creating the Space & Process project as a slow content platform that we’re keen to guide in partnership with clients and other collaborators. The idea is to create and share long-form, nuanced stories focused on creative people in South-East Queensland and the surrounding regions (though we hope to explore further afield). I should also note that we think of ‘creative people’ broadly, not just as artists and makers, but artisanal food producers, and imaginative practitioners in a variety of fields. We want to give each story a chance to breathe amid the faster-paced content options. The more measured pace, along with its personal feel, is what will hopefully set it apart. Through our work we hope to shine a light on artisans, creative practitioners and producers working within more unique and progressive ethical frameworks.

Photography by Mindi Cooke of Barbara Heath (Jeweller to the Lost) from S&P

Your first interview was with Barbara Heath and Malcolm Enright who have established their Brisbane studio Jeweller to the Lost over many years. What was it about their creative journey that compelled you to tell their story? Also, are there any new creators you are investigating?

JO Barb and Mal are two individuals who have both contributed significantly to the Brisbane creative community over a number of decades – Mal as a graphic designer, collector and communicator, and Barb as a designer and jeweller. As well as warmly welcoming us into their home and studio, they were wonderfully enthusiastic and in-depth with what they shared about their creative processes and lifestyles, and it was an honour to get to know them. We originally photographed them for a home profile on The Design Files but collected so much content at the time, always with the intention of doing a different longer-form story focused on the Jeweller to the Lost business for Space & Process down the track. Since then we’ve also been honoured to work with Mast – a local furniture business focused on timeless design and quality craftsmanship. They’re a young business, but have achieved a lot so far. Also hugely inspiring!

Photography by Mindi Cooke of Barbara Heath and Malcolm Enright (Jeweller to the Lost)

Photography by Mindi Cooke of Christian Hakansson, Kati Morgan and Rory Morgan (Mast Furniture) from S&P

You both have different creative backgrounds, which can be solitary professions at times. How have you found collaborating together on this project changed the way you approached the process?

JO From my POV, I think we’re learning more about what guides editorial choices and formats – there are plenty of constraints and little details that have to be considered with web and social media platforms. We’ve also had to develop our own business model/service offering so that the project can be sustainable. I’m definitely learning more about photography processes and choices. Perhaps the main change is that because this is our project, we need to be across all aspects of it, which is a rather epic learning curve! The long-form format means the content development process involves working more closely with clients. There’s an ongoing dialogue, rather than a single visit, which is really lovely.

MINDI I am a social person and my area of work usually revolves around close creative collaboration. So for me, this partnership with Jo feels like a very natural progression and fits into my style of working. It’s also great that we can work to our own briefs and control the entire process from start to finish. There are challenges of course, including both of us juggling busy work and family schedules but we both very much enjoy the collaboration and the process.

Photography by Mindi Cooke of Jeweller to the Lost studios for S&P

Photography by Mindi Cooke of Mast Furniture for S&P

Barbara and Malcolm were such perfect subjects for your first story and your coverage was so thought-provoking. How did learning about their lives and creative processes inspire your own creativity?

JO They make a great team, and bring different strengths to the table. I was inspired by that – they recognise their strengths and weaknesses, and unite to form something bigger than themselves. Hopefully Mindi and I – and the incredibly talented designer, Nicole Arnett Phillips, and videographer, Lou Liddiard-Imeson, we are also working with – can do that with Space & Process!

MINDI I absolutely second that Jo! Barbara and Malcolm have such a strong sense of community in everything they do. I certainly walked away feeling very inspired by what they have created. Also the clocks they create are just spectacular!

Photography by Mindi Cooke of Malcolm Enright of Jeweller to the Lost studios for S&P

Mindi, how does Space and Process differ from your previous work as a photographer?

MINDI As a commercial photographer I am always working towards a specific brief. This is usually carefully scripted before the shoot because I am working with a large creative team. S&P is more relaxed because we are telling a story and looking for moments in the space that complement and help to tell that story. We can’t really plan our shoots, we arrive and allow the space to determine its own story. When we shoot, I am working with what is available on the day and everything evolves naturally which is a process that I really enjoy. It’s also wonderful to be able to select the images for the final piece and present them in a way that complements the story.

Photography by Mindi Cooke with styling by Lyndel Miller

How would you like to see Space and Process evolve in the future?

JO I don’t like to think too far ahead. I would like to achieve our goal of producing one year of quarterly stories as a starting point, and then reassess. At this stage I’m simply grateful that what we can offer is resonating with people and they are collaborating with us to help tell their more in-depth stories!

MINDI I love working with Jo, we enjoy working together to develop more profound stories about amazing creators and hoping that people see value in what we produce. Brisbane has so much to offer and it’s so enjoyable to be able to showcase some of the diverse and extraordinary talents that we have on offer.

Photography by Mindi Cooke of Barbara Heath (Jeweller to the Lost) from S&P

What inspires you both within your professions?

JO I’m particularly inspired by reading and seeing what people are up to around Australia, and how they’re pushing into new territory with their design and lifestyle choices. In that sense, I always feel uplifted reading publications such as Peppermint, The Design Files, The Planthunter, and Green Magazine that celebrate these changemakers. On a more personal note, the people that I collaborate most closely with continue to inspire me with their enthusiasm, drive and support.

MINDI I am inspired by other photographers working in my field. We have such immediate access to peoples work through platforms like Instagram and other social media sites, it’s incredible to be able to see what is happening in those spaces from moment to moment. I also get my inspiration from food and interior stylists, as well as other creatives who are pushing the traditional artistic boundaries. Finally, I am inspired by people who are living more simply and sustainably.

Photography by Mindi Cooke with styling by Lyndel Miller

Can you both share some of the challenges in your careers so far?

JO As a writer, you pitch a lot of stories, and only some of them get picked up. It’s hard when people have their hopes up and nothing comes through, for whatever reason. Often, timing can be everything, so the more lead time you have the better. Other challenges include people thinking that writing is simple and doesn’t take much time. The reality is that good writing involves a lot of ‘re-writing’, and takes a long time to craft. Also learning how to say no to manage your workload can be tough. On top of these challenges there is the invisible, unpaid work you do when you’re freelancing; it can be a hard slog for not much financial reward. You definitely need some stable clients with budgets!

MINDI At the moment the most challenging aspect of my work is time. I am still very much juggling life as a photographer with the job of being a parent to two young children. My youngest is in kindy next year so I am starting to feel the shift. Once I have both in school I’m hopeful I’ll have a little more time up my sleeve!

Mindi with her two kids Poppy and Sidney

What have been some of the most rewarding aspects of your careers so far?

JO The most rewarding aspects have been collaborating with a broad range of people and learning in different ways from all of them. In particular, working with Mindi is great – she’s very calm under pressure and takes consistently beautiful photos. Collaborating with Nicole Arnett Phillips who is a talented designer and typographer, is creatively very inspiring. I’ve also had a long-term publishing client with an excellent manager called Michael Stone who I have a lot of respect for – he’s an awesome communicator.

Reaching out and forging new collaborative relationships with all sorts of people and clients is very rewarding. More and more I’m enjoying putting myself out of my comfort zone and embracing fear as an opportunity for growth.

MINDI I am grateful to have built some wonderful relationships with clients and collaborators over the years. Lately, I have been photographing a lot of editorial work for some of the larger magazines and seeing that work in print is such a thrill. When I first started out, I used to pour over those magazines hoping that one day my images might also grace their pages. So to have my pictures published feels like an enormous achievement. As well as the magazine publishing I love working with other like-minded creatives to produce beautiful imagery that nails a challenging brief. Finally, I’m a bit of a lighting nerd, so it’s always a great moment when I get the lighting just right or try some new left-field ideas and pull them off.

Photography by Mindi Cooke with styling by Lyndel Miller

What’s on the horizon that’s inspiring you both?

JO Professionally, I’m enjoying developing new client relationships and motivated to work with different people to tell stories around projects with holistic ethical frameworks. I recently had an amazing month in the US with my husband Al and our two kids, Ella (9) and Charlie (7). Al’s youngest brother lives in LA so we focused the trip on California, but explored some of the national parks in Arizona and Utah too – the scenery was spectacular and hanging with the family for an extended, focused period was rejuvenating. I’m looking forward to making a photo book about it but I need to make sure I actually do it!

MINDI My husband and I are renovating our house at the moment, so I’m excited about what the next stage of the renovation will bring. I’m also hoping to delve back into food and lifestyle photography next year as that has taken a bit of a backseat this year. In the web design word, a new website is on its way which has felt like a never-ending project so I am excited to see that project realised. In the exciting photography world I am shooting a large project overseas next year which I am thrilled about. Jo & I have a few projects in the works which we are looking forward to exploring as well, so the year feels like it’s already overfilled! I can’t believe how fast this year has gone, looking forward to a more focused and super productive year ahead.

Photography by Jo Hoban from her recent family holiday in the US

To read the full S&P stories click here

To find out more about Jo’s work click here

To see more of Mindi’s beautiful photography click here

To see more of Lyndel Millers beautiful styling work click here

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