College Hour highlights San Francisco photographer and her love of nature

Josie Iselin, author, photographer and designer, talked about her new book, “An Ocean Garden: The Secret Life of Seaweed,” on Thursday, Sept. 12, at the College Hour presentation at American River College.

Iselin has a studio in San Francisco and has published eight books, all focusing on nature, with particular focus on the beach. Her motivation for each book is to open up people’s eyes to the world around them, and to “show the beauty in ordinary things that people find.”

Iselin is a trained photographer; she took fine arts programs in school and has an intensive background in visual and environmental studies.

For the past 20 years, Iselin has used her home scanner as a camera. She says it brings her “incredible joy.” Iselin started with putting any and everything she could find in her house on her scanner to take photographs.

She has quite the rock collection, so she began there. From rocks she moved on to leaves and pods. Intrigued by the way they are shaped she went on to capture the intensity of her grandmother’s North Carolina seashell collection.

Her next mission: the beach. Iselin described the beach as a “place of discovery.” She focused on sand, sea glass, fossils, and eventually realized “trash can be treasure.”

While walking the beach, Josie found some seaweed, held it up into the sky and immediately was drawn to the “intensity of color and fabulous form.” Once Iselin got the seaweed home on her scanner she says she saw the “dimensionality and character of seaweed” and wanted to capture it.

Iselin states, “I am not a scientist, I am an artist,” so as she started to become more interested in seaweed it began her learning process. She felt like she was discovering a secret: all different species of seaweed with eye catching colors. She has a true excitement for seaweed.

Iselin finds most of her specimens as drift along the beach. Her most visited beach is Fort Funston, in San Francisco. She brings each specimen home in a plastic bag. Her favorite type of seaweed is the Feather Boa Kelp. She says she can never get enough of it.

Iselin’s seaweed art is sometimes dry, or she will also rehydrate the seaweed with some sea-water that she keeps in a bucket by her back door. She says the best place to keep seaweed is in the refrigerator.

Caitlyn Edwards came to College Hour as a part of her natural resources class. Edwards liked the entire presentation, commenting, “I’ve never seen someone analyze seaweed so much.”

Josie Iselin has an obvious love for the amazing artifacts of nature, and especially seaweed.

For more information about Josie Iselin’s books, calendar, prints or upcoming shows please visit her website or you can contact her personally at [email protected]

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