Pura Vida

Hollie Fernando is an award winning London-based portrait photographer. With her newly released book "Pura Vida", she is showing how simple it can be to create an ethical and environmentally friendly book, by only using uncoated and recycled paper. Pura Vida is a photo story showcasing her two-week long road trip across Costa Rica, documenting the diverse environmental contrast from coast to coast in her eco-friendly and handmade clothing.  - And to make the book even better, it is all shot on analogue film!

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To start off, let’s get to know the photographer behind this beautiful work of art a bit. 


-How did you get into photography?
I was given my Dad’s old analogue camera to play with when I was about 14, and spent that next summer teaching myself the basics, before begging to move schools to take a course in it.

-Do you have a favorite among your photographs?
I can never decide between these two:

-Any projects that you are currently working on? 
Yes, a few! One about my little brother and another about some old paintings I love. Can’t say much at this point though, sorry!


Now, over to the book itself... 


-What is the concept of «Pura Vida» and what inspired you to create this book?
Pura Vida is my latest project, which was shot out in Costa Rica in April last year. My sister (who is taking Zoology at university) was out there on a placement in the jungle studying the activity of vampire bats and when she had finished, I met her in San Jose for a two week trip from the East coast over to the West. The eco-conscious concept behind the project was inspired by Costa Rica itself, I only used clothing by eco-friendly companies who hand-made their items and used organic materials and natural dyes etc. The book itself is made from recycled papers, and is sent out in a little hessian bag that I made out of old Costa Rican coffee sacks. I hope people have gone on to reuse these in other ways too!

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 -What is it that you try to express through your photography and how do you get your photographs to do that?
It’s a weird one, with travel I don’t really think about what I’m trying to express, I merely document my life on the road. So, Pura Vida felt very organic and natural; I knew the places I wanted to visit  but did no further planning than that in terms of the shots. Total opposite of the work I do back in London for bands etc.

How would you define the phrase «Pura Vida» and why did you choose that name for your book?
Pura Vida is a phrase said a lot over there, which in a basic English translation means ‘Pure Life’. It’s sort of said as a greeting/goodbye but also is a concept of life for them, living it the most relaxed and happy they can.

What are your thoughts on sustainability and conscious consumption?
This whole topic terrifies me actually. Knowing the effect we are so obviously making on this Earth as a whole and not being able to much about it but ‘your part’ is really hard. I feel quite utterly helpless. For example, doing your recycling at home is all well and good, but how can you trust that the next person cares as much as you when they take it to the recycling center? I bet most of the Western world don’t care enough to pick all the remains of non-recyclable sleeve from the recyclable trays in order for it to be classed as recyclable at the end of the line. This is the whole problem though, as we aren’t necessarily seeing the effects and problems as much as the people in other countries who are seeing their coral reefs die and fish supplies dwindle. It’s totally out of sight out of mind for most people and it’s scary. I feel very strongly about all this and am working on how I can help more through my art too.

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 Can you talk a bit about your model, Jessica Fernando? 
Jessica is my little sister and first muse. I have spent years and years documenting her. If she wasn’t a Zoology student I don’t believe the concept would have been as strong for me as it would have been a missing piece. As she’s also linked in with the world and has chosen to study animals, plants and other life forms, it made so much sense to have her as the model.

Is there any particular reason why you choose to shoot the photos using an analog camera? 
Because I am an analogue photographer! The first camera I picked up was analogue, and I moved schools to study photography at A-Level and we were taught on black and white film and processed and printed everything ourselves in the darkroom. So this is when and how I fell in love with photography, and it’s my way of making my art! I do shoot digitally when I need to, but would always choose film for a personal project. You could also say shooting film was a more organic route than shooting onto a plastic card for the Pura Vida project.

Favorite memory from the making of Pura Vida? 
I could write a whole other book from the memories of making Pura Vida, but my favourite is probably this and I think it’s pretty obvious why! I’ve written a few other little stories on some of the images on my Instagram too.

Getting more personal...


When do you feel most like yourself?
When I’m on the road somewhere new and everything you look at is a potential photograph. That’s me in my element.

What inspires you on a daily basis? 
I’m very inspired at the moment actually which is weird as it’s soggy, grey and cold outside. As I mentioned before, I’m working on a project with my little brother which is very close to my heart and making me extremely emotional. I’m really enjoying this though as not all my work moves me to this extent and it’s a big inspiration for me to carry on in this direction and make art that I care about this much.

 Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Living by the sea somewhere with my own darkroom, chickens and vegetable patch.

Photos by Hollie Fernando for Pura Vida

Photos by Hollie Fernando for Pura Vida

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