Objects You Live Through: Halley Roberts Strongwater

Photography and words by
Krysta Jabczenski

Halley is a photographer, designer, a self-proclaimed naturalist/forager and fulltime mama to her baby, Stone. She’s heavily involved in herbalism, creativity, food and farming- all of which manages to funnel back into her photos.

Halley runs Otherness Studio, with her husband. Some of her past clients include Westerlind, Google X (X), Sea Chant, Leaves & Flowers. She’s currently working on design and creative consultation for Gertie, new restaurant opening in Williamsburg, NYC. Halley lives in San Francisco, but she grew up in Santa Fe. I caught her on a trip home for the Holidays and we spent a morning moseying around South Capitol, the neighborhood she grew up in.


How did growing up in Santa Fe shape your interests, ideals and your aesthetic?
I think a lot about how Santa Fe shaped me because I see so many unique and interesting people who are from Santa Fe and find my life experience growing up here to be unique. Maybe it’s the mountains, the high altitude, being balanced in this very rough but delicate ecosystem of extreme temperatures and intense beauty-–but I see so much of who I am in where I’m from.
As a creative, it can be really difficult to maintain your own ideas and unique voice when you have to deal with clients and folks who want to pay you to make something.
I come from an artist family, my mother, aunt, father and cousins are all artists in their own ways and directly in their practice. Early in my life I turned away from a traditional art career partly because I’ve always had a desire to be different from everyone around me. Eventually I realized that I could blend all of the parts of myself that are art and design and project management.
My deep desire and passion for nature and the outdoors as well as my love of plants and nature are a direct component of my childhood growing up here. Eating raw sungold tomatoes and rattlesnake beans from my mom’s garden- these aspects of childhood make me who I am today.
Can you share a couple projects you’ve worked on which you feel proud of?
The work that my partner and I have done for Gertie is something that I’m really stoked about. It’s no small feat to brand and creative direct a restaurant when you’re on the other side of the country and we’ve had our hands in every aspect from the interior to the menus to the website to the voice and social media presence.
Additionally i’m always trying to find ways to work on photography, and have recently been working on a series called Circadian Rhythms about the small window of time I have after I put my daughter to sleep and before I go to bed (early!). The photographs are mostly of the outdoors; plants, animals, the world at dusk or dark. They’re dark and moody and also saturated and vibrant and I really enjoy the technical challenge of using a flash with film.
Many creative minds struggle putting value on their work. A good eye is not something that’s easy to account for. What advice do you have for creatives who are trying to make a living?
I heard a great quote today that really resonated with me, that you should never limit yourself or your own creativity due to the limits of other people’s imaginations. As a creative, it can be really difficult to maintain your own ideas and unique voice when you have to deal with clients and folks who want to pay you to make something. Other folks say this a lot and it’s harder in practice, in my opinion, but truly when you’re making and doing something beautiful, true to your own voice-people will come to you.
What are you excited for in the future?
The 2020 election… UGH. I’m excited for completed work and new projects. Seeing the changes in my daughter every single day is so meaningful and fulfilling for me. Looking forward to bigger gardens and more photo projects.
Tell us the story behind your 3 objects…
Necklace - This necklace is from Mondo Mondo and it’s called “Subway Joe.” I don’t quite know why but I just love it, it’s so strange and unique and it speaks to me for those reasons. I like it because it’s different and not classically beautiful or what you might think of as beautiful.
Camera - My Mamiya 7ii is my fourth medium format camera, and by far my favorite. It’s the lightest and easiest to use and fits my lifestyle the best. When I bought it, it was a big purchase, but I’ve never regretted it. It comes with me everywhere and is kind of a trusty and reliable sidekick.
Ceramic Owl - I gave my mom this little owl, because she reminds me of a snowy owl or a barn owl. She’s always up late at night and sleeps later than my dad and I, and she has beautiful white hair! Every time I see an owl like this I think of her.

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