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Meet Zo’e Cole of Aloha Zo Photography in San Clemente

Today we’d like to introduce you to Zo’e Cole.

Zo’e, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My first love was drawing, from the time I was a little girl. Once in college, I thought surf photography was the only thing I would ever do. Of course, I was wrong–as most college students are. As I bloomed into my photo career, I realized how much I enjoy connecting with people and documenting their moments of magic–particularly mothers. The most rewarding feeling was (and still is) when a new mom or mom-to-be saw herself as radiantly as I saw her. I was so inspired by their beauty and honesty through periods of sacrifice and selflessness.

Now, as a new mom-to-be, my creativity hasn’t paired down. If anything, I’m more inspired than ever. I started drawing again, simply to document my pregnancy. After sharing a few portraits on Instagram, I was so surprised to find that another mama in Florida wanted to buy a commissioned piece of work.

As I became less physically able to be shooting as much, I dove into drawing more. I even found myself drawing the surf babes I so idolized growing up. The subject matter is anything and everything. My purpose is to connect with people–whether it’s through a photo or a drawing. Humans need to be seen and need to be heard–whether your a small child, a mother, an athlete, etc. The way we express that we’re listening doesn’t really matter. If I can do that in an artistic way, that’s just a bonus.

Has it been a smooth road?
I had pretty standard struggles. It’s not easy sculpting a creative career and you have to have a hustle in you. I worked a restaurant job all through college and dipped my toe in so many internships and odd jobs. I found myself modeling and teaching yoga to supplement me in my freelance years. There were times I had four jobs at a time and I celebrated the fact that I was independent and working so hard. But eventually, the body and mind is strained and the creativity suffers. I still itch to keep trying the next new thing, but I have become more mindful about what, when, and why I take on a new venture.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Aloha Zo Photography story. Tell us more about the business.
My brand of art and photography is warm, connecting, and preferably sandy. My hope is to capture authentic moments over posed ones. Each family is different; each pregnancy is a different story; each little one has a different sound to make. I’m simply honored to capture those memories that are truly fleeting.

Life is the most beautiful gift and it’s so easy to skate through to the next day. I think that’s also why I love drawing commissions, too. It allows me to capture the memory that perhaps couldn’t happen. My mother-in-law passed away a couple of years ago before my sister-in-law finally had a daughter (after three boys). She always wanted a three-generation portrait, and I was able to create it symbolically this past mother’s day.

That is what sets me apart from others. I like to think that I work beyond a service or a need to express myself artistically. Humans need to be seen, heard, and reassured. I’m simply doing that in an artistic way.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
Lifestyle photography is already so saturated. Anyone can make pretty awesome photos on even a smartphone, these days. Young me used to be so bitter and anxious about this fact. But I’m not a famine-thinker anymore. I think there is work for everyone, as long as you’re willing to work for it. No one can do what I do. I can’t do what other photographers or artists do. We each have an audience that is looking for us and us for them.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:

Portrait of me was taken by Renee Bones

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