Chicago IL


I'm very honored to be included in new programming from ImageUnion in a show titled, "The Poetics of Grief," curated by Isabelle Rizo Gönczy.

I hope you enjoy the show and the many wonderful films. It's wonderful to be in such talented company.

We don't know much about how to handle grief. As a result we pretend sometimes like everything is okay, or suppress the feelings, distract ourselves, or numb etc. I hope these films open some doors of possibility for you in your own hearts and with your own experiences of grief.

If this resonates with you, I'd love it if you would please share the show with friends to help spread the word.

Thank you,


Living on the Edge: An Expressive Arts Retreat for Navigating Difficult Times

We are living in particularly challenging times. This retreat is a gift to yourself of a beautiful container, a safe space to explore, draw, play, experiment, rest, release and let go.
You will be held in this space by Hillary Johnson (Chicago, USA) and Katie Sollohub (Sussex, UK) - both highly experienced Arts and Meditation practitioners, who will guide and nourish you over the course of two and a half days, while you immerse yourself in the spectacular landscape of the Seven Sisters Country Park at Cuckmere. No experience necessary, all materials and food will be provided, just bring yourselves, an open heart and a willing mind. 
As sensitive, creative souls we might often find ourselves walking along that edge between heartbreak and beauty. This course is for you if you answer yes to any of the following:

  • are you constantly holding space for others?
  • would you love someone else to hold space for you, a safe space for all your emotions, the comfortable and the uncomfortable?
  • do you feel like you are living in a state of high alert?
  • do you crave some time for yourself?
  • are you feeling stressed, in your life or in your art practice?
  • would you like some practical support and guided exercises for you to work with in everyday life?
  • do you need to heal your body, heart, mind, energy?
  • would you like to connect more with nature/beauty?


This retreat offers a restorative weekend of deep rest, healing, and creative expression through guided meditation, walking the land, silence and a range of experimental drawing exercises to help you reconnect with yourself and the beauty of your surroundings. 
When: From 4pm on Friday 5th August to 4.30pm Sunday 7th August 2022 (Accommodation is not included but we can offer advice on where to stay locally. All food and materials are provided)
Where: Coastguard Cottages, Cuckmere Haven, Near Seaford, East Sussex - directions will be sent to you on booking - please note there is a 12-15 minute walk downhill to the cottage from the carpark, uphill on the way back! 
Cost: £378 including all materials and food (early bird price £324 if booked by 8 July 2022) Registration and Booking via Eventbrite
We are inviting you to join us at one of the Coastguard Cottages in Cuckmere Haven, perched on the edge of the land. Built in 1822 the cottages have been a protective presence for 200 years. The cottage only hosts one or 2 retreats a year, so this really is a unique opportunity to visit such a magical location. 
Being part of a Nature Reserve, a natural floodplain and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), the location hosts phenomenal birdlife and fantastic views. The quiet pebble beach nearby is dominated by the white chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters, sitting at the mouth of the meandering River Cuckmere. Here you can literally surround yourself with natural beauty so that you can reconnect with the beauty of yourself.

You will be held with care as you enter the sacred space of this spectacular and fragile place. Throughout the retreat you will be gently guided and supported as you prepare to re-emerge into the world. The retreat will give you an opportunity to:

  • Unplug from all the stresses, demands, media (the cottage is off grid)
  • Make new friends and meet like minded people
  • Immerse yourself in one of the most beautiful spots in the world
  • Enjoy simple, nourishing, delicious vegan food prepared with love  

TIMETABLE (for a full timetable see below)

Friday 5 August 4pm - 8pm 
Saturday 6 August 10am - 4pm 
Sunday 7 August 10am - 4mm


  • 4pm arrive for tea and cake and a 5pm start
  • Introductions 
  • Walking tour and grounding/meditation activities
  • Small vegan meal of soup, salad, and fruit around a fire
  • 7-7.30pm Closing ritual
  • 7:30-8pm Depart while it is still light for the walk back to the carpark

(You are welcome to stay until 9pm if you wish)


  • 9:30am arrive for coffee and flapjacks for 10am  start 
  • Morning Activities including meditation, drawing and writing
  • 12:30 - 1.30 lunch - salad, fruits
  • Afternoon Activities - starting with WALKING IN SILENCE, plus meditation, drawing, writing
  • 4pm 4.30pm Closing Ritual


  • 9:30am arrive for coffee and flapjacks for 10am  start 
  • Morning Activities - meditation, drawing and writing
  • 12:30 - 1.30 lunch - salad, fruits
  • Afternoon Activities - 1.30-2pm WALKING IN SILENCE 
  • 2-4pm Closing Rituals
  • 4:00-4:30 Q&A and farewells

Katie Sollohub 
Katie lives in Shoreham by Sea in West Sussex, UK, where she revels in the coastal landscapes and swims in the sea every day. She has a background in Anthropology, Fine Art, Yoga and Meditation, and has been teaching and facilitating workshops for over 25 years. Her current research and creative practice has brought all these disciplines together, working with people both as a teacher and as a socially engaged artist, interested in the capacity for risk and the psychological, spiritual and physical health of herself and others.
Katie says: I like to bring things alive through my creative practice, animating objects and spaces. Observation, sound and touch help me feel present, anchoring me in a place from where I can dream. In 2020 she was awarded 1st prize in the Derwent Drawing Prize.

Her work is often marking time through ritual and routine. Working in series, connecting her daily practice of meditation to the creative process. Her current practice includes a self portrait made in the bathroom mirror straight after her routine dip in the sea each day. She has done this for 18 months now, and is continuing indefinitely. In 2021 she received Arts Council funding for Immersed, a project about cold water swimming and wellbeing, for which she swam with and painted over 70 sea swimmers in Sussex, honouring a shared love of the experience. 
Katie runs regular one day workshops face to face, weekly Drawing and Meditation sessions online, and occasional short courses. You will find news on the About page of her website www.katiesollohub.co.uk/about, or follow her on Instagram @katiesollohub 
Hillary Johnson
Hillary Johnson is an international, interdisciplinary artist, meditation teacher and healer living by Lake Michigan in Chicago, USA. She has been facilitating workshops, teaching and offering individual coaching for over 15 years. Growing up by the ocean imbued Hillary with a deep love of our ever changing seas where she enjoys sailing, swimming and wool-gathering. 
Her work and research investigates the tensions and challenges created when drastic upheavals transform or destroy delicate beauty. Her work also explores the potential for deep personal and social transformation through the healing power of art. Her life purpose is to help others evolve and expand their capacity for love, abundance, and creativity through photography, immersive installations and embodied transformational practices.

I love to hold space for others' healing, helping them become better witnesses to their own evolution so they might discover and fulfil their potential. I believe our greatest work is creating the most beautiful lives we can, so we can heal and share our gifts with others. To me the greatest tragedy would be getting to the end of ones life and not having fully done what one was put here to do. 
Hillarys work often involves creating experiences and rituals to witness, name and celebrate the deep inner process of healing and connecting. Her current practice is a global movement called, The Waters We Swim In, a ritual of transformation which combines meditation, powerful questions and immersion in water for deep healing. The resulting photos which each participant receives serve as daily reminders of their inner beauty, expansive capacity and sovereignty.  

Participants in Living on the Edge Retreat are invited to radically deepen their healing experience with a private session of The Waters We Swim In with Hillary before or after the retreat, at a special price just for those in attendance. The Waters We Swim In is a peaceful, bespoke experience that creates space for you to reconnect with your own inner goodness so that you can unleash your gifts and do the work you were meant to do. To inquire and arrange your session, book a complimentary consultation with Hillary

Hillary leads meditation and creativity workshops online and face to face, as well as periodic retreats around the world. You can learn more about her on her website https://www.hillaryjohnsonphoto.com/ , and follow her on Instagram @hillaryjohnsonthephotographer 

 Katies breathing exercises were surprisingly powerful, connecting with a feeling I didnt know was there. With my eyes closed making marks in response to the rhythms of my breath I felt a greater connection to my inner self   

 Thank you Katie for being so daring and honestly so.  It is for me your voice which holds the space in silence. Thank you so much for sharing your journey and learning with us as it is happening.

"Ive had the best January because of you Katie…its just been brilliant. Tuesdays are now like the magic tuesday. Youve unlocked something, so thanks a million"      

Thank you Katie for reminding me what's important and what's not.



Hillary immediately put me at ease and I placed my trust in her completely. Even as the waves were pushing me towards the shore. This water experience was beyond anything I could have envisioned.

"The Waters We Swim In" is a retreat toward calm and reflection during these turbulent times.

I am still swimming in the magical experience we had this morning. Being part of The Water We Swim In is incredibly meaningful. Thank you for a magical experience that healed my soul and reconnected me to the universe.
Daniel Martin Is the current steward of the property and will be taking care of the container as you practice. He will also be preparing the food (vegan) throughout the weekend. Although not leading this retreat, he has 20 years of experience as a yogi and meditator, and is training as a yoga therapist. 
* More information, location map and how to reach the cottages will be sent once you have made your booking

The Landmark Tree

Northerly Island
Chicago, Illinois
United States

This work centers on a single tree teetering on the possibility of failure or life. The viewer is invited into precariousness, to join the tree, a tentative survivor at the margins, with full humility, in this challenging, human-built landscape of neglect. Though the landscape may appear at first glance to be a place of natural beauty, with closer examination, it is revealed as a landscape of threat. As such the tree becomes a surrogate for us, in this Anthropocene age, facing survival, only tentatively.

This is meant to make space for us to confront and contemplate, what most know but prefer not to, our direct, embodied experience of fragility. In seeing this tree, this way, we have the possibility to meet this truth, and in that space, make room for hope, however slender. I hope this viewing might be, as Theodore Roethke, described, ...an event that meant as much as simple seeing.

Finally, Northerly Island (the location where this work was made) is an entirely artificial construction. Part of Burnhams grand vision for Chicago. I recently learned that the building of this island (and much of Chicagos coastal land, is a transgression against treaties with the native people who lived here and still do, a case which is ongoing. As far as I understand it some of the tribes include Potawatomi and Peoria.

Handmade artist book

Edition of 30 with variations

13"T (stick height variable) x 3"


Edition of 30 with variations
13"T (stick height variable) x 3"
Black and white photographs on Hiromi Japanese long fiber paper with hand sewing, found twig and small pebble from location. Cover boards with linen book cloth.

Shipping available in US or Internationally.

Please contact me with interest if this speaks to you.

One of a kind bespoke handmade book for Alejandra Camacho

The images were all made during her session with me as part of, The Waters We Swim In, on her birthday in 2020.

its hard to believe that almost 2 entire years have passed since that day.

Im so happy that she is on her way to take one of these pictures to her sweet mother in Mexico.

And this book will be waiting for her when she returns to Chicago. A lasting reminder and keepsake of the deep healing she did on that day.

One of the things I love most about doing this healing work with people is seeing the amount of transformation that is possible even when the person has been through all kinds of incredible pain.

I think thats certainly one of the reasons Im so drawn to do this work is because of my own experiences with trauma and healing.

This deep feeling I have inside that says all of us deserve to feel loved and be able to see ourselves with the eyes of love.

We each have our place in this beautiful universe.

if youre having a hard time experiencing that and youre really ready to make a change then, Im here to help.

if this sounds interesting to you please reach out and learn more about this healing water ritual. You can email me through the website.

Im booking sessions anywhere in the globe where you happen to be because theres no place that suffering needs to continue needlessly.



When I found vipassana meditation, I was desperate for truth and clarity.

I'd been suffering so much, for so long, that I craved even the smallest crumb of feeling like I had a bit of truth as ground under my feet.

The idea that I could actually learn to navigate life more wisely wasn't the big draw, it was the promise of LESS SUFFERING.

It made sense to me that naturally, life would continue to throw things my way that might be in fact ridiculously, egregiously painful but that I COULD BEAR IT, WOULD BE ABLE TO BEAR IT, and would not be destroyed by it. That sounded awesome to me.

After years of feeling truly existentially distressed nearly all the time, the offer of real insight, real quiet and peace in my heart and mind, sounded magical to me.

And you know, it worked then and still works now. Every day is not perfect. But whose is?

And that, for me is so small magic. As an empath, an HSP, someone with her own emotional balance and mental health challenges, I feel All the things, from all sides...and having this practice has been a life changing wonder.

If you like me, would like to know a little more peace inside, have a little more clarity, I invite you to try taking my class, which I'm happy to call Summer Meditation Party.(because why so freaking serious ALL the TIME!?)

You don't have to believe anything.

You certainly should not believe anything I say just because I say it.

Check it out for yourself.

Trust your own experience.

Give yourself 8 weeks to try it on for size. Gentle guided instruction, online and in person.

Come as you are.

We start June 7th.

$200 for the whole 8 weeks.


the power of awareness

to reduce anxiety

reclaim or initiate self trust

inner sovereignty

And if that sounds good, I invite you to please share with anyone you know who could use some of the magic too.

Thank you and see you in class!

Register here now.


Many of you asked me about pursuing training meditation and mindfulness in more depth than one time events . I'm super excited to offer it.

This will be especially great for ANYONE who's like -
I tried meditation and I can't do it.
You have a brain, a mind, a body, lungs...you can do this. I'm here to help.

In an age of anxiety, and stress, it's so important to be the sovereign of your own mind. To become someone who can face whatever arises and which can not be controlled , but still must be faced, without fear highjacking your mind and capsizing into disarray.


  • See what is true.
  • Become more compassionate to yourself and others.
  • Less screaming inner critic!
  • Cultivate Neuroplasticity.
  • ###li/li###
  • Settle your nervous system
  • Respond rather than react
  • Greater patience, compassion, capacity for chaos
  • Greater freedom from suffering of all the kinds (and so many! AM I RIGHT? SMH)
  • etc etc...


This is a Practical Mindfulness Meditation (Vipassana or Insight Meditation) Class in Pilsen starting on June 7th.
We will meet every Tuesday from 6-7:30pm June through July.
You may attend in-person or virtually. No special gear required. No experience required.

Come as you are!

If you have friends or family, colleagues who might wish to join us, please share the info.
In the event that I may be traveling for a specific class, you will be advised and the class will be offered on Zoom.

Tuition: $200 for the two months. (which works out to $25/class. 4 classes per month)
If anyone is experiencing any kind of financial hardship, there's a no questions asked heart based sliding scale, in which you pay what you can. You may also pay in two installments if you need to. Contact me and I'll get you set up.

lovely studio portrait by Erica McKeehen


I know. It can feel cringey, scary BUT the process can actually be powerfully transformative.


Any photographer can make pictures of you, but what I do, as an artist, writer, a photographer, an empath, as someone who understands about crafting a narrative, is think about not only making the photos, but who are we making the photos for? 
Who is the audience for you? 

Who is your divine right audience, the people who want your art?

I think about: 

  • What you want to wear?
  • Where do you want to show yourself: in the studio, outside somewhere, a special, meaningful place?
  • What's the environment you want to be in so your people will be able to resonate with you more easily through these photographs?

There are photographers out there who have a kit of lights and a sort of one size fits all approach to making portraits and headshots. And thats cool, you know…the world is big and wide and theres something for everyone.

Me, I like to draw on my zone of genius so I can help you enter yours.

I think of it this way: 

Each person in front of my camera is a unique human being. 

I want to get to know who you are, what you need, want and dream of for your future self as an artist. I help you present yourself in ways that make sense, and which are in alignment with that vision. This process takes time. 

Im also aware that being photographed can be incredibly stressful. Because Im also a meditation and mindfulness teacher, I bring that kind of support into our sessions together. 

While were making photos…we take our time.

We pause between images, and rest, so you can gather yourself, and get grounded in your body, come into your body and be ready to do more. 

We explore body language and the meaning of certain postures and positions and find what FEELS right for YOU. Even when it might feel like a bit of a stretch…because thats where the growth is.


I ask each of my photography clients a series of important questions, before our session, so that the time we have together is part of your becoming process. We talk about the sessions well before and the IMPACT you want the images to have. We do a phone or zoom pre session to go over all the details so you feel really comfortable.

  • Do you want hair and makeup, a stylist? 
  • Is that part of how you want to present yourself, or not? 
  • Its all about me doing my best to educate you about your options and supporting your choices to make the best photos we can.

While we are making your photos, we are also having a conversation, were getting to know each other more personally. I share some of who I am so I create a comfortable space in which you can reveal the parts of yourself that you feel comfortable revealing. 

I believe that making strong portraiture is about relationships and connection.

Especially if you feel any sense of trauma around being photographed, you will naturally feel reticent to have portraits made, (I know I did) and yet, you simply must have great photos of yourself for your website, social media, the catalogs of your work and all the things you need on your way to becoming the artist you want to be.

Im not shooting. Im not taking pictures.

We are collaborative together.  Ill do my best to be the wise, supportive guide who helps you show up as you.

Its a transformational process. 

Doing this work with me will help you experience yourself more fully and with greater confidence than ever before. 
I invite you to take up the space you deserve.


Up to three sessions/locations over two days 
For Only $1500*

Book your spot now with a $500 deposit. I use PayPal, Zelle, Venmo.

Then well set up a call to talk and brainstorm. I'll email your questions to think about. Then we start to look at dates for our work together. I have availability between mid-May through August 2022.
*You also cover travel expenses, flight, room, board. 

Genius Zone Idea: Team up with your artist friends and colleagues to bring me where you are and save on the expenses! Where are your local peeps? Get together and reach out to me and lets get you ready to take the art world stage!  

Imagine how fun it would be to gather together to make pictures and all the money you would save by doing that. (More money for the clothes you want to wear or art supplies!)

Interested? Email me and let the photo magic begin!

Opening day for the first show of the year!

Hillary JohnsonThe Waters We Swim in
14, 1295 Fuxingzhong Road, Shanghai, China


Appointment Only

If you are in the Shangai area, I invite you to go see this, my first international exhibition at Hüten Gallery. The curator, Yizhi Zou, is an incredible artist herself. She has a beautiful mission for the gallery and I could not be more pleased that she gave me this opportunity to show this work which means so much to me.

The fabric prints are available in a limited edition with two Artist Reserves on silk. The video itself is also available for your collection. I look forward so much to hearing the show is received. If you go, please let me know and share your impressions.




The year, it was probably 1987. I made this photo, on my first trip to Italy. My best friend was getting married in an old family villa outside of Florence. I'd been living in Boston in a mostly unheated loft above a dim sum restaurant with a roomate who kindly let me live there. We paid almost nothing in rent. To deal with the lack of heat we hammered a hole through wall to the central heating chimney in the center of the building. My bedroom faced east into the rising sun each day facing the old leather district, which was becoming a hub of photography studios. In winter, coming out of the shower, my body steamed in the cold. I adored living there. I worked as a photo assistant and a stringer for the the wire serves and later for the Boston Globe.

In Florence, the summer heat radiated up from the cobbled streets in thick waves. I was at a complete loss. No Italian to speak of. I was so broke I couldn't shop but didn't care. I'd come for the wedding and to learn to see the world. To learn how my eyes, my heart and mind might possibly work together. I didn't know if they could. But that question burned a white hot fire in the center of my being to find out. It was pure obsession.

My camera, which I still have and love, was an old Yashica-D 2 1/4. The lens I think had no coating. But I swear that magic pixies lived inside that little box. My own tiny camera obscura...  a bag of Tri-X swinging in a bag on my hip.

This day, my roommate and I were grouchy with each other. Terrible traveling companions as it turned out. We still hadn't figured out that we might wander around without clinging to each other like two lost little boats trying to find the harbor. 

And then, I got really lucky. I plodded heavy footed up the street, camera dangling. I felt a tingle. I looked down into the ground glass and turned slowly. I looked up. And there was this man, leaning laconically against the wall, a plume of smoke snaked up through the air. He looked past me and then right at me. A challenge in his eyes. The lines of the street, the angles of the window just past him, the shadow in the foreground, the light hitting the buildings behind, all like magic strings pulling me into the frame. 

I know he knew I was making a photo. I felt I barely had time to focus. He stared still, but the rest of him somehow so languid. All that space and light. Everything felt... complete. I summoned my courage and pressed the little button down. Click of exposure the slightest of a sounds, the tick of an insect's wing, the church bell on the hill sounded in great sonorous waves pouring past me, over me. It was complete. Everything felt whole in that moment.

This print was made while I was an artist in residence at Polaroid many years later. It's a photo of the photo made with the kind of Polaroid film that had to be peeled apart to reveal the negative inside. The emulsion could be lifted ever so gently up and applied, floated really onto another paper. (In this case an Arches cold press paper with deckled edges) I love how this version became its own piece of work. Each transfer is so unpredictable, the result unique. Not so unlike the same feeling I had making the original photo.

 I never know what the next moment will bring. (Do any of us?)

I love this image and this process and this print. It speaks of travel, of time gone by, of slow summer exploration, of being young and just going, of walking and witnessing, celebrating the beauty of the man and the street and the light, of being on the edge of the rest of my life.

I am offering this unique piece of work to that person for whom those feelings resonate, who remembers your own first trips, of being in the edge of the unknown and falling into beauty, of wanting to celebrate life. For your wall (or perhaps a friend) to see and love each day.

The image size: 9"x8"

The Arches paper size: 1"5x11"

$500. Venmo, Zelle, PayPal

Local Chicago delivery complimentary. Domestic shipping $30 Intl Shipping based on location.

Contact me to purchase and arrange your shipping.

Thank you so much. I hope the piece speaks to you as much as it does me. Wishing you beauty.

Hillary xo

A little solitude can feel extremely restorative in the midst of it all.

do you give yourself permission to give yourself some solitude, some serious alone time just to allow yourself to settle gain some clarity. This kind of solitude can be very valuable if you use it as a time to simply rest or contemplate without being interrupted or disturbed.

if youre an introvert like me having some alone time is the way of charging your battery, or filling your cup with the energy required to be present for others more fully when you returned them.

or if youre an extrovert or someone whos just very high energy and Vibing all the time, solitude can be a beautiful chance for you experience just who you are on the inside deep down allowing things to settle maybe going and visiting those places inside of yourself that often dont get attention and giving them a little bit of tender loving care.

Even now in the midst of Covid when we have been isolated from each other so much more than usual, still we find ourselves and video calls are other kinds of technology trying to maintain connections. And mothers connections are important still giving ourselves the gift of solitude can be so incredibly healing. I invite you to explore this for yourself and let me know how it goes, If you feel inclined to share that.

as always thank you for stopping by. I see you. I appreciate you. Wishing you a day of some ease. Wishing you a day of happiness and the causes of happiness.

also you may like to know that these paintings of the stones will be available soon as a deck for you to explore at home as a source of inspiration and support to your own mind for pausing. If youre interested in purchasing an original watercolor and handwritten text please let me know because those are also available.

Xo Hillary

Start your day feeling grounded.

Ha I know! Can feel easier said than done. Am I right?

Today I awoke with a raging to-do list blaring loudly inside my cranium.

Old Hillary wouldve freaked out. Totally. Spun in circles rather unproductively.

Current me pauses. Checks whats up. What are those thoughts? What are those beliefs? How am I feeling about it all? Is anything true that while feeling uncomfortable needs addressing?

More pausing.


Today in the pause, clarity. Let those things have embodiment in paint on paper.

What do I need in the face of this?


Today for me, that meant, go to the tools of watercolors, brush, paper and ink.

Here is what came.

A beautiful reminder.

I LOVE that the action to make the painting also created the FEELING I was after.

Now, I can write list of what to do with clarity, with frenzy-brain.

Ill walk too.

And sit my ass down on my meditation bench.

Il choose where and how to place my attention, and thus, the day will get made.

I know its not always easy.

Love to hear what grounds you in the face of your day, which feel like SO MUCH.

And, if you need, want, desire some help, I got you.

One-on-one sessions are available monthly via zoom. Support. Guidance. Practical and intuitive coaching/mentoring (as one happy client calls it.

Tell me whats up. Im here to help.




The Feels are warm and fuzzy over here this evening!

It makes me just so happy when a client is able to so clearly reflect on their experience with me and witness their own growth.

In case you didn't know, I make photographs yes and other things...AND, I teach mindfulness, meditation with a very practical coaching spin. 

Here is what one of my clients wrote to me the other day:

Hillary gets it. Her intuition guides the journey that she shapes for the student in front of her. This is not a cookie cutter, breathe like this, think like this, experience. She drops the F bomb like an Olympian (though this may be just with me...but I doubt it). She exposes you to your agency and then celebrates with you as you become more vibrant and whole.

I am accepting one or two new coaching clients to work one on one for the rest of the winter and into the spring.

Hit me up if you want to talk about what it might look like. Especially if youve tried a lot of things are feeling really stuck.

I would say a simple way of describing my mission is to help you find your own inner goodness so that you can really connect to your happiness. Thats good for you and also spreads a ripple of peace and happiness for others around you.

Raise your hand if youd like a little more happiness for yourself and for others too. Contact me for a complimentary consultation.

Wishing you happiness and the causes of happiness,


As I was researching today in preparation for what I hope will be a summer research and photography trip to England, Scotland and Ireland (come on scholarship funding!!! Fingers and toes all crossed) for places from which part of my family ancestry derives, I remembered how much I used to love word clouds for showing visually what the main themes seem to be in my work.

I feel like it will be interesting to work with the word clouds as the project develops and evolves. So stay tuned if you like. I would love to have you follow along on this journey with me.

Here is the word cloud generated from part of the proposal I wrote.

What are you working on? What does your word cloud look like?

I'm thrilled to offer limited edition prints for sale from new work which has been emerging during my first semester in the MFA in Photography program at Columbia College.

This work is a huge departure visually and in terms of my process. For most of my life I made photos almost exclusively in black and white, and worked in a documentary mode. But I have always loved abstraction in painting, sculpture, installation and music. Recently, I've started to work in the landscape, painting and drawing as it were, with fabrics and cords, placing materials into the landscape, weaving cords between the trees and so forth.

I'm interested in exploring this further as an investigation of light, color and form and also as a way of considering my relation to the landscape, the boundaries between self and the ground, the elements of earth, air, fire, water.

These two are available are both available as ink jet prints ~4"x8" on archival paper 8"x10" or 14"x 21" on 17" x 22" paper. Studio visits are available in person and virtually. Just ask! Local Chicago delivery available for no additional charge or shipping. Purchases desired for Christmas must be made by 12/15/2021. 


If this pandemic has taught me anything it's this:

Our most important work is an inside job.

We can not control anything out there.

All we can do is come to know ourselves deeply and try to navigate the seas of our lived experience with as much kindness and mercy as we can.

We must befriend ourselves and be gentle with the tender beings we are on the inside.

That is what this work is all about. Finding what is good inside you, which can feel so elusive sometimes.

To that end, a special price for right now for booking this transformative work now for yourself or someone you love.

Book and make payment for your Waters We Swim In session for Florida this January by Tuesday December 2 for the special price of $1500 - regular price $2500!

Curious? Let's talk.

Feeling like your own gold is a bit obscured? I can help.

When you find your own inner gold and goodness, you clear away obstacles to greater success, love, creativity and success.

Let's do this!

Message me now to set up a free short consultation to see if this work is right for you!

Let's find that inner goodness.

With gratitude,


It took a whole amazing team to make this magic happen.

Two lovely tree climbers, one arborist, one educator and cabinet maker...

They made it all look easy.

All aloft. 60 yards of gold glitter tulle, a spool of golden cord, yards of climbing ropes, throw bags, and all manner of gear.  50 flags of black and silver tulle on bamboo sticks to mark the way in. 

A diverse array of magical human beings who helped in all kinds of ways. I see you all and appreciate you for the many things you did. Paul, extra shout outs to you for wrangling tree people, in a ripple effect outwards of so much goodness. AMAZING!  And to you and Kay for your smiling good cheer and installation of 50 sticks and tulle to guide visitors to the gold.

This lady was so matchy matchy! Clearly, she got the memo. 

This sparkle makes me so happy. Big lessons: 1. Do not think, DO! Thinking alone can trap you in bed and nothing will ever actually happen. 2. Let go of yearning for exact outcomes and celebrate what actually happens. 3. Tulle has a mind of its own. The wind has a mind of its own. Together they will surprise you so much. Let go and show up with gratitude and curiosity.

Gold streaming down from the tree tops.

Gold within and gold without.

It felt at times like the tulle was alive with electricity. It had such presence and was constantly changing throughout the day.

I simply love this image. I saw the tulle and the leaves scattered round. My heart beat slowly and felt full of wonder.

A golden sovereign being aflame in the woods. The sun greeting her with each ray.

My friends Ziru and Senjie brought a drone to film the installation and that was amazing.

They flew it all around, through, above, below the installation capturing it in ways I could not have any other way. So grateful!

Incredible watching the play of light and shadows through the day.

Word got out on Instgram, and word of mouth, the old fashioned way and all kinds of people showed up to check it out. They said:

What a beautiful surprise! Thank you for doing this!

Our neighbors told us to come see it. We just had to come. This is amazing!

It's like something mystical!

The tulle looks like golden spirits in the trees.

So simple and so beautiful. WOW! Are you going to do this again? (YES! and Even BIGGER!)

Something in the way she moves....

MePhoto credit: Senjie Zhu

Me and a whole lotta tulle glowing!

The tulle looking like a golden dragon in afternoon sun.

This reminds me of Kow Loon, Hong Kong, Nine Dragons, the nine mountains you can see from the peak.

Matt P, a professional tree climbing arborist, frees the last bit of tulle from the tree.

And that's a wrap for this time. Stay tuned for an open studio, artist's talk about the work, as well as opportunities to purchase one of a kind collages and photos which document the process from ideation to completion. Pieces purchased by December 10th can be delivered or shipped in time for holiday gift giving.

Thank for you stopping by. Please feel free to share with friends.

With gratitude and curiosity,


The Waters We Swim In is a ritual of transformation, reconnecting you with what's good in you and others; to the unique gifts each of us possesses, which, when ignited, gives purpose and meaning to our lives.

Work with transformational coach and fine art photographer Hillary Johnson for a peaceful retreat experience that creates space for you to reconnect with your own inner goodness so that you can unleash your gifts and do the work you were meant to do. 

The Waters We Swim In is available in bodies of open water around the globe. Each participant experiences a guided process of surrendering to self realization while immersed in water. 
Sessions are available January 6-22, 2022 in Florida where the water is warm and the sun shines down on us. Options for Jax Beach, St. Pete and Miami. Space is extremely limited.
Sessions are also booking now for spring and summer in Chicago and around the world. Reach out to me to talk about where and when you would like to do your transformational session. (Additional fees for travel may apply.)

The Experience:

  • We meet by the water.
  • I lead you through a guided meditation experience created just for you so that you can become deeply in touch with your embodied experience and inner awareness.
  • I hold space for you to see the noise thats obscuring your inner gold.
  • Together we let all the noise settle, gently witnessing what is there with loving kindness.
  • Together we enter the water.
  • Your inner gold and goodness is revealed through a process of witnessing, releasing what no longer serves, and making space for the new.
  • I guide you to find the intuitive nudges that allow you to take the inspired actions that will support you creating the life you truly desire as you open up to more and more of the goodness within you.
  • You receive a beautiful photograph of yourself immersed in the water to remind every day of your inner gold, your strength, resilience, creativity and all that is good inside you

To Register: 

The Investment:

$2500 (Value $5000 This is a special price to end 2021!)

What people have said about their experience:

I wanted to be a part of "The Waters We Swim In" the moment I saw the first image.

Hillary immediately put me at ease and I placed my trust in her completely. Even as the waves were pushing me towards the shore. This water experience was beyond anything I could have envisioned.

"The Waters We Swim In" is a retreat toward calm and reflection during these turbulent times.

I am still swimming in the magical experience we had this morning. Being part of The Water We Swim In is incredibly meaningful. Thank you for a magical experience that healed my soul and reconnected me to the universe.

While I was floating for this project I was thinking of all of those things and how I can honor the importance of this unprecedented time while inviting the passion I see around me to help me evolve into the best version of myself.

There is an ethereality, a spirituality, that encompasses us, and a power that you tap into through your use of light and nature. Something primal is released.


Of course you may! How wonderful would that be? Partner sessions incur an additional fee. This work is open to all. Lets talk.

Not at all! All you need is a desire to get into the water. I can teach you to float if you like. But floating is not necessary for this experience to be a success.

That need not stop you! I can help you face that fear in small gentle steps until you feel ready to go in the water. Remember that you dont need to know how to swim or float. The fact that youre intrigued indicates it may be time for you to take the plunge quite literally. I will be with you every step of the way.

We typically have a plan B date to fall back on. For sustained bad weather that may mean a more significant rescheduling but so far that hasnt happened yet! In the case of needing to plan for a separate trip to your location, there may be costs associated with flying back to our location. 

In our consultation we talk about that. The attire in generally classic black, minimalist weather that means a swimsuit or something else, we select together. 

You can! We would talk it through together to decide on a time and place where you will feel comfortable doing that whenever possible. I recognize that everyone has a different level of comfort in the body and may have different preferences for making that happen. Lets talk.

Typically, I do a hot edit and pick one or two images within hours of our session and send them to you so you can see them right away. I send you a larger edited set within 3 weeks so you can select the image you would like for your special print. Once you make that selection, you will receive your print in about a month. That said, COVID-19 has presented special challenges with the supply chain which sometimes impacts delivery times for prints. If anything unusual arises, I will keep you informed.

I like to print on an archival, matte finish photo paper. Prints are usually 16x20 and arrive rolled in a tube, unframed. If you would like to have me arrange framing, Im happy to do so for an additional fee.
You may also choose to get a print on canvas, silk or metal. Prices vary with materials. We can talk about what would feel most wonderful for you.

Lets talk about whatever those questions might be. Im happy to talk with you about any questions or concerns.


Im an interdisciplinary artist, meditation teacher and healer, recovering creative, empath and highly sensitive person. I grew up on the ocean (literally) on the East Coast sailing, swimming and mucking about in nature. I was a lifeguard and swimming coach for the Special Olympics.  Im a certified Tarot card reader, energy and Reiki healer,  and a former candidate in a Masters program in Clinical Psychology. I started teaching mindfulness in 2008. My business clients include Fortune 500 companies, top hospitals, prominent law firms, financial concerns and NPOs. I also have coaching clients across the globe. 
My photography, immersive installations and transformational, embodied practices have two main strands: the investigation of tensions and challenges created when drastic upheavals transform or destroy delicate beauty; and, helping others evolve and expand their capacity for love, abundance, and creativity. I have a background in photojournalism and documentary photography. Im an MFA Candidate in the Department of Photography at Columbia College Chicago.

 "Much as Rothko sought an experience of healing in the act of painting and in the moments in which the viewer is in communion with the work, I have similar hopes for this body of work. That contact with these images may plant seeds for an awakening, a shift in consciousness through contact with beauty even in the midst of collapse."

Golden Alchemy

This print is available for purchase 5"x 8" on archival matte 8x10 paper. $100 (special holiday price!) Limited edition of 10! Click the link to buy it now with PayPal. (You may also use Zelle: hillary@hillaryjohnsonphoto or Venmo @Hillary-Johnson-1



A public art installation of beautiful, sparkling glitter, gold tulle tumbling from the trees lining the walking path. A shared experience of alchemy, contemplation, restoration and reconnection with the gold within you and others.


Sunday 11/28 11am-2pm


Palos, Illinois Park in the lot for Teason's Woods and cross 104th Avenue, walking west to enter the path into the woods. You will find us easily. 


FREE and kid-friendly


No worries. There are other ways to bring the essence of the experience into your home or work space. A variety of one-of-a-kind conceptual photos with collage and gold leaf painting and pieces of the actual tulle used for the installation are available for purchase.  

Studio visits to view the work are available in person or via Zoom. Just ask! 

The photo above is available for purchase too. $100 for a 5x8 inch print on 8x10 paper, edition of 10. 

(The $100 is a special price now for holiday gifts for yourself or friends, family, loves.) Local Chicago delivery $10, $20 across the US, Intl by location) 

Order by Dec 10 to be in time for all the celebrations!

Order by 11/29 and receive a special extra surprise in your package!


Join us with your cameras, phones, video to experience this with us as a reminder of the miracle of light and aliveness, our own inner gold, our loving kindness for ourselves and each other as we move into the winter season. 

Please share your photos on social media with the #TulleExperiment and tag @hillaryjohnsonthephotographer on IG. I'd be very grateful for any photos and video you would send my way to share the experience with others.

We'll begin the installation process at 9am with 4-5 tree climbing arborists, who are each volunteering their time to help me realize this vision.

Please share this event with your friends and family. We welcome you to come with snacks and beverages to share if you like. Upon departure, please leave the forest as you found it.

Wishing you all light and loving-kindness, Hillary

Tulle Experiment: Palos Edition

A public art installation of beautiful, sparkling glitter, gold tulle tumbling from the trees lining the walking path.
You're invited on this Thanksgiving weekend to join us with your cameras, phones, video to experience this with us as a reminder of the miracle of light and aliveness, our own inner gold, our loving kindness for ourselves and each other as we move into the winter season. Please share your photos on social media with the #TulleExperiment and tag @hillaryjohnsonthephotographer on IG. I'd be very grateful for any photos and video you would send my way to share the experience with others.

Admission is free and the event is kid-friendly.

The installation is meant to offer visitors an experience of surprise and delight, the fragile and ephemeral, in some lovely woods which are very easily accessible.
We will begin the installation process at 9am with 4-5 tree climbing arborists, who are each volunteering their time to help me realize this vision.

We hope to have all the tulle up the trees and ready for release at 11am. The installation will remain in place for three hours max. in part dependent on the weather.

One-of-a-kind conceptual photos with collage and gold leaf painting and pieces of the actual tulle used for the installation are available for purchase which will enable us to increase the scale and capacity for the next iteration on an even larger and more grand scale. I plan on much larger fabric and being able to pay the riggers, and creating high quality documentation. Please inquire. Studio visits to view the work are available in person or via Zoom.

Please share this event with your friends and family. We welcome you to come with snacks and beverages to share if you like. Upon departure, please leave the forest as you found it.

Park in the lot for Teason's Woods and cross 104th Avenue, walking west to enter the path into the woods. You will find us easily. I'll come up with something to tag the path for you and post about that later.
Wishing you all light and loving-kindness, Hillary

Here is a link to a pdf map of the area.

Please reach out for studio visitto view the work which is available for to have or give as gifts.

Thank you, Hillary