• March 5, 2014

Musings: Holly Wilmeth’s Divine Nature

Alexa Keefe

“This project is a series of images that represents the crossroad where woman meets the divine spirit of nature in the form of animals, and where she embraces it. There’s a long history in shamanic traditions and ancient cultures where humans have imbued themselves with the special qualities that animals have and their relationship to the world. Eating a part of the animal, or wearing a part of the animal, or using the animal as a totem deeply permeates us with their special powers. We want to come back to that state of grace where we are aligned with nature as animals are in the right relationship with their environment.”—Holly Wilmeth

Picture of a woman with a turtle shell
“Olive Ridley Turtle Shell”
Mazunte, Oaxaca, Mexico. February 2013
“The turtle symbolizes Mother Earth as well as being well-centered and well-grounded in life.”

Serendipity is there if you are open to it. There is a brief period of three to four days every year when over one hundred thousand sea turtles come ashore to nest along the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico, Holly Wilmeth tells me. She knows this because it was at this time last year that she was there as well, taking a couple of months to breathe after a busy year of assignment work. As someone attuned to the natural world—she grew up on a farm in Guatemala—Wilmeth’s need to feel grounded in nature is a deep one. Walking along the beach, she came across so many of these turtles she began asking herself, “What does this mean? What am I supposed to do?”

Picture of a woman with ducks
“Two Ducks”
Portland, Oregon. June 2013
“The duck represents and teaches us how to maneuver through the waters of life with grace and comfort.”
Picture of a woman with a snake
“Albino Boa Constrictor”
Portland, Oregon. June 2013
“Snakes symbolizes transformation; shedding of the old and embracing of the new.”

Her answer came when she found a dead olive ridley turtle. She learned how to clean its bones and began doing research on animal symbolism. She found that the turtle symbolizes Mother Earth as well as being centered and well-grounded in life—a perfect starting point for a personal project exploring the spiritual connection between humans and animals.

Not long after, she was driving through the small Oaxacan town of Mazunte thinking about the kind of model she would want to pair with this shell—someone with a shaved head so that you could see the curve of her neck—when the young woman appeared. “I said, ‘You’re not going to believe this but I am looking for you,’” Wilmeth recalls of their meeting. “She was super, super thrilled and excited.”

Divine Nature was born.

Picture of a woman with baby iguanas
“The Benevolent Dragon or Iguana”
Oaxaca, Mexico. March 2013
“Iguanas symbolize and teach the importance of respecting and remembering our dreams, facing our fears, and moving in the underworld. Their power lies in the ability to save itself from danger by leaving a part of itself behind.”
Picture of a woman with a skirt of fish
“Queen of the Ocean-Yemanja-Fish”
Ashland, Oregon. May 2013
“The fish symbolizes independence, potential, adaptation. She is the ocean, the essence of motherhood, a fierce protector of children, the feminine principle of creation and the spirit of moonlight.”

Traveling with a simple backdrop and using natural light, Wilmeth opened herself to more of these connections while going about her life, visiting old friends and meeting new ones.

Elk antlers discovered in a funky store while on a road trip along the coast of the Pacific Northwest are transformed into butterfly wings on a young woman’s back. Baby iguanas with sharp claws at an animal rehabilitation center in Oaxaca become a headdress for one very zen model. “She was humming to herself,” Wilmeth remembers. Pet ducks turn out to be the perfect symbol for a young woman facing change. Deer antlers fit best on the daughter of close friends. A 120-pound skirt of fish strung together on metal wire is a toning exercise for an acrobat. A snake is the only animal one belly dancer could ever imagine being photographed with.

Picture of a girl with deer antlers
Manzanita, Oregon. May 2013
Deer represent unconditional love; love to ourselves and to others.

Wilmeth plans to wrap up the project this year, with a show planned in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, in July. “It’s just a delight working with people who love animals,” Wilmeth says. “I’ve photographed people. I’ve never photographed animals. It’s a whole new change.”

View more of Holly Wilmeth’s work on her website.

There are 61 Comments. Add Yours.

  1. Sheri
    January 13, 2015

    i was looking on the internet of empowering pictures of women and found your series of photos, breathtaking!, beautiful , such strength and yet in the young girl with elk horns, such purity. I do not take pictures, but I am a sculptor and the artist in me bows and rejoices in your incredibly powerful series, please do more!

  2. Gretchen Jacobson
    May 16, 2014

    These are some of the most beautiful and mystical photographs I’ve ever seen. I know Molly Jacobson would have loved these images!

  3. Tina Wade-Lucas
    March 17, 2014

    Provocative and slightly disturbing, at the same time.

  4. BH
    March 16, 2014

    Respect for the animals, yes! This is what the series is about. But you are mistaken – antlers are dropped…

  5. Bikram
    March 10, 2014

    Not very assuming.

  6. lumas
    March 9, 2014

    so beautiful.it tell us humans and animals have a mysterious connection.

  7. Laurie Thompson
    March 9, 2014

    beautiful. beautiful.

  8. paige
    March 9, 2014

    wow! I am so proud of you

  9. Jo
    March 8, 2014

    Thank you for sharing… Inspiring work!

  10. Judy ONTHANK
    March 8, 2014

    Wow,Holly, these are just amazing. Congratulations!

  11. Jun Taqueban Benitez
    March 7, 2014

    A nice view… The beauty of nature

  12. Nepo T. Benitez, Jr.
    March 7, 2014

    A nice look… The beauty of nature.

  13. tom jacobson
    March 7, 2014

    provocative, eye catching, unique

  14. beck
    March 7, 2014

    beautiful collection, can’t wait to see more of your transformations.

  15. steven stratton
    March 7, 2014

    dear and elk drop thier antlers every year to give us great art.Amazing work

  16. Brenda Tharp
    March 7, 2014

    Holly,, truly stunning photography and creativity. But then I’m not surprised, knowing you – just simply delighted at this new collection! Keep on, keep on.

  17. Sammy
    March 6, 2014

    I’m in love with the belly dancer and the snake. Her tattoo is beautiful and fits the style so well that you know that frame is something real.

    • grant Cole
      March 9, 2014

      pure beauty amazing but are they nude?

  18. Soriya Blalock
    March 6, 2014

    ABSOLUTELY MARVELLOUS!!! this is truly inspired and spirited richly. Blessings

  19. Holly Wilmeth
    March 6, 2014

    Thank you everyone for your wonderful words of encouragement for this project. The purpose is not only to create beauty with the subject matters, but primarily to create awareness. I’ve been working and will continue working till July with different animal protection centers shooting images that speak of the importance of loving nature and the need to stop harming these beautiful creatures.

  20. grant Cole
    March 6, 2014

    wow i like how you have defined nature in your own way, all of your photos are wonderful. I have a question though, Are all your volunteers nude, because it would make sense if they are because it’s nature.

  21. Zoey
    March 6, 2014

    Gorgeous, yet simple. I love the sepia filter. I love it, love it, love it!

  22. Yolanda Hernandez
    March 6, 2014

    Always classy a true visionary, Holly. Thank you for sharing your beautiful mind with us. You are a true original, who does not copy and never pretentious.

  23. Josephine
    March 6, 2014

    Animals are much more easy to connect with when they are living. The photos are lovely, but I think the concept is a little misguided.

  24. preetha
    March 6, 2014

    had given a great thought…i find relating those things extraordinary

  25. Marilen Crump
    March 6, 2014

    I Love this work! Completely brilliant and stunning.

  26. Elissa Bruns Beltranena
    March 6, 2014

    Wow!!! This is great! I’m so proud of you my friend!

  27. Stephanie H
    March 6, 2014

    This is truly beautiful. Thank you.

  28. Jeremy Woodhouse
    March 6, 2014

    Very beautiful imagery and knowing who you are, the text is far from arty pretentious. Felicitaciones!

  29. arthur veitch
    March 6, 2014

    Love the theme and the technique. For those looking for even deeper exploration into this theme check out the work of Sandra Grace Storey in the Yukon.

  30. Varsha
    March 6, 2014

    Your thoughts are beautiful as much as your photos. they are expressing the beauty of nature and relationship. Keep going!

  31. Brandon
    March 6, 2014

    Holly, Amazing photos! So inspiring. I’m feel privileged to have witnessed a part of the creation.

  32. Jeremy Woodhouse
    March 6, 2014

    Excellent work! From your greatest fan.

  33. Wairuanor
    March 6, 2014

    Nice photos, apart from the ones that promote the killing of animals for their body parts, e.g. antlers. You can have an animal as a spirit guide without having to kill it and wear its antlers!

  34. Ryan W. Walsh
    March 6, 2014

    True detective?

  35. Dipanjan Mitra
    March 6, 2014

    Great work. it was indeed a pleasure to see the images.

  36. Webber Tsai
    March 6, 2014

    Really amazingly pictures and peaceful feeling, thank you for the creative crafts.

  37. subba gurung
    March 6, 2014

    I love this national geography channel N I would like watch this channel in Video too. More nature world.

  38. Hermelindo Sanchez
    March 5, 2014

    Simplemente lo mejor en GEOGRAFIA..

  39. Roxane Pickens
    March 5, 2014

    *Namaste*, to all involved, to all touched…

  40. Jeannie
    March 5, 2014

    Simply gorgeous. What a wonderful way of representing the connection between women and nature. Thank you.

  41. Mary Ellen Colon
    March 5, 2014

    Absolutely exquisite…deeply moving and simply BEAUTIFUL. Thank you for your heartfelt work.

  42. Steve Bennett
    March 5, 2014

    Holly is obviously skilled with the camera but it is her ideas of what should be in the picture is what I like best about her work.

  43. Isabel fernandez
    March 5, 2014

    Simple, elegant and real; Genius!

  44. Suhasini Srihari
    March 5, 2014

    Amazing photographs working on the theme of the “call of the primitive” – very innovative indeed!

  45. SUN
    March 5, 2014

    NAKED WOMEN WITH PIECE OF DEAD ANIMALS? KITSCH. respect for the hunted beings ended up used as a decoration…

    • Brandon
      March 6, 2014

      @Sun – The turtle was actually found dead on the beach. I was there.

  46. Sven Pira
    March 5, 2014

    Excellent art!

  47. Letty
    March 5, 2014

    I am mesmerized by the eyes in some of these photos, repulsed by some of by of the subject matter. Yet these are lovely.

  48. Anne Chamberlain
    March 5, 2014

    The photos are beautiful, but there’s no way I’d let a constrictor that large get that wrapped around me…even a well fed one.

  49. Shukur sani
    March 5, 2014

    Realy most pictures never seen before

  50. Amy Moore
    March 5, 2014

    These pictures are assume. Brings new meaning to” human, nature “

  51. Leigh Coulson
    March 5, 2014

    Nice, interesting pictures but the text is a bit arty pretentious …the pictures by themselves are enough.

    March 5, 2014

    Son hermosas fotos, pero muestran lo depredador que somos con los animales.

  53. Ron Castle
    March 5, 2014

    Amazing work as always Holly!

  54. Nikki ephraim
    March 5, 2014


  55. Julie
    March 5, 2014


  56. sahar
    March 5, 2014

    I think there is nothing beautiful than nature. talent is outstanding…..

  57. Ellen Clark
    March 5, 2014

    These are all wonderful, but I particularly like the fish skirt and the iguana headdress/neckless. Congratulations on a wonderful collection.

  58. susan welchman
    March 5, 2014

    Shows the range of inspiration that nature provides artists. This post an example of text and photos leaning on one another.

  59. Kathleen Serverian-Wilmeth
    March 5, 2014

    This is an extraordinary way to express the beauty of Mother Nature.

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