Jo Whaley has lifelong roots in the San Francisco Bay Area, having earned advanced degrees in Art and Photography from the University of California, Berkeley by 1980. Whaley originally studied to become a painter and later took a day job as a scenic artist for the San Francisco Opera and other Bay Area theatrical companies. Her theater experience openly informs her photography, in which she creates stage sets and employs numerous props, painted backdrops and dramatic lighting. All of her photographic series fuse the language of photography with the language of painting and rely on an expressive use of color.
Working in discrete series, the subject matter of her photographs over the last 25 years have ranged from allegorical nudes, to a revision of the "vanitas" still life tradition, to a fusion of natural history and environmental issues in the The Theater of Insects portfolio. The compelling theme, that has driven her work, is the interface between nature and urban technological culture. With an ironic and quirky point of view, she juxtaposes organic and manmade elements to reflect the issue of environmental degradation in an imaginative manner.