Jo Whaley earned advanced degrees in Art and Photography from the University of California at Berkeley. She originally studied to become a painter and later took a job as a scenic artist for the San Francisco Opera, which greatly influenced her approach to 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.
Whaley’s work is held in the permanent collections of many museums, including the Philadelphia Museum of Art, The Museum of Photographic Arts, San Diego and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. From 2008 to 2013, her exhibit, The Theater of Insects toured museums, opening at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC and concluding at the Henry Fox Talbot Museum, Lacock Abbey, England. Chronicle Books published “The Theater of Insects” monograph. In 2018-19 she had an exhibition at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which intermixed her photographs with O’Keeffe’s paintings.