Q&A With Nuria Oehms

During these strange times it’s important as ever to share our passions, motivations and intentions with each other in order to stay connected and present. Alexa Zsigmond sat down to chat with Nuria Oehms, a 19-year old Zurich-based photographer, who, on the side of work and school, enjoys exploring the urban spaces of her hometown with her camera. Nuria opens up about what photography means to her personally, her inspirations and the meaning of her photography style and how it has transformed. And for all the new-bees in photography she also shares some tips and tricks on how to snap an expressive shot. If you are seeking inspiration and motivation to pursuit something meaningful to you, keep on reading and immerse yourself in Nuria’s wonderful photography.

Can you introduce yourself and tell us how you got into photography?

“I was born and raised in Switzerland, right now I live in the city of Zurich. When I was little I had this compact camera with me all the time and I used to only record videos and later edit them – so I would make like vacation vlogs and all that stuff. With time I got more into photography itself, because I started taking pictures of my classmates with my phone. So I bought a camera, just out of random motivation, I just thought ‘why not?’ and it’s still the same one that I use now. I started mainly doing street photography, urban pictures, because no one wanted to stand in front of my camera. And then I slowly got into that circle of photographers in Zurich, and I got to know some models and they kind of became my friends which makes it super chill.”

What does photography mean to you personally?

“I feel like it’s just a way of escaping stress, because I often find myself having these visions in my head and like wanting to realise them so badly. The style of my pictures is 50% the picture itself and 50% editing, they are a lot more fantasy than a normal portrait picture. And I feel like I find myself feeling super calm and relieved every time I finish editing pictures. I look at them and realise ‘wow I made that’. It’s really my vision that came to life and I feel like it gives me some sense of having control and calm and pride. It’s just the little things in photography that make me excited. If you would go shoot with me, you would see that every time I snap a good picture, I scream because I just love it so much.”

“Your vision is the most precious thing that you have.”

How would you describe your photography style when you first started taking pictures compared to now? 

“Like I mentioned before, it was more street photography when I started off, so there was a lot of editing going on, crazy colours and crazy contrasts. With time, I looked more into skin editing, not pimples or something but the colour of the skin and how it looks good in which lighting. I feel like now it’s a bit more directed towards portraits. But the style itself with the editing has kind of stayed the same, you know, it doesn’t even have to be a crazy light that shines onto something, it just has to have that pop of fantasy to me. Even if I just enhance the colours, I feel like my style is quite recognisable, if I may say so, because all my friends always say that they randomly see pictures of mine on their feed and they immediately say ‘oh that’s Nuria’s picture’. I’m not the first one to have that but still.” 

What is your earliest memory related to photography? Was it an important part of your childhood?

“It’s quite a funny story. Like I said I had that compact camera and I started taking videos with that one mainly. But before that, I have a lot of memories of a small game console that you could take pictures with. And I would always take pictures of my cousins with that. My dad used to do photography himself when he was younger and so does my older brother. So, I feel like I belong to the side of the men in my family. I think my earliest memory is always seeing my dad record stuff or take pictures and also my brother.”

On your Instagram I saw that you got more creative with your photos overtime, especially playing with lighting, also using photoshop and editing your pictures. What inspired you to experiment more?

“I think that is the comfort that came with shooting with my friends, to try out new things. I’m quite a shy person when I meet someone brand new. I’m not confident enough to tell them ‘oh maybe try this and this pose’ because they might think it’s going to look a little bit weird. The comfort of shooting with my friends brought me that motivation to just try out new things. Also, the fact that I improved my editing and not making it look super crazy but still very clean. I guess the joy of liking the way the pictures look just brought me the motivation to do more.”

“If you take a picture, it’s not something that you’ll regret, it’s always a memory.“

Did you teach yourself everything you know about photography? And do you have any tips for people who want to get started with photography?

“Let’s just say a past friend taught me the basics, but even I don’t know everything about my camera, I’m not that much of a pro. But I know what the settings do and how they work on which lighting and stuff. And obviously the motivation also came from my family, but the style of editing itself, I kind of taught it to myself. And for beginners I would say literally just try everything, you have to find what works for you. When it comes to angles, I mainly shoot from a little bit more down because it has that dynamic look. I also like the subject to be the main focus in the picture. Just try it out everything, because if you take a picture it’s not something that you’ll regret, it’s always a memory, so even if you don’t end up liking it, you still have that great memory. And besides that, try to listen to people who want to give you advice and don’t just block them off and say ‘no, I have my style’, because, in the long run, you may be adapting your editing style to certain feedback that you got. For location I would say, focus on something that has a lot of depth in it and also a lot to look at because if you start with editing it’s great if you have a challenge – maybe have a person in it or crazy light that really challenges you to try and edit it the way you want it to look.“

Who or what inspires your photography? How do you come up with new ideas and overcome creative block if you experience that?

“A great part of my inspiration are my friends, because they are very expressive in the way they dress and how do their make-up. So, every time my friends sends me a make-up look or something, an idea pops into my head and that’s how I get a part of my inspiration. But another part is are the visions that I have in my head of things that I randomly want to create. Or when I hear a song and have a vision like a music video to it. The thing is I don’t really plan my shoots, I mostly just go out with my friends and start taking pictures and go to random spots. And I feel like creative block is a big thing, especially when I have a lot to do with work and school. I find myself not spending as much time with my friends who inspire me and not spending as much time online where I see other photographers posting their work. So, when I’m stressed, my inspiration and motivation aren’t really that high. But for new inspiration, I guess music, my friends and my surroundings, if I see a random spot when I drive by it with the train and I think ‘oh my god that’s so cool I want to shoot there’.”

“My pictures are what the world offers me.”

Is there a message or/and emotion you want to send out into the world with your pictures? If people should take something away from browsing through your pictures what would you like it to be?

“Focus on your vision, because your vision is the most precious thing that you have, and no one can take it away from you. Also regarding the editing style, if you start editing in a certain way and some people tell you they don’t like it, don’t listen to them or maybe take the feedback and accept it. Keep editing in the way you think it looks good. Right now, I feel like a lot of people don’t really look up from their phones – so, be present and find beauty in things that other people maybe wouldn’t find beauty in. None of my pictures were taken in a studio with a set-up, they’re just what the world offers me – just enjoy the beauty of things.”

Written by Alexa Zsigmond // photos by Nuria Oehms

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