Nicola Harger is one of those people you feel like you’ve known forever—you’ll agree about halfway through the below Q&A. We first met on an overcast late afternoon in Nashville this spring—Nicola had come recommended through a friend of a friend as the best portrait photographer in Nashville. An hour later, portraits were shot, but more importantly, we had swapped stories about growing up, family, faith, and what it means to be creative for a living. Below, please enjoy some of Nicola’s work and our full profile. – Bryan, ONA Marketing & Partnerships
Name: Nicola Harger
Hometown: I was born in London, England but moved to the States when I was little – and then moved around the Midwest quite a bit while growing up, so this is a hard question. Now I usually say I’m from Minneapolis just because I lived there the longest/went to school there and it feels like home.
Favorite place to photograph: Anywhere new. I appreciate the challenge of making different work in places I’ve already photographed, but there’s nothing like the excitement of not knowing what you’re going to find around new corners.
Bucket List destination: Call me crazy but Greenland has always fascinated me and I’d love to visit one day – those wild, northern places that are so remote will always be where I want to go next.
Go-to gear: Nikon 58mm, always a favorite for almost everything. Leica M240 for all the feels and I have a Pentax 645N for film work.
Thing you can’t live without: My faith, my family.
Describe your aesthetic in five words or less: Light and shadow. I’m drawn to the way the two intersect and the beauty of showing how we all are this way.
Biggest creative influence: I started traveling internationally from such a young age, and I constantly felt like I was in unfamiliar surroundings since we also moved around a lot growing up. Because of that I would find the things that stayed the same, even if the scenery kept changing – and light was the one thing that was always constant. It would light up hallways and speckle car windows and cover fields and I was so drawn to its beauty, so when I found photography, it just made sense.
What motivates you: I see it as such a privilege to pursue making art for a living. Being photographed is such a vulnerable thing and so the relationships I’ve formed with people over the years who I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise are such a gift to me as they allow me to fully see them and take their portrait. I also see weddings as such a documentary way to leave a legacy behind for your family and those photos are cherished for years and years – how incredible is that.
Biggest challenge: It’s always been a work life balance struggle for me. Running your own business means the work is never done and it’s hard for me to disconnect at the end of the day when I know there’s more that needs to be done. I’ve been trying to put stricter boundaries on this so that I can maximize the relational aspects of my life and keep my priorities in line. At the end of the day, I want to love people well and taking beautiful photos will always come second to that.
One piece of advice that stuck with you: I’d rather have integrity than have success.
Time of day are you most creative: Mornings.
Mistake you’ve learned from: Social media, trends and contests aren’t as important as running a good business. I’ve learned that well the last few years and it’s been so freeing to not give my energy away to things that don’t really matter.
Most recent “a-ha” moment: Finding the why behind what I do – this has been everything to sustaining purpose through hard and busy seasons of burn out.
Dream project: Working with campaigns for social movements to make portraits that speak of change – hope to see a few of these come to life next year.
Goal for 2018: Always more studio work – the more I learn about light, the better I can control it to make images that match what I envision in my head. Every year I want to get closer to this
Cats or dogs: Dogs, always.
Sweet or savory: Sweet.
Favorite album: So many. Currently Fleurie’s Love and War.
Most used phrase: “I’m dying.”
Biggest fear: Sharks, of course.
Earliest memory: Flying a kite with my dad in Wales up on a hilltop.
Hidden talent: A happy crazy plant lady.