In light of the recent 2022 IMAGO Photography Scholarship winner announcement we are wrapping up our interviews with the shortlisted photographers that made our Top Ten. Discover two portraits photographers Em Schuster and Sherie Pearl, and street photographer Keziah Jade Nualla.
Em Schuster’s creative compositions aim to highlight loud and eccentric personalities with unique fashion. The portraits are in some ways otherworldly, experimental and eye-catching while also maintaining a calmness to them. With an interest that started during childhood, Em hopes to see their photos on advertisements and billboards one day.
While Sherie Pearl also focuses on portrait shoots, hers are rather more serene. Starting out at her high school’s newspaper, she has carried her passion for photography and bringing her concepts and visions to life with her as she continues her journey towards professional fashion photography. Her photos aim to be non-conforming, exploring culture and identity.
Keziah Jade Nualla finds her compositions in her surroundings – while equally thought-out, she hopes that her street photography can tell a story, concentrating on topics related to global issues and giving a voice to the voiceless. “I want my audience to perceive my photographs as a gentle reminder of what it means to be a human,” she said. She too is interested in colors and the different ways they can convey a message, and hopes to see her photos in newspapers or exhibitions in the future.
How did you start out in photography?
Em: My passion for photography first started when I got my first point and shoot digital camera at the age of 14. I became obsessed with taking pictures of anything and everything. Being able to capture moments in time and have them as memories was very exciting to me.
Sherie Pearl: I started photography just recently during my two years of high school in an art school. With little experience, I joined CIIT Senior High school’s paper called The NEXUS as a photojournalist and I found myself enjoying the process of documenting and conceptualising within these two years, hence I decided to continue pursuing it in college. I’ve been inclined with the arts since I was young, I feel that I inherited my skills in the arts from my father, though only my sister and I pursued the field of arts among our family.
Keziah Jade Nualla: My mom gifted me my first DSLR when I was 13, and it was also the year I began exploring my passion for photography by becoming a photojournalist for our school publication.
What excites you about photography?
Emily: One thing that excited me about photography is that the possibilities are endless. There’s always something new to try and experiment with. Currently I’m experimenting with film photography.
Sherie Pearl: I believe that the most exciting aspect of practicing photography is how I’m able to form special bonds and connections with the people I work with or encounter in each project I work on. I see each new experience as a stepping stone to achieve my dream of becoming a professional photographer. Other than that, I also believe that being able to actualize and bring into life the concepts that I have only been thinking of, is also a significant reason why I enjoy being a photographer.
Keziah: To be able to capture a story within a frame, photography is a powerful instrument. A single shot can tell thousands of words.
What topics are you most interested in?
Emily: I love to photograph unique and loud personalities. Drag queens, athletes, people who express themselves through fashion. People are very interesting subjects. I love to work their personalities into my lighting and set ups including using vibrant colours in my lighting and backdrops.
Sherie Pearl: I always find myself relating a part of who I am in my work. I strive to reach an audience that may feel a hint of familiarity and representation with the whole essence of being a person when they look at my work. I definitely love exploring culture and identity in my chosen photographic genre.
Keziah: I am mostly open about any topic but I’m more interested in topics about global issues not only because it focuses on the stories that need attention globally but because it gives voices to the voiceless.
What is your favourite motif in front of the camera?
Emily: One of my favourite motifs in front of the camera is vibrant colour. I love using highly saturated backgrounds, lights, props, and clothes to express the personalities that I am photographing. I also love to use my colour lighting to create an atmosphere in my photographs.
Sherie Pearl: Generally, I think I always lean towards the art of unexpected or spontaneous beauty. Photography has a systematic strategy when it comes to planning and technicality and I think that balancing it with impromptu scenarios while shooting is what makes each photo unique.
Keziah: My favorite motif would be colors, specifically bright and dull colors. For me, this represents our life. It’s not always that we get to live to be happy like a bright color. Sometimes, we face difficulties that our vibrant life can turn into a dull one.
How would you describe your creative style?
Emily: I would describe my creative style as experimental. I like to try new techniques and approaches that will help me to further develop my photography knowledge.
Sherie Pearl: As an artist, I’m still exploring how I could further develop my own distinct style. However, I describe myself as a very versatile photographer. My mentor once described my work as something that’s void of gender. I think that flexibility and non-conformity are words that best describe my artistry.
Keziah: I would describe my creative style to be versatile. My personal life experiences have influenced my style. I frequently draw inspiration from my surroundings when creating new work, as I’m always open to any new ideas.
What do you want to express with your pictures?
Emily: With my photography, I aim to express the vibrant personalities that I am capturing. I want my audience to feel like they have an understanding of the people I am photographing through their emotions as well as through my visual language.
Sherie Pearl: At this point of my photographic journey, I spend a lot of time using photography as a medium for self-discovery. My conceptual works speak a lot about my life’s philosophy–hoping maybe someone may feel comfort and a sense of self through the photos I share with the world.
Keziah: I want my audience to perceive my photographs as a gentle reminder of what it means to be a human. Images that depict what we do as a human on a daily basis are my favorites, and I want everyone to see that not all photographs are set to be scripted.
Do you have a source of inspiration for your photography?
Emily: My source of inspiration for my photography comes from many different places. I feel very inspired by neon lighting, movie stills, the outdoors, and vintage interiors. I’m also very inspired by my partner who is also a photographer and is always pushing the limits of photography.
Sherie Pearl: My first photo series and personal fashion photo book that I made and conceptualised were both inspired from films that I strongly feel personal about. There’s something about using other forms of art as inspiration to my photographic works as some sort of reflection and reaction to these other mediums.
Keziah: My inspiration for my photography would be our ‘everyday life’ as it always brings new opportunities for ideas and inspirations. Our life is interesting in every angle, there are endless possibilities of stories you can make with a single click of a camera.
What influence do your environment and the people around you have on your work?
Emily: I am very lucky to be surrounded by an immense amount of creative people. I grew up with a family of artists and had the pleasure of attending Sheridan College’s Honours Bachelor of Photography program where I was surrounded by brilliant creative influences including my friends and professors.
Sherie Pearl: I believe that artists are highly sensitive people. I sometimes choose to use art as a way to escape reality but at times it feels necessary to use art as a tool for raising issues and incorporating my own political stands. The place I live in and the people I work with are the essence of how my work is formed.
Keziah: My work is greatly influenced by the people around me. They are the reasons why I want to pursue my passion even more. Every time I create a new work or piece of art, I always think about these people that have supported and believed in my passion since the beginning. They are the ones that gave me a sense of direction in life.
What does social media mean for your photography and does it have an influence on your work?
Emily: Social media is a great tool for photography. I mainly present my work through my Instagram. I also get a lot of inspiration from other artists through platforms including Instagram and Pinterest. Although social media has its downsides, I thoroughly enjoy showcasing my work online so people I haven’t even met before can view my work.
Sherie Pearl: Most photographers nowadays use social media platforms to promote their work. I do the same, I highly depend on Instagram to showcase my portfolio and reach a number of audiences. More than that, it’s through social media that I am able to gain support and feedback from people online that I may or may not know. I think it helps me grow as a photographer to receive constructive criticism or appreciation on the work that I share.
Keziah: Social media is an extremely effective method for gaining influence. Social media is used by thousands of creative people, and these people have a big impact on my creativity. I use social media to both share my photographs and find inspiration from other creative individuals.
Where do you see your photography in the next few years?
Emily: In the next few years, I see my photography being used for advertising. I would love to see my work on a billboard in downtown Toronto, or on a company’s website and social media.
Sherie Pearl: There’s a million things that could happen in my future career as a photographer, but I do wish that the photographs that I make still hold a part of who I am and serve as a means of sanity for some people. I want to keep pursuing portrait and fashion photography if given the chance. However, I am still very open to all possibilities as a versatile photographer.