Oliver Ehmig: Photographer
Tell me a little bit about yourself. (Introduce yourself and where you’re from).
I’m Oliver Ehmig, 42 years old. I was born in Germany but grew up in Colombia.
Have you always been creative? What did you want to be when you were young?
As a child, my dream profession varied according to the TV series I was watching. Detective, fighter pilot, soldier, astronaut or explorer. Exploring was always present. I really enjoyed making maps and tracing routes by putting steps to different places: 100 steps to the left, then 50 to the right, and so on. Most of the time letting myself in familiar places, but on other occasions, a river to cross or a tree to climb would appear out of nowhere that made the hours drawing the map worth it.
How did you get into photography?
When younger, I spend long hours watching Jacques Cousteau exploring the Amazon in his Calypso on TV and devouring National Geographic magazines. This sparked my taste in photography. That and the adventures of Dr. Jones.
After leaving school, most of my classmates decided to spend their holidays on the beach but I decided to go to my first great adventure. Armed with my first camera and 4 photographic rolls, I traveled to the Amazon.
Upon my return, I discovered that I had not been cautious when handling and mounting the rolls which caused all the photos to veiled. All but two. Those two defined what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
How did you manage to make it a career?
I did not find a University that taught photography in the beginning, I was between plastic arts and pure physics. Then a friend suggested Advertising because I had a few photography semesters, and I ended up graduating from that course.
During the following years I worked in various agencies until finally in 2008 at around 4 o'clock in the afternoon in front of my screen I made the decision to resign and go to work in the Bahamas as a carpenter. That was an experience that marked me a lot, it was a wonderful year of a lot of learning and at the end I went to Cuba for a month. These two experiences led me to make the decision that from that moment on, photography would be the way to live my days, and also to pay the rent.
What is it you love most about photography?
Like many other arts, photography gives fascinating possibilities to tell stories, and what I enjoy the most is just that, telling stories. My camera is my Fedora hat, it is always with me.
What have you done that you’re most proud of?
All the projects that I have developed have given me something that I treasure, but without a doubt having had the honor of accompanying the men and women of the Colombian Armed Forces for more than 6 years has been my most important and representative body of work. Everything I wanted as a child was materialized during those years. The atmosphere inside a helicopter prior to disembarking the troops, climbing moors, crossing rivers, diving, discovering the humanity behind the uniform and the stories that remained when portraying all the people with whom I directly or indirectly crossed along my path.
Who/what inspires you?
I am inspired by everything that makes me stop to appreciate it and the people who dedicate a moment of their lives to me. In the end we all have a good story to share.
What’s your process like? (Take me through your creative process).
When I start a new project it’s because it already has its own soundtrack. That part is tricky to explain, let’s just say that I tend to imagine the ambient surrounding the project.
After that I go by instinct, sure, there’s planning around it, at least the basic knowledge of the environment and possible subject. But most of the time it's a matter following the rhythm.
Favorite piece of equipment?
My Voigtländer 58mm (It allows me to slow down and appreciate the moment) and the Indiana Jones Lego figure in my pocket.
There are three photographers that I deeply admire. James Nachtwey and the profound reflections generated by his work, Peter Lindbergh for his intimate portraiture, and Sean O'Connell (Yes, the fictional character in Walter Mitty) for reminding me that sometimes the moment outweighs the shot.
What is your dream collaboration?
Any words of wisdom for young photographers?
Always honor what you have in front of your lens.