Replacing Anxiety with Unstoppable Confidence: An Interview with Photographer Olivia Locher
Olivia Locher, a photographer born in Pennsylvania, now based in NYC, is known for her sarcastic approach to studio photography, with a heavy focus on color and concept. A practitioner of the Transcendental Meditation technique, Locher’s photographs are grounded in consciousness and dreamlands. We recently caught up with her to learn more about her work and how her daily routine keeps her inspired and focused.
In one sentence, what describes your approach to life?
Treat all living beings the way you would like to be treated; it is so easy to be gentle and kind.
What does a typical day in your week look like?
Since I mostly do freelance photography work, my days can look very unpredictable; I balance a lot of plates. I am very keen on keeping daily routines that are stable, no matter what my work life looks like from day to day. TM obviously is one of my favorite parts of each day, and I always plan to prepare home-cooked meals, carve out an hour or two for exercise, and love to end each day indulging in a film before getting ready for bed.
What are your passions? What inspires you?
People inspire me! I am so interested to learn about others’ lives. My camera, in a way, is a vehicle to get to truly know whoever sits in front of it. I am endlessly thankful to everyone who allows me to take their photograph and for sharing a bit of themselves with me.
Lately, I’ve been really inspired by nature. I have always split my time between NYC and Pennsylvania, but lately, due to the pandemic and the greenlight to work more remotely, I have been in Pennsylvania a lot more. I never paid much attention to the seasons until this past year. I have gotten really into gardening. Watching things grow, seeing the way the sky changes, observing how different trees bloom, and learning their names has been so fulfilling. Every time I have left Manhattan, I always counted down the minutes until my return, afraid I was going to miss something, but I was oblivious to the nature at work around me!
Do you see yourself as somebody who took a leap of faith to live a more creative life, or do you think it kind of just happened?
I took a leap of faith. I grew up homeschooled and very shy. When I turned 17, I realized I was supposed to be applying to colleges, and I did an internet search for “best art schools” and applied to all of them. The School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC gave me a generous scholarship, and it was my golden ticket to the art life. I was extremely nervous to leave my family, home, and the life I knew but it worked out for the best.
What drew you to photography? What was the journey like?
Growing up, I was always daydreaming. My parents were always worried I was not living in reality. When I was a teenager, I went to the bookstore and removed all the subscription cards from the fashion magazines and, with my babysitting wages, I slowly started subscribing to each of them. It felt as though new worlds were arriving at my Pennsylvanian doorstep, and I continued to dream. I started convincing my friends to come over to my house and play dress up, imitating the models we saw in the glossy fashion magazines. I photographed them. It was then that I realized I was absolutely in love with taking photos, and it came very naturally. I’ve obsessively made photographs ever since.
What are your three favorite “tools” for a healthy and happy life?
Meditation, nutrition, and fitness. For me meditation is my guiding light. I feel whole when I am meditating twice a day consistently. The more consistent I am, the easier it becomes to continue being consistent. When I am consistent with my practice, finding the time to meditate really becomes effortless. My job often requires exceedingly early wake-up times, and it has become a no-brainer to fit my morning meditation in. I have found if I do not carve out that time for myself, I am foggy, and my judgement feels clouded. If I am going to miss a meditation, there must have been a major emergency keeping me from it.
Nutrition is another tool for my healthy life; I have been a lifelong vegetarian and love preparing meals. I have had a series of health issues over the past decade, including a digestive autoimmune disorder that runs in my family and chronic Lyme disease. I have turned my attention to Ayurvedic cooking and have been managing my symptoms so well with the help of Maharishi AyurVeda. I would encourage anyone who wants an extra boost of wellness to dive deeper into Maharishi International University’s online enrichment courses.
Lastly, fitness is particularly important to me day to day. I feel extra alive whenever I work movement into my day! Recently, I have been practicing ballet for about two hours per day. I danced when I was younger but totally abandoned it. Rediscovering my lost love for movement as an adult is unexpectedly rewarding.
How long have you been practicing the Transcendental Meditation technique, and what inspired you to learn?
I learnt TM in the summer of 2012. I was entering my thesis year of college at SVA, and it was just the tool I needed. My life drastically changed soon after I learnt TM. I was always very anxious from as far back as I can remember, and my stress was hard to manage. I remember feeling extremely anxious; even going to my meditation instruction meetings. My TM teacher, Sara Anderson, was so supportive. As I became more consistent with my meditation, I felt my anxiety slipping away, and a confidence in myself that I’d never known began to grow. Things that I used to find extremely hard to complete became easier and easier.
I heard David Lynch speaking so beautifully about TM for years before I began my own journey. What really stuck with me was the way he said that an artist does not need to be in pain or suffering to create, that these things were toxic to art. He said, “I don’t believe that Van Gough, for instance, was suffering while he was painting. Because he loved to paint.” This too was true for me; when I create my photographs, I feel unstoppable and totally confident. I wanted something that could help those feelings also be present during my life outside of creating. I kept thinking: I need TM! I started a savings account for my TM instruction, and after a few years, I was ready to learn. It was the best investment I ever made for myself!
Is there an experience related to your practice of TM that stands out in your mind?
My older brother Brandon recently learnt the TM technique. We have always been best friends and work closely together, (he’s also an artist), are roommates, and now we have the opportunity to meditate together. Having a family member who also meditates is so special; we enjoy sharing our experiences, attending advanced lectures at our local TM center together and watching one another grow.
Do you feel that TM has helped you with your art and creativity? If so, how?
All my individual images start from a single idea, and once I have it, I let it dictate everything. Whenever the same idea pops into my head more than three times, I know it is one I should act on. To find the best ideas, I must go deep within myself. Luckily, when I meditate, that is precisely what I do. I have found that ever since I began practicing TM, my ideas are clearer and more focused. When I get an idea that I enjoy, the desire and passion to create is immediate. I like to often lay down and daydream after my morning TM; I find some of my best creative ideas come directly after TM, when I lay down for a few minutes afterwards.
If you could give a person one piece of advice when thinking about pursuing a life/career like yours, what would you tell them?
If someone wakes up and is constantly inspired by their ideas and getting extreme satisfaction from creating, then that is what they should be doing! I feel as though you cannot choose to have a life as an artist; it finds you. To create is a deep desire that comes from within. My best advice would be to go into it without not having goals of it being a career. Throughout my life I have done, and still do, a ton of different things to make a living. My art has never fully paid my bills. When a monetary value or outside pressure gets placed on your creativity, I have found it can hinder the original energy of why you are creating in the first place. Making money from your creative endeavors can be nice icing on the cake, but do the work because you love it. The passion and your consistency are the most crucial elements.
You can view Olivia’s work, or purchase a copy of her first book, I Fought The Law, at www.olivialocher.com, or follow her on Instagram.
To learn more about the TM technique, you can find your local TM teacher here ►