“Engage, be kind and speak up”: Nora Nord captures the tenderness of her surroundings
Documenting the beauty in everyday life, the photographer uses the medium as a way of unraveling her past experiences.
- Ayla Angelos
- 24 January 2020
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
With an intimate lens, the gaze of Nora Nord is an honest and romantic one. Currently based between London and Oslo, the photographer grew up in California and Norway – before moving to the United States to pursue her studies at Tufts University. Her upbringing was intensely visual: “I have ADD so my memory has always felt fragments,” she tells It’s Nice That. “I kept forgetting, so I started photographing as a teenager to remember. It was all digital back then and my computer broke a few years ago, which feels ironic.”
Photography thus serves as a necessary mechanism in which Nora uses to navigate through the world. She also points out some more personal and physical elements – the fact that she’s a six-foot blonde woman – as being a catalyst that drives her work. “Since I was a teenager, I have been stared at and undressed by men,” she says. “I think women are always aware of being looked at, of being sexualised. This oppressive male gaze had an incredibly detrimental effect on my self-image as I was growing up; I’m still pulling those tendrils out of me.” Turning to photography as a way of unravelling her past experiences, she sees the process as a therapeutic release. “When I photograph, I’m reversing the effects of this,” she adds. “I started photographing because I needed to.”
After her BA, Nora went out to try her hands at freelance photography. After half a year, she began her MA at Central Saint Martins in fashion photography: “There I met my partner Heather and we began working on our joint project, Porridge. They both met in the same class at CSM, “and fell in love”. Soon enough they began to document each other. “Heather broke their leg in May and we started making self-portraits to deal with the boredom while Heather was recovering from painful ankle surgery,” says Nora. Henceforth, Porridge was devised – a recently published, tender and heartfelt study of a queer relationship.
Porridge is just a small emblem of Nora’s desire to document her life. Shooting on film, Nora sees the analogue process as “alive” and “tangible”, and is particularly drawn to the slower process. “I like to play with the surreal within the everyday, the mundane,” Nora adds. “There is something beautiful in everyday life.” She takes cues from the medium’s giants – such as Nan Goldin, Cindy Sherman (for her self-portraits), Claude Cahun, Marcel Moore plus Annemarie Schwarzenbach – as well as Nigel Shafran and Vivian Majer. Then, pulling from her influences, she’s able to self-reflect and make something of her own – whether it be snapshot imagery of her friends laying in the grass and enjoying the warm weather, or a more posed portrait where light is used in such a manner that it signals elements of the sublime.
Her most favoured image is a portrait of Heather, taken last October [shown above]. It was during a time when they were both visiting Heather’s grandad in Normanton, West Yorkshire, “and the light was shining into the room we were staying in,” says Nora. “It was a difficult place to be in, so when the light came through it felt almost angelic; I feel a lot of love when I look at this photograph.”
Symbolic of her photographic style, not only does Nora search for the placement of natural light as her muse, she also looks towards her medium as a way of solving important topics that circle in today’s society. Future plans, for example, involve photographing her neighbourhood in London: “I grew up in a really homogenous area, which I hated,” Nora adds, “so it feels important to document an alternative way of living. There’s a lot of Islamophobia in the world now; people are scared of it. I think if they saw Bethnal Green they would change their minds. It’s the future, but it’s also underground rapid homogenisation."
“But as a young person I’m part of that problem, too – it’s tricky," Nora concludes. "Sometimes I feel guilty, but I can’t go around feeling guilty. It’s important to be aware and to have the hard conversations; to engage, be kind, speak up and talk to people – be open.”