Vahleria Rocha

Photographer to the stars: Valheria Rocha is gearing up to take over the world one picture at a time

If you're a major Taylor Swift fan, then you might have noticed that her ~aesthetic~ has gotten a slight huge makeover. She's swapped snakes for butterflies and grunge-black colors for pretty pastel shades. In order to send this new, colorful message to her legions of fans all over the world, the singer enlisted the help of Colombian photographer Valheria Rocha. The 24-year-old camerawoman is a pro at everything technicolor. "I think it's definitely very loud. I think it's very vibrant; I think it's fun and youthful," she tells HOLA! USA

Colombian photographer Valheria Rocha talks about working with Taylor Swift in the singer's new era Photo: Instagram/@valheria123

In the past, she has shot celebrities like Stranger Things actress Shannon Purser and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina actor Ross Lynch, but her latest gig with Taylor has naturally changed the course of her career. "It's crazy to me that I can think even bigger than Taylor," she shares. "I'm currently thinking about all that but there are definitely some things that I would love to do." 

MORE: Get to know the Colombian artist behind Taylor Swift's 'Me' image

Besides talking shop, we also learned some things from the photographer who is quickly becoming a househould name.  When she's not busy creating ethereal and vibrant pictures that beg to be pinned on a Pinterest board, Valheria enjoys creating collages (more on that later), watching Wes Anderson flicks and (obvi) listening to Broadway tunes. Continue to scroll to learn more about Valheria... 

"I'm 24 and I [worked with Taylor]. Before the Taylor project, I had a list of goals, and I don't think any of my goals were as big as shooting Taylor Swift," Valheria tells HOLA! USA

HOLA! USA: When did you start taking photos and how did you get into photography?
Valheria Rocha: "I started photography in high school. I thought it’d be easy, but I never expected to actually fall in love with it. I guess I hadn’t realized how photography is so much. I had always thought of it as what you see on National Geographic and The New York Times, but then I realized that photography can be similar to painting. You can create your own scene, and you can bring in costumes, drama and makeup. I think that that’s what I really loved about it because I used to be really into musical theater. It kind of gives me a way to continue doing my love for the theater, while not having to necessarily pursue it because honestly, I wasn’t that good."  

You also create these eclectic and colorful collages and did an awesome one of Selena Quintanilla?
"I started doing them when I was a senior in college, and the idea for making the celebrity collages came from my brother. I got a lot of really good positive feedback from that, and then next thing you know, I would just try to do one every week. [The Selena one] was actually a project that my friend Nikka and I did for Hispanic Heritage Month. We did a J Balvin and Bad Bunny one and then the Selena one. I think the Selena one is one of my favorites. She’s so iconic and just so amazing. All my collages are of people that I really enjoy their music. I like who they are. I look up to them style-wise, artistically or for whatever reason."


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Who has been your favorite celebrity to shoot so far?
"[Shannon Purser] is wonderful. I can’t express how much of a wonderful human being she is. The first time I worked with her, I had this really cool shot that I did where she’s holding these tiny little hands on her fingers against her face. And I think that’s one of my favorite shots I’ve ever done. It’s so quirky and so fun that it just describes my personality so well, and she totally just let me do my weird ideas and didn’t bat an eye."

Who is your dream star to shoot in the future?
"This is really crazy. I mean, I didn't ever dream that I would shoot with Taylor Swift. I looked up to her for so long, so I couldn't even imagine anything that big. I would love to photograph Beyoncé. I think what she stands for is amazing. I would also love to work with Michelle Obama and someone like Camila Cabello, too. It just seems like she and I could work really well together. There are brands that I would love to work with. Gucci is one of my favorite brands, and I think that everything they do is just beyond brilliant. But its just crazy...I'm having to re-evaluate my goals because this all happened so quickly."


thank u T. this means everything 🦋🌟💗💕🌴🌈💛🦋💖🌸✨💘🦋

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What is the atmosphere like on your set? 
"I mean, I think that my pictures are a very direct and clear representation of who I am as a person. I think that they’re very colorful and very loud and they’re also very soft because I am all of those things. I really try and bring that everywhere I go—not just on set, but everywhere I go. I think the photos are also a direct representation of what happened the day we created those images. I never want people to feel stressed out on set, and I always try to make sure we have fun music playing and that everybody is having a good time. I want people obviously to feel as comfortable and relaxed in front of my camera as possible."

And when you're not on a photo shoot or creating your collages, what are you doing in your down time?
"I'm a pretty creative person, and I can't sit still. I always have to be doing something. I'm usually either plotting or planning another creative project. I love watching movies for research purposes...I like to watch a lot of Wes Anderson movies and a lot of older movies from the 80s and 90s because I think the cinematography and the directing is really interesting."

The same way you know you're watching a Wes Anderson film, people know they're looking at a Valheria Rocha photo...your photography has a voice.
"That's honestly been a really big goal of mine. It means a lot to me when someone looks at something and goes, 'Oh that looks like Valheria did it.' It means I'm successful as an artist because I was able to establish my own voice. I got this a lot actually when the Taylor Swift pictures came out. I would get calls from people that would be like, 'You know, I've been following you for a while, and when I saw this picture I thought it was you.' And it was. That's so cool, that I was able to do that." 


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Does your Latin culture inspire your work in any way?
"Yeah, I definitely think so. It always has in terms of the colors and how vibrant and loud my work has always been, but I think that wasn't always on purpose. I think that I made it a point to do that a few years ago. I started feeling like there was a really big disconnect between me and my culture because I've grown up in the US my whole life. I didn't feel like I was a real Colombian even though I was born there. [Spanish] is my first language, and my parents have always made it a point to really keep the house as Latin as possible, but the second I would step outside, it was a very different contrast, so it always felt strange. I think that's why I started making it a point to research my culture more and listen to more of our music and get to know newer Hispanic artists.

Has your family been supportive? 
I come from a family of artists in Colombia. My grandparents on my dad's side were pretty notable scientists and artists. They worked their whole lives for their art, and they never really saw any success from it until after they passed. For me, that's always been a very driving factor—to make them proud."

Is there a specific memory from your childhood that inspired you somehow?
"I remember my grandpa's studio so much because it was covered wall to wall, ceiling to floor, in taxidermy bugs. He would collect really beautiful bugs and study the insects and flowers and would preserve it or paint it or draw it. I just really remember that studio being super cluttered and super covered in beautiful bugs."


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If you weren't an artist what do you think you would be doing?
"I'm a huge theater nerd. I feel like if I had probably not done so many art classes and art related things when I was little, and had spent more time doing dance classes and singing lessons, I probably would have, definitively studied musical theater."

Speaking of music, what's your favorite music to listen to?  
"I know everybody says this, but I truly do listen to just about everything. In Colombia, the only music [my parents] would get is classic hits. I grew up loving that music. I really honestly did not know a lot of main stream artists until I was in high school and started listening to what my friends were listening to. I listen to a lot of Latin music. I also love my Broadway tunes. I also love old Lana Del Rey because she sounded from the 50s or the 60s, and I love stuff like that."

How would you describe your work?
"I think it's definitely very loud; I think it's very vibrant; I think it's fun and youthful. I think it makes you feel good, I mean, I at least I hope it does because it makes me feel good when I look at it. I think its very feminine. I think you can definitely tell that it's made by a female photographer or a female artist." 

And what do you hope to accomplish in your career?
"I'm 24 and I [worked with Taylor]. Before the Taylor project, I had a list of goals, and I don't think any of my goals were as big as shooting Taylor Swift. Now, it's crazy to me that I can think even bigger. I'm currently thinking about all that but there are definitely some things that I would love to do."

To see Valheria's complete portfolio, head to her picture-perfect Instagram and website!

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