Anna Heupel – How I became a photographer

I can still remember my parents’ faces when, after a bumpy start to my working life, I floated the idea of becoming self-employed. “What? A photographer? But you’ve only just begun with your job. Why don’t you stay in the office?” Simple – because I hated it. When I think back to when I was 23 and told everyone about my plans, they probably all assumed that I was dumb and naive. It was written off as just another scatterbrained dram. But it wasn’t. Not this time.

When I was a child, I roamed the lush natural surroundings of the place where I grew up with my papa’s analog camera. Born and raised in a small village in Siegerland, Germany, its fields, meadows, and forests were both my playground and inspiration. One of my greatest pleasures was to wander barefoot through meadows of wildflowers, attempting to capture the unique and extraordinary atmosphere of the golden setting sun. The light of this very special ambiance, when the day is drawing to a close and everything shimmers in a golden radiance, has always fascinated me. Light is like magic. It transforms situations and moments – actually everything in the world – allowing them to endlessly emerge and appear anew.

After amassing some initial skills in analog photography, I increasingly turned to digital photography. Digital cameras had just come on the market and what was most amazing was that you could immediately see the finished photo on a pixelated display. There were no longer any limits, especially after I bought my first digital single lens reflex camera, a Nikon D 60. I had to save up for a long time, but it was worth it. Motifs such as sunsets, clouds, and fields of grass gradually gave way to portraits of Lisa, my best friend, who enjoyed modeling for my new photography experiments.

I applied myself to people photography, focused intensively on image composition, cameras, and photo editing, joined a studio community, and learned how to take flash photos and do beauty shoots. Besides all this, I had graduated from secondary school and faced a huge decision: What do I do now? My dream was always to become a photographer. This is what I really wanted to learn. But after a job interview in the only and rather old-fashioned photo studio in Siegen, I knew that there was no opportunity here to train as a photographer. So common sense won out and I decided on a business apprenticeship to become an industrial management assistant.

I really tried to convince myself that this was a terrific job – great career prospects, good pay, security, and a pension. My colleagues were also very nice. You know the story. I tried to fit in and raise my social standing, but internally I was completely confused, aimless, and unhappy. I persevered with the training, scrapped through the exam by the skin of my teeth, and then worked in various jobs and in an office. I now had a normal life, worked overtime, and smoked too much. Although I was making lots of money, there was no time for photography.

Somehow I managed to find more space in my life for photography. I invested every free moment from work into my hobby. After a year and a half of pursuing photography as a successful sideline, I decided without further ado to work as a full-time photographer and quit my office job. It takes a lot of courage to simply walk away from a ‘secure’ job to take up photography, especially if you live in a small town. Can you earn a living? To be honest, I didn’t care about money. I just wanted to finally have more time for my special passion, so that it could truly thrive.

Is it so bad to listen to your heart?

No. Even though I at first suffered sleepless nights from all the anxiety and doubts, I was able to devote myself more to photography and continued to learn new things. Most of all, I learned to trust myself. It almost felt as if all the courage that it took me and all the energy that I invested in photography was returned to me two and even threefold. Everything fell into place. Models from all over Germany came to me for photoshoots, I photographed my first product campaigns, traveled all over Europe, and more and more of my photo series were published in magazines. Eat, sleep, and snap pictures – that was my daily routine. And I was never more overjoyed.

It has been eight years now since I took the plunge.  And as I sit here and recall everything, I couldn’t be happier. I have been living my dream for eight years. I am a photographer – something that I used to only write in the ‘memories books’ of my friends. For a long time, I didn’t even dare to mention the profession when referring to myself, as I didn’t think I was good enough. I now often find myself far from my village of Siegen on exploration tours, where I do travel photography and have the opportunity to discover new countries and new people. What I find fabulous is the acceptance that I have experienced over the years. Photography has shown me that it is all right to follow your heart. It is all right to make mistakes. It is all right to be yourself. Photography is always there for me. I can go out at any time and be creative. And this is why I find it even more satisfying to be able to work with partners such as Jack Wolfskin, who have displayed an unbelievable amount of confidence in me and have supported me in my work. I have recently been named official brand ambassador and, in addition to my partnership with Nikon, this has been a dream come true. All this has happened only because I showed courage for a brief moment. Because I listened to my own feelings instead of what everyone else told me. Everything falls into place – you just have to take the first step.

More photos from Anna