Photographer Aims to Capture Her ‘Wild Soul’ in Evocative Self Portraits

Woman on steep hill side of meadow in Switzerland

With picturesque backdrops of sweeping landscapes and other transcendent expressions of the wilderness, photographer Anna Heimkreiter aims to capture a part of her personality or rather ‘wild spirit’ through the lens of a Sony Alpha 7 III.

Heimkreiter is an avid traveler and, through her globetrotting, has created and nurtured a deep relationship with nature, herself, and a meaningful creative process.

Naked women on hyacinth bed with a pinkish blue sky in the distance

“Life can be such a deeply felt experience. And nature is what helps me reconnect with my authentic self the most – it soothes my soul,” she says. PetaPixel.

“Once you begin to lean into the full range of feelings and sensations that life can offer, you realize that fear and wonder are everywhere. Especially outdoors, I am often and very suddenly overcome with gratitude for the beauty of the human experience. A sense of wonder connects everything I do – my inner journey, my travels, my creative practice.”

For Heimkreiter, the desire to express and indulge feelings of wonder and awe is central to her projects and is a Heimkreiter vision that has been years in the making.

Woman in grassy fields, with mountains in the distance

The self-taught photographer began her journey a little over a decade ago. What began as photos of flowers and her cat—which Heimkreiter would share with a close-knit Flickr community—shifted into a focus on self-portraits. Portraiture became a way for the photographer to explore emotions and stories that she lacked the words to express.

But as her projects began to gain attention and were published in magazines, the creation process became confusing and stressful.

“For several years, […] I barely touched my camera. After the first magazines published my work online, the pressure to create ‘even better work’ became too much for my younger self and I stopped creating altogether for a long time. But finally, I realized how much I had missed expressing myself in photos,” says Heimkreiter.

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woman lying on rocky terrain with pastel sunset behind her

So, she decided that the trip was a logical next step in her photography journey.

“[I] began traveling full time. [It] it made me feel that sharing my story through art had a greater purpose. I want to inspire people to live boldly and explore, both outside and inside,” she continues, “I’ve always loved to travel and for almost 4 years now that’s what I get to do full time . My travels are no longer vacations, they are my life – so naturally, most of my self-portraits are created on the road.”

In her van, Heimkreiter has traveled and hiked to the prairies of Georgia, steep meadows in Switzerland, and rocky terrain in Turkey and Bosnia. Her images often depict her as a solitary traveler—a wanderer—melting subtly and symbiotically into her surroundings. From graceful poses on lakes or treetops in sharp dresses to bare dives in fields of flowers and massive tree roots, Heimkreiter’s photos communicate her unique interpretations of a “wild spirit.”

women without clothes at the base of a large dark brown tree with large roots

The different locations and climates set off a chain reaction of feelings of wonder and a simple joy of exploration for the photographer.

“The great advantage of traveling is that you can explore new places all the time […] Visually, I love moody weather, distinctive trees and rocks, reflections in a lake, snowy mountain peaks… It just has to make me feel something. My mind automatically starts imagining what a person would look like inserted into the landscape. The rest of my process is very spontaneous – I rarely plan my shots. When I start taking pictures, I’m very much in a flow state, completely focused on the experience. I think that’s why self-portraits are so moving and therapeutic for me.” she says PetaPixel.

The woman curled up in a ball on the side of the rocky hill

As striking and calming as Heimkreiter’s images are to viewers of her work, she runs into the occasional hurdle of some shots being out of focus or simply in a crowded tourist area.

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“Unique perspectives are also complicated. It’s often easier to capture another person’s best angle than your own – however, self-portraits allow you to access a level of authenticity and raw emotion that’s hard to come by when working with a foreigner Other times, I come across beautiful scenery, but it’s too crowded. Sometimes, I’m not good at taking selfies in front of some strangers, but if there are a lot of people, it’s hard for me to really connect with the moment. I find more inspiration in solitude than in large crowds.”

The woman arched back by the lake

Heimkreiter doesn’t consider herself a gear expert, just knowledgeable in what works for her needs which is her Sony camera and Tamron 28-75 f/2.8 lens.

“My device is simple and relatively light which makes it perfect for travel. I also take it on long distance hikes. I have an additional portrait lens, but I prefer the zoom lens as it is more versatile. Unless I’m balancing my camera on rocks or tree trunks, I use a terribly unstable tripod for my self-portraits. It is supposed to be used for phones and I should probably replace it (mandatory)”.

Oscillating in a sort of rhythmic creative flow of inspiration and expression of that inspiration through the digital, Heimkreiter manages to immerse herself in her creativity and even stumble into higher meditations on the connection of humanity and nature.

“I think subconsciously, I’ve always explored the relationship between people and nature in my work – but it’s only in the last few years that this message has become very clear to me. I believe that our creative work evolves with us. When you grow as a person, your work will grow and take on a different meaning as well.”

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Women with arms above their heads in the water, hills in the distance are reflecting on the water

Although Heimkreiter’s images stem from the photographer’s “emotional state” and deep appreciation for nature, she allows room for open interpretation by viewers.

“Capturing these moments connects me more deeply with myself and the places I’ve wandered. But in the end, the interpretation is up to the viewer – my photography is simply a reflection of your personal experience. We all want to dream and my work allows you to do that. It’s an invitation to become the person in the image and enjoy a moment of wild wonder.”

In an age of content movement past without hesitation, the photographer aims to provide and provoke hesitation and reflection in her images and ignite feelings.

the woman's silhouette arched behind the shadows with the sun's rays touching the hills behind her

So far, Heimkreiter has received positive feedback. Comments that bring admiration for how her images have evoked feelings of wonder and inspiration to live more fully.

“That’s really the message I want to send to the world – life is such an incredible thing to experience […] I want you to believe in magic again. I also remember someone saying that my photography is like poetry […] Kind words like these are actually what have kept me going over the years. I don’t think I would still be taking pictures if it weren’t for the people who appreciate it. I create to connect.”

Currently, Heimkreiter is on a solo trip from Germany to Georgia in her van, exploring new landscapes that spark her creativity while enjoying the wonders of the world.

Silhouette of a woman in the trees and sunlight in the distance

For more from Heimkreiter, be sure to visit her website and Instagram

Image credits: Anna Heimkreiter


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