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

Woman on steep meadow hill side in Switzerland

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

Heimkreiter is an avid traveler and, through her globetrotting, has garnered and curated a profound relationship with nature, herself, and a meaningful creative process.

Unclothed women in hyacinth bed with the a pink blue sky in distance

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

“Once you start leaning into the full range of feelings and sensations life has to offer, you realize awe and wonder are to be found everywhere. Especially outdoors, I am often and very suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude for the beauty of the human experience. The feeling of wonder kind of connects everything I do – my inner journey, my travels, my creative practice.”

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

Woman in grassy plains, with mountains in the distance

The self-taught photographer began her journey a little over a decade ago. What started as pics of flowers and her cat — that Heimkreiter would share with a close-knit Flickr community — shifted into focusing 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 muddled and stressful.

“For some years, […] I barely touched my camera. After the first magazines published my work online, the pressure to create ‘even better work’ got too big for my younger self, and I stopped creating altogether for quite a while. But eventually, I realized how much I missed expressing myself in pictures,” Heimkreiter says.

woman laying on rocky terrain with pastel sunset behind her

So, she decided that travel was a reasonable next step in her photography journey.

“[I] started to travel full-time. [It] made me feel like sharing my story through art had a bigger purpose. I want to inspire people to live courageously and to explore, on the outside as well as on the inside,” she continues, “I‘ve always loved traveling and for almost 4 years now it is what I get to do all the time. My travels are no longer a vacation, they are my life — so naturally, most of my self-portraits are created on the road.”

In her van, Heimkreiter has journeyed and hiked to the prairies in Georgia, sloped meadows in Switzerland, and rocky terrains in Turkey and Bosnia. Her images often depict her as a lone traveler -—a wanderer– that subtly and symbiotically melds into her environments. From graceful poses in lakes or treetops in wispy dresses to stripped immersions in flower fields and massive tree roots, Heimkreiter’s shots communicate her unique interpretations of a “wild soul.”

unclothed women at the base of a large dark brown tree with large roots

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

“The big advantage of traveling is that you get to explore new locations all the time […] Visually, I love moody weather, peculiar trees, and rocks, reflections on a lake, snowy mountain peaks… It just needs to make me feel something. My mind automatically starts imagining what a person would look like nestled into the scenery. The rest of my process is very spontaneous — I rarely plan my photographs. When I start taking pictures, I am very much in a flow state, fully focused on the experience. I think this is why self-portraits are so exhilarating and therapeutic to me.” she tells PetaPixel.

Woman curled into a ball on rocky hill side

As striking and calming as Heimkreiter shots are to viewers of her work, she does run into the occasional hindrances of some shots being out of focus or simply a crowded tourist area.

“Unique perspectives are also tricky. It is 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 is difficult to get when working with a stranger. Other times, I come across beautiful scenery but it is too crowded. Sometimes, I am okay with taking self-portraits in front of a few strangers but if there are too many people, it is difficult for me to truly connect to the moment. I find more inspiration in solitude than in big crowds.”

Woman arched backwards by 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 equipment is simple and relatively lightweight which makes it perfect for traveling. I even take it on long-distance hikes. I do have an additional portrait lens, but I prefer the zoom lens as it is more versatile. If I don‘t balance 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 (definitely) replace it.”

Swaying in a kind of rhythmic creative flow of being inspired and expressing that inspiration via digital, Heimkreiter manages to dive into her creativity and even stumbles into loftier ponderings of the connectivity of humanity and nature.

“I think unconsciously, I‘ve always been exploring the relationship between humans and nature in my work — but only over the past few years, this message has become very clear to me. I believe our creative work evolves alongside us. When you grow as a person, your work will grow and take on a different meaning, too.”

Women with arms above her head in the water, hills in the distance are reflecting onto the water

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

“Having these moments captured connects me deeper to myself and the places I‘ve wandered. But in the end, the interpretation is up to the viewer — my photography is merely a mirror of your personal experience. We all want to dream and my work allows you to do just that. It is an invitation to become the person in the image and to enjoy a moment of wild wonder.”

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

silhouette of woman arched backwards the shadows with sunlight touching the hills behind her

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

“That is truly the message I want to send out into 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 has kept me going over the years. I don‘t think I would still be taking pictures if it wasn‘t for the people who appreciate it. I create to connect.”

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

Silhouette of a woman in tree and sun beams in the distance

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

Image credits: Anna Heimkreiter