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Heike Willers: Photographer of the week

by Editor  Yvette Depaepe

Heike Willers calls herself an ambitious "Hobby" Photographer.  She started many years ago with Still Life, Architecture as well as Macro photography. At the time, it appeared easier to her than photographing people or animals.  But 4 years ago, she started taking pictures of her dogs, sheep and other animals living around. And that became her real passion.  Improving continuously her skills, one can feel a tremendous interaction between Heike and her “models”.
Let's have a glimpse on the person behind her fabulous images today!

“Dancing in the Streets”

Heike, briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
First of all I would like to thank you, dear Yvette and 1x for your kind invitation! It’s really a huge honour for me!  I live in a small village near Hamburg, Germany. Our old house is situated near the river Elbe and is surrounded by marshland, cows, horses and many other animals .  Just countryside all around.
I'm working in an accounting department.
Besides photography, my second passion is working as coach for Man-trailing.
My own dogs – Molly and Gustav, are trained in finding lost animals (mostly dogs).  Often a thrilling job! 

How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
Which are your most important experiences that has influenced your art?
I think everything we decide to do or not to do, everything we feel, all our thoughts,  everything we love but also everything we fear….just any move we make in our lives...all that affects the creative work we do, or any work we do.
It can’t be separated from life because it is part of life. I moved several times in the past...from Northern Germany  to Wiesbaden, Munich, Frankfurt again Wiesbaden and now...back to the North because I missed so badly living close to the sea.  At all the places I lived, I have met wonderful people, creative people, all kind of people.  I learned a lot from them and tried to find my own creative way to express myself.  I loved painting for a while, learned collage techniques and manual silk print. All these techniques and different experiences influenced my photographic work and the way I'm look at the world. So there is not one specific experience...but a whole bunch of them.

“As time goes by...”

What first attracted you to photography?
The possibility to tell a whole story  or even a whole life story just in one single picture,  expressing emotions, that was so overwhelming to me that I had to try it.   I started with photography in 1994, learning by practising, by reading books, by participating to workshops.  I thought it would be easy to make people feel what I felt by looking at my pictures.  But as we all know, it is no easy at all.  I kept on trying and going on.  A good friend of mine and I were often wandering around with our old cams, shooting together,  thrilled by the possibilities. We both loved lines, colours, textures, macro and architecture photography but also Graffiti Art and typography. We started conceptional work and organized some small exhibitions.  We really loved  to connect people with Art.

“Little Red Riding Hood in Winter”

Describe your overall photographic vision.
Nowadays photographing is easier that it ever was in the past. Everyone can take pictures with their cell phones for example. In my opinion, there are too many pictures in the world, like an inflationary trend.  It makes people just scroll over them, feeling surfeited – not recognizing good work any more. For me it is important to find my own way, my unique style. My eyes, my point of view and what I feel is the essence of my photographic vision.  I want to feel an image. It doesn’t matter what genre it is.  It’s simply just like feeling  something or not. I want  people to see what I saw and to feel what I felt.


“Mrs. Spring”


“Sometimes it snows in April...”

What is more important to you, the mood,/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
I think every photographer has to know his gear very well and how to use it.  Technical perfection is to be seen in every good work. But creativity, spirit or catching the perfect moment is more than that. Sometimes a certain mood in an image hits me and I instantly love it because it touches my soul, even if it is not perfect. Well, the answer is obvious: I prefer the mood or story more than technical perfection ;-)




“Forever is composed of nows...”

What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?  Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
I love dogs – and I can’t just be an observer, I mostly become friends with the dogs of my clients. I want to make them feel comfortable and make our shooting session like a game they love to play.
Outdoor shootings are like a walk through nature or through the streets of Hamburg. I know all my locations very well. I scout them before I go there with clients, I know what might be distracting for the dogs or too loud or frightening and so on. I don't want a stressed dog neither dog owner.  I only go to locations that I know, especially in the city. Studio work is a bit different, it needs some more preparation because most of the time I have a special picture in mind and try to realize it. But same rules: it has to be fun.


“Rose Queen II”


“No way out...”

What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
I use a NIKON D810 and Nikon lens 70-200mm f/2,8 for animals.
For studio work, I use my Nikon lens 24-70mm, f/2,8.
I also use a 35mm, f/1,8 lens or a Nikon Micro lens 60mm.
I would love to add some more prime lenses in future.

What software do you use to process your images?
Lightroom, Photoshop  and also Alien Skin Exposure.

Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
I always start my work by loading all images in Lightroom. Some of my city shots for clients are often only edited in Lightroom, because I always try to shoot with the best light and mood outside so that they don't need any editing in Photoshop.
But if I work on a special look or want to be more creative, for example adding textures or changing a sky,  I use Photoshop and I love it.

“To Autumn”


“Tidy Untidiness”

What is your most important advice to a beginner in “dog” Photography and how do you get started?
Love what you do.  Always be on eye level with the dogs. Watch them, look how they behave, how they act – and just practice. Start with portraiture, that’s easier than action… Try to do TFP shootings, and shoot different breeds in different situations. That’s a good start. The flow comes with time.

Who are your favourite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography? 
That’s not easy to answer because I have a lot of favourite images who are not necessary from specific photographers. Nevertheless,  I love the work of Tim Flach and his amazing way to reduce the images to the essential. I also really love the work of Saul Leiter and the Polaroids from Walker Evans.  Of course, I found many inspiring artists on 1x too. It is always a treat to the eyes to see so much wonderful and also creative art here.  It encourages me to try different techniques or different point of views. It makes me keep the eyes and soul open and also helps in finding my own unique style.

Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a lot and why?
I have several images in mind, but I like to show one that I really felt in love with some years ago.   It is an older work from Tim Flach.  At that time, nobody was taking images like that.  The mood, the dog, the composition, the framing, the colours, dynamic and editing, everything was so new and different and absolutely stunning. It inspired me to try new ways and not to not give up in finding my own way to express what I want.

Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
I would love to work more in a conceptual and artistic way.  I'm also looking forward to a small exhibition. These are my goals. 

Describe your favourite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
GUSTAV, the “Night-Watchman” is definitely one of my all time favourites. It is the very first of my photos published on 1x and that was so exciting for me. I never thought I would be good enough for this site and then – I thought that this shot might make it – and it did!
Taken when I just started studio work.


“The Night-Watchman”

Is there anything else you wish to add  and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
1X is a great home base for me and my work. As said before, I love to look at all this different beautiful and sometimes breathtaking artworks from all around the world. I love it!


“Ein kleiner Hund läuft durch die Welt...”


“Industrial Molly”


“I don't like Mondays...(II)”


I am a fan of Heike' s work. It looks plain and simple, but I know from my own experience that the simple looking ones are the hardest to make. It is nice to read about the person behind the camera. I hope to see your work for many years from now, and Yvette, thanks for making this possible.
It was my pleasure to interview Heike who's work I admire too, Gert. Thanks for your appreciation, my friend. Cheers, Yvette
It was a pleasure to interview you, dear Heike. Thank you so much for sharing... and congratulations! Cheers, Yvette