Name: Heather Koepp
Current City: Riverside, CA
Hometown: Austin, TX
Occupation: Editorial and Live Music Photographer
Heather Koepp, a dreamer at heart, spent years drifting between passions, cities and jobs starting with a successful eBay business that flourished into a brick and mortar store in Austin, Texas.
Over time, the business fizzled out and she relocated to Colorado with four dogs and switched over to event security. Here, she ran into a crossroads as she worked the job of her dreams, but had a personal life that felt like a living nightmare.
"I abandoned all of my belonging, packed what I could in my Jeep and drove to Los Angeles to start a new life with my 10-week old son," states Koepp. "Here is really where my journey began as I escaped an abusive relationship and started anew."
What initially attracted you to the world of photography and how would you define your personal style?
I started photography in 2016 when my son was one-years-old. I had a friend take his 1st birthday photos, which really ignited an old flame in me. I had loved photography all of my life.
Then it dawned on me, I didn't have any real photographs of him. Up until this point, they were all cell phone pictures.
I sat on this revelation for days in a deep depression before I went on a local market app and purchased a Nikon D5200 for $100. I started documenting the memories, vowing to never miss another one.
I jumped head first into learning everything I could about my camera. Eventually, I started practicing with some models I had met in facebook groups. It was during those creative shoots that I found my passion in telling stories with my camera. Creating art one on one with others helped me release a lot of pain.
You shoot various subjects, from editorial and fashion to weddings and concerts. Do you prefer to shoot across the board, or is there a direction you aspire to focus on in the future?
Like a lot of photographers starting out, I photographed anyone and everyone who would let me. I dipped my toes into a little bit of everything before I really found my corner of the world that made me happy.
Recently, I’ve been working one-on-one with actors and musicians for magazine editorials as well as shooting live music at night. This is hands down where my heart lies. Now, I hope to be able to create art with amazing people, every day, for the rest of my life.
Walk us through a day on a shoot with you.
A day on set is fast, chaotic and stressful but also extremely fun and surreal. The days leading up to the shoots are really the heart of any project. Most of my creative energy is poured into the planning stages, from location and props to the direction I want hair, make and wardrobe to go. Every piece is such an integral part of the story I want to tell.
By the time I show up to set, whether I have one hour to work or seven, I always arrive with a general direction of how I want the shoot to go. The actual creating/shooting is always the quickest part of the process and it always seems like I never have enough time to do all the things I wish to do. I leave almost every shoot thinking about all the things I should have done and just pray that the images I got were good.
Haha, that good ol’ anxiety comes creeping in so I have to go home immediately to upload and look at images, so I can reassure myself and say, “Oh, Ok that image isn't bad..ok, that’s better..oooh that one is gooood”.
How do the city of Los Angeles and the individuals who inhabit it fuel your creativity?
Los Angeles is a wild city with wild people. You meet so many different characters here that it's easy to stay inspired. Los Angeles is a hub for creatives.
Outside of photography, you are a mother. How did you create work/life balance?
So many times, I have said, “Man I wish I had started this photography journey before motherhood." Only to remember it was because of my role as a mother that I started doing this in the first place. It isn’t easy. I have double the work to do as a single parent, but it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
I’ve been overlooked on job opportunities because people don’t think you can balance a life in the industry while also being a single mother but I’m determined to do it. I am setting an example to my son that it is better to chase the life of your dreams than to settle for what's easy and where money is the end goal.
If you could give one piece of advice to young individuals around the globe, what would it be and why?
My biggest advice to the youth of today is to stop wasting time trying to get other people to love you and to spend that time learning to love yourself. Stop seeking instant gratification from others. Stop living an inauthentic life to appease someone else. Find the things that make you happy and use that to carve your own path.
Discuss the importance of paying it forward.
There truly is no simpler or greater act than the act of paying it forward. It is the purest form of giving and there's no reason it should not be done more often.
We live in a very fast paced, entitled society where manners and kindness are often overlooked. It's important to take the time to do things for others. It's the givers that are turning the world around and creating change for the future.
What/who are you grateful for?
I’m grateful for the new life I was given, for my son. I’m thankful for my father for taking us in when we had nowhere else to go. I’m grateful for the people that have put their hearts in front of my camera. I’m grateful for the ones who believed in me and have taken a chance on me to help get me to where I am today.
What does empowerment mean to you?
Empowerment is taking all your pain, anger and resentments. putting them aside and finding inner peace and understanding.
Do you have a personal mantra or quote that inspires you?
Words have always been home for me. I find comfort in writing and have always aspired to publish a poetry book one day.
I actually wrote a small quote the other day that sums up the journey I've taken the last two years. It reads," The Art is not found in the piece that you hang on the wall. It’s the chaos that created it".