Creative in the Countryside: Oak & Claw
Nicola: Can you start by telling us about your journey as a photographer, and the work you do today?
Anya: I have always had an interest in art, and my undergraduate degree was in Illustration: Visual Communication. Photography has been a natural progression. I used to experiment in my teens with the basic point and shoot digital cameras. Then for my 20th birthday, I received an entry-level DSLR. At the time I used the photos I took to create reference material for my drawings. It wasn't until after I graduated that I began taking photography more seriously.
After I graduated I found myself unemployed, so I started a blog as a creative outlet while I looked for work. I loved reading other people's blogs and looking at their amazing photography. This inspired me to start sharing my own posts. I would also try to figure out how the beautiful photos I'd seen had been taken.The frustration of images not turning out how they looked in my head pushed me to keep experimenting and learning. I got my first freelance job for an advertising company off the back of my blog. Despite not feeling like I was good enough, I threw myself into my work and have never looked back. I now do a variety of things, including product and lifestyle shoots. But my real love continues to be photographing nature, wildlife, and landscapes.
Nicola: I know nature is a huge inspiration for you in your work. Can you tell us what you love most about being in nature?
Anya: It is like a reset button for me. Being immersed in nature fuels my creativity and imagination. It also has a positive impact on my mental health. I am very much an introvert and find it draining to be around a lot of people. When I am out in the countryside, and close to wildlife, it fills me with energy. It is also where I am the happiest.
Nicola: Can you tell us a little more about where you live and what a day in your life looks like?
Anya: I live in Sheffield in the north of England, right next to the Peak District National Park. I wanted to live here after graduating because it is the best of both worlds. I have easy access to the benefits of a large city, but within a short drive, I can be in the countryside. When I’m in the countryside I feel like I'm a hundred miles away from the nearest person. I work as both an illustrator and photographer, so no two days are the same. One day I could be doing freelance jobs and travelling. The next I could be editing shoots or working on commissions. One thing that is constant in my days is walking my little Jack Russell dachshund cross, Doug Pickles.
Nicola: I know you have just bought an allotment or rather an overgrown jungle as you describe it! Can you tell us that story and what plans you have for it?
Anya: To be honest, the main reason I wanted an allotment is because I love to eat! The second is because I find working with things that grow to be calming. Gardening is one of the few activities where I properly zone out. I also love that feeling of eating something you have grown from a tiny seed into a mature plant. It is so satisfying. I tried growing fruit and vegetables in my own small garden, but it doesn't get a lot of sun. It also has two huge sycamore trees at the end of it. Applying for an allotment seemed like a necessary step in fulfilling my gardening dreams. Although I didn't expect to end up with 280m² of wilderness!
Once it's been cleared (which is taking way longer than anticipated!) I have many plans for it. I want to plant out fruit bushes and get a polytunnel for plants like tomatoes and cucumbers.I also want to grow my own little pumpkin patch ready for October, along with lots of other weird and wonderful vegetables.
Nicola: You spend a lot of time hiking and exploring with your camera in tow. Where are some of your favourite places to go?
Anya: It's hard to choose because I'm lucky to have so many amazing hikes nearby. In the Peak District some of my favourite places are Bamford Edge, Castleton, the wilderness beyond Howden Reservoir, Win Hill and Wyming Brook. I'm constantly sharing images from all of these locations on my Instagram.
Nicola: And lastly, what message do you want to share with people about nature through your photography?