For some people, shifting careers was never easy. But for Heidi Lender, once a fashion magazine editor turned fine art photographer, it was a change that led to her true calling and has since never look back. Here, she shares with us her life behind the lens and her inspiration about her amazing collections “She Can Leap Tall Buildings” and “Once Upon”.
“Photography unlocked a creative block I’ve had for a long time” — Heidi Lender
We understand you had a career change from a fashion editor to a photographer. What led you to this realization? Could you share with us your “aha” moment?
It wasn’t a direct transition, actually. I wrote features for magazines for a long while and stopped to study yoga and then teach in my own studio. During that time, I bought my first DSLR, and after year, I finally figured out how to use it. I got involved with the flickr community and became quickly obsessed with making images and learning digital photography. I’m still writing features — only visually now; a much more enjoyable process for me.
You’ve lived in India for around 6 years. How were those years compared to your fashion editor/reporter lifestyle?
On the one hand it was the complete antithesis — practicing un-attachment (in yoga), being attached (in fashion), along with a swarm of other opposites. But at the same time — I was still reporting (if only in my mind), witnessing, taking in new things, whether it was food, fashion, smells, culture, society, lifestyle. There is never a dull moment in either world.
The series “She Can Leap Tall Buildings” is about all the superwomen out there especially your mom. Could you share with us how you came up with this concept?
I was in the middle of a house remodel in Uruguay and had this fabulous raw concrete wall in an empty room with beautiful light. I also had Irving Penn on my mind. And had recently bought a wig during a walk down Haight Street in San Francisco, just because. At the time, I was on a big victim rant about how I do everything in my relationship — from making travel arrangements to dinner, social plans and managing construction. Tired of the constant complaining, I one day decided to just stop. And realized, instead, how extraordinary we multitasking women are. That led to thoughts of my mom and her amazingness, which, maybe, before, I hadn’t really appreciated. And then I put on the wig, and She Can Leap Tall Buildings was born.
Your “Once Upon” series is just brilliant. If you had to choose one photo, which one would it be and why?
Thanks! The yellow dress. It’s always been and remains my favorite. I’d had that Tracy Feith dress for probably 10 years and never wore it, until that day. I love the image for its balance and color and details, and Bubba’s expression.
How has the “Road Trip” series helped you in finding some peace within yourself after a breakup? Do you think photography is therapeutic?
Absolutely. I think it saved me; it was a refuge, gave me a purpose, and was a reminder that bigger things out in the world existed other than my sad, hurt self.
Any next projects you’re looking forward to?
I’m finishing up a handmade book of the road trip series called Chasing Pavement. It’s a very small edition that I am printing and hand-crafting with more images I took on another recent trip cross-country. After putting that chapter to bed, I’m not sure what’s next.
Can you tell us one photography-related thing in your bucket list?
Shoot a project in medium format film, preferably with a Hasselblad.