Vanessa Heins, Photographer

Vanessa Heins, Photographer

Vanessa is a portrait and music documentary photographer in Toronto

What is your morning routine?

My morning always starts with getting up to walk my dog Leonard and grabbing a coffee along the way. If I’m not shooting, the majority of my day is spent in front of the computer emailing or editing. So much of my job is administrative, which I never considered when I thought “I want to be a photographer,” but these tasks come with running your own business – and luckily, I can do them in my pyjamas. There are many other elements of photography that I had never envisioned, but I’ve learned to embrace whatever comes with the territory.

Tell us about your career path.

I always joke about how my love for photography is hereditary, as both my father and grandfather were always snapping photos, but my interest was really sparked in high school. Growing up in Vancouver, I was heavily submersed in the music scene. I had friends in bands and was constantly going to concerts, so photography became my contribution to their world. During that time, I would reach out to local bands and offer to take press photos as a way of learning and connecting to something I was so passionate about.

After high school I applied and got accepted into Ryerson’s photography studies program, which meant moving to Toronto. Throughout my time there, I kept the same strategy of connecting with people who I wanted to shoot. It was a way to integrate myself into a new city and continue to grow with the subject matter. By the time I graduated, people were familiar with my name and work, and things have continued to evolve from there.

What challenges do you or women face in your industry?

This topic is on everybody’s minds and lips, as it should be. It’s confusing how we still live in a world where inequality is an issue, and equality beyond the topic of gender should be at society’s forefront right now. I don’t necessarily think any of the challenges I face are unique to my industry, so I choose to focus on the strengths I possess. As a woman, I use my my visual perspective as an extremely powerful tool.

What advice would you give to young girls who want to be the NEXT you?

Honestly, just go do it. It sounds so basic, but it’s the truth. Success in this kind of job revolves solely around YOUR motivation and determination. People like to use the phrase “It’s all about who you know,” and it most certainly can be, but you need to put in the work for people to know who you are. The worst that can come from asking to photograph someone is having them say no, so why not take the chance?

Make a list of dream subjects. Cross them off. Keep adding more names to that list. I have lists everywhere.

Shoot all the time. Especially for yourself. Look at photographs constantly. Be inspired by others. Create an aesthetic of your own. Be kind to others and don’t be too self-critical. Get out of your comfort zone. It’s okay to feel weird, nervous or strange; I do all the time. Ditch the ego. People only want to hang out with those who give off good vibes and make them comfortable. If this is what you really want then just go for it and don’t stop.

How do you separate work life from your personal life?

Truthfully, I always say the word “work” with quotations. I have somehow found a way to translate what I’m truly passionate about into a career, which is rare. I don’t often find myself needing time off from what I love to do. That being said, I am trying to make a better effort to turn off the computer at a reasonable hour and give my eyes and mind a break, so not everything I do happens in front of a glowing cube.

I’m trying to get better at reading more often, eating at proper times and not editing until 3 a.m. If I didn’t create some sort of routine, I would probably be living in my pyjamas and treating my desk like the kitchen table.

What inspires you?

The amount of female photographers working and dominating in the music scene is absolutely incredible. I am so inspired and proud to be among those women. I’m constantly driven and pushed to go further by what I see them accomplish.


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