Our C-U Women Outdoors series is all about highlighting the women in our community who are passionate about the outdoors. Meet Anna Longworth, a photographer who channels her creative talent through a unique, adventurous spirit in her photos.
Name: Anna Longworth
Tell us a little about yourself:
I am a freelance photographer based in Champaign, Illinois. I’m intrigued by finding beauty in unconventional spaces. I want to take photos that make you feel things. I am at home in the great outdoors, and that is my favorite place to take photos. I was raised in the small town of St. Joseph, Illinois. I have moved around a bit—Denver, Colorado and Richmond, Virginia. Life is full of unexpected adventures and I currently reside in Champaign, Illinois. After moving around, I realized that it is not where you are—it is who you are with. Other than photography and nature, I am passionate about inclusion of all types of people, spending time with my amazing family and partner, music, and art of all sorts.
What does the "outdoors" mean to you?
Nature is the ultimate reality, innocence, and beauty to me. It exists and thrives and does what it has to. It helps ground me, as a reminder of constant change yet stability. I am not very religious, but I feel my deepest spirituality when in nature. It is a healer and a friend — there are countless times where I have been so overwhelmed with life and I take off for a run in the woods somewhere. The outdoors will always be there for us, and is full of endless possibilities and opportunities. It is our duty to be gentle and respect our home.
If the weather is nice on a Saturday, what can we find you doing?
Going for a run in the morning with our dog Patchouli, coming home to make coffee/breakfast and listen to records for the rest of the morning with my partner Patrick, and taking off somewhere nearby to be outside. Whether that be Allerton, Homer Lake, or elsewhere...we have some nice options to be in the woods around here! I love packing picnics (with wine) so that would be on the list as well. I’m a big fan of just wandering aimlessly, sometimes you stumble upon the best things that way.
How did you get into photography?
Going way back, I first got into photography as a kid. Each Christmas, my parents put a disposable camera in my brother and I’s stockings. I loved getting to document the day (just a day, because that is as long as the 27 exposures would last me, ha!) In high school, my dad bought a nicer digital camera. I started borrowing it regularly and experimented with self portraits, since I didn’t really have anyone else to practice photographing. I started a flickr account, made friends with amateur photographers all over the world, and started sharing my photos there. I researched a ton and learned a lot about photography. Eventually I started photographing others, and soon my high school class planner was filled not only with homework deadlines, but after school photoshoots with people who asked me. I don’t think I realized then that it would become my passion and what I am blessed to do for a living.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
I find most inspiration in nature, music, and dreams. Mental health issues are a big piece of inspiration as well — trying to document a feeling or thought process visually is quite healing.
What is your favorite place you’ve traveled and why?
I’m lucky enough to have gotten to travel outside the US to Mexico, Cuba, and Europe — though I think my very favorite place remains in the states: Utah. Moab and Bryce Canyon National Park, specifically. Not only is it stunningly beautiful and vast, it holds a lot of emotional connections as well. I visited these places for the first time with some of my very favorite people, and we will always have good memories here. I’ll never forget traveling to Zion National Park with my parents and fiancé and seemingly having the park all to ourselves. We drove through at night and the stars were brighter than streetlights. We pulled over and my dad helped me rig a “tripod” on top of our rental car with a granola bar and we photographed the stars together.
How does the outdoors connect to your work?
Many ways! Career-wise, I photograph mostly weddings and portrait sessions for a living. I don’t have a studio, and I believe natural lighting is by far the best. So, most of my sessions take place outdoors. Sometimes shoots get rained out, but it makes me even more grateful for when the weather turns out beautifully. Sometimes wind and rain are an added challenge to a shoot that can make it even more interesting than if the weather were perfect. It is fun leaving it up to chance sometimes, whether that means we will get a moody / foggy vibe or a golden hour sunset.
What is one outdoor location that you’d love to photograph?
It’s hard to pick just one, but I would love to photograph Vinicunca, or Rainbow Mountain, in Peru. It’s a part of the longest above-ground mountain range in the world, the Andes. Mountains are my favorite, so this would be an absolute dream.
What is one of the most challenging aspects of owning your own photography business?
One of the most challenging aspects for me is over-committing. Since I have my own business, sometimes it is hard to realize it isn’t my entire identity. It is easy to get completely consumed by my work and feel the need to spend every waking minute editing so I can check things off my to-do list. It is important for me, and for everyone, to leave space for relaxation and taking a break. I started my business when I was 20 years old, and I was so ecstatic that people wanted to hire me that I said “yes” to everything. I got pretty burnt out pretty quick. Now that I am older, I’ve realized that clearing a spot to take a break and not jam-pack my schedule is not only important, but vital to prevent burnout.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
I can’t pinpoint an exact quote from a specific person, but learning that kindness rules all is a good one. You never know what someone is going through, and kindness could make their day or save their life. You can disagree and argue with someone and still be kind. You can be angry, but still be kind. I try to remind myself of this often, as I am definitely not perfect at practicing this. You never regret being kind, right?
What’s at the top of your bucket list?
Patrick and I are passionate about traveling, and I’d love to visit every continent with him. Additionally, I would LOVE to work for/have work published for National Geographic in some shape or form one day.
Is there anything you're working on or a project that you are a part of that you're most excited about right now?
I recently started a blog that I am excited about! Though a lot of it will be photography based, I will also talk about anything from travels to mental health to who knows what else! You can check it out by visiting annalongworth.com/blog. Other than that, I have a few collaborations with other local creators coming up which I am very stoked about! I love combining talents with others and making something awesome out of it. Collaboration is so rewarding and helps create community, which I want to become more active in.