Having spent a fair amount of time honing in on the Charlotte yoga scene in the last six months, we couldn’t help but recognize the recurrent presence of local photographer, Wanda Koch. The craft of her subjects exude deep knowledge of asana (which she has) combined with mystical fairy dust (which we love). Our very first Charlotte Local Collective teacher, Melissa Hickok first introduced us to Wanda’s work, and we were blown away. So, we sat down to find out what goes on… behind the lens!
gy: So, first and foremost, talk a little bit about how you got into photography. When did you realize this was your calling, and what were your earliest influences?
wk: I grew up a ‘Navy Brat’ and the oldest of six. My father would come back from long months at sea with these great cameras from Japan! I would capture images and 8mm movies of my family and the beaches we lived near in the Chesapeake Bay area. Years later, when i was a flight attendant, my camera was my constant ‘travel companion.’
gy: Do you yourself practice yoga? If so, give us a little background on that, too. Lineage? Teachers? Etc…
wk: Yes, I practice yoga daily. My early influences were Grace Morales & Johnna Smith. I remember meeting Grace outside her studio before the doors had even opened. Yoga has changed my life on so many levels and inspired me to fully express myself as an artist.
gy: Have you always called Charlotte home? I have recently fallen in love with Charlotte, so I totally get it, but talk about the city from a photographers perspective, both the city itself and the yoga scene.
wk: I moved to Charlotte about 28 years ago after living in Atlanta – during the downfall of Eastern Airlines. I have watched this city grow from having a single yoga studio into our present day yoga community that is second to none. When I travel, I seldom find anything that even comes close to what we have in Charlotte.
gy: When did you realize that yogis would make good subjects? I guess in many ways it is obvious as the shapes are so aesthetically pleasing :) Who was your first yoga subject? Tell us about that shoot.
wk: As I would practice, I would find myself inspired with so many ideas for images as I watched others flow through their asanas. Hours behind the camera would seem like minutes, and still do, when I am shooting yoga. It is my calling, what ‘turns me’ & excites me, all for the greater good, to give to others and in turn it ‘feeds my soul.’
gy: Tell me a little bit about the Charlotte yoga teachers that you work with the most. What makes for a good yoga subject when photographing? Any things people might keep in mind if they are trying to get some good shots of themselves? Tips of the trade, if you will :)
wk: I have quite a few ‘yoga muses’ that I have worked with on a constant basis over the years. These special ones seem to have the same love for yoga and are ready to try anything at the ‘drop of a hat.’ Johnna Smith, Shanna Small, Melissa Hickok, Chris Bryan & Jen DeCurtins are just a few of them. Actually, Jen and I have just finished our second book together that is available both in English and International Languages on Yoga Inversions. Shari Goldstein at Enlighten Yoga has also been a tremendous support and has opened so many doors for me to shoot unique, outstanding individuals such as Kino McGregor. I am so grateful.
gy: What is it about your photos that makes them stand out from other yoga photography. I definitely see a very unique style in what you do, but how would you describe it? What is your intention behind the work that you publish? In what way (if at all) does your work reflect you, Wanda, as a person?
wk: The simple reason my images may appear different in nature is because of the love I have for yoga and that I also practice and know how to direct my subjects during a photo shoot. Most of the time I am simultaneously doing the same posture as my subject. Then in post production, I ‘cherry pick’ the ones that resonate most and spend time working on them individually.
gy: Tell us a little bit about the last shoot that you did.
wk: The most current shoot I did was for ‘Peachy Magazine.’ We shot three different subjects in a parking garage, restaurant, workout studio and what appeared to be a European Villa from the outside. The images ranged from ‘gritty’ to ‘haute couture’ in nature, mostly because we had such a variety of locations and clothing. I may combine clothing of my own with what my clients have brought to the shoot. I keep a stash of items ready to go in a separate closet just in case we may need them.
gy: Most interesting or craziest photo shoot? Why? Where? How? When?
wk: Craziest photo shoot had to have been at the top of one of the largest buildings in Uptown Charlotte with 3 other yogis. There were no guardrails and we were sipping champagne as we shot yoga poses. The police helicopters started circling above as if to warn us that what we were doing may not be entirely safe. Now THAT was a wonderful day of shooting!
gy: Finally, and this is a Melissa Hickok crafted question: In a parallel life, if you weren’t a photographer, what would you be doing? What other things tickle your fancy?
wk: If I wasn’t a photographer, I would have been an actor! I have an insatiable love for great films and the art of acting.
photo cred: Wanda Koch (used with permission for this article).
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