Anya Raczka | Oak & Claw
Anya Raczka is a photographer and nature lover living in the Peak District. We talk about her muted, natural style, her passion for growing her own fruit and veg and her brave walking companion ‘Doug Pickles’. I fell for the beautiful colour and atmosphere in her photographs. She is definitely at one with her surroundings.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY. HOW DID YOU GET INTO IT AND HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?
I have always enjoyed photography, but it wasn't until I started writing a blog after I graduated that I really started to take it seriously. I saw all of these other blogs with such beautiful images and I wanted to learn how to create my own. From there it just snowballed into somewhat of an obsession; rarely leaving my camera behind and constantly experimenting and practising to try and finally create what I imagined in my head. I suppose I would say that my style is earthy and calming. I enjoy muted tones and I'm always drawn to natural forms.
DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST PHOTOGRAPH YOU TOOK? WHAT WAS IT LIKE AND HOW HAVE YOU PROGRESSED SINCE THEN?
I think the first lot of photos I took were in Canada and shot on film with a camera I'd received for my ninth birthday. I can remember nervously photographing the view through the glass floor of the CN Tower in Toronto. This is also where I discovered my fear of heights! That shot and the rest were all very chaotic and messy, but I do treasure them to this day. Obviously my skill level has changed a lot since then, but I think the most interesting change is how I now try to shoot to create a mood or feeling, rather than just about recording an image.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR EARLIEST MEMORIES OF THE NATURAL WORLD?
That I always wanted to be in it! As a child I would always be in the garden playing. I was that kid who would be up a tree or making a den.
TELL US ABOUT ALLOTMENT LIFE? WHAT DROVE YOUR DECISION TO GROW YOUR OWN?
I'm not really sure where it started, but I've always enjoyed gardening and in recent years have found it especially therapeutic. I tried desperately to grow things in my garden, but it is far too dark to grow anything edible. I used my parents' garden for a while, but really I wanted more space (they weren't sold on the idea of me ripping up their entire garden to grow pumpkins) and so I decided to apply for a plot at some allotments a short drive away. It has become a total passion project. The entire plot was overgrown with the old foundations of a building and countless amounts of rubbish and rubble, but now I've not had to buy veggies for the whole summer and it is the best feeling.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BEST DISHES YOU HAVE MADE WITH YOUR OWN PRODUCE?
Some of my favourite savoury dishes have been a beetroot tarte tatin, a patty pan and courgette tagine and pesto made from beetroot greens. Although, I think my favourite recipe has been a vegan chocolate courgette cake. The best way to use up a mountain of courgettes!
I LOVE YOUR RECENT PHOTOS ON INSTAGRAM. ARE THERE ANY INSTAGRAMMERS WHOSE WORK YOU REALLY ADMIRE?
YOU MENTION THAT YOU ARE INSPIRED BY COLOUR. WHAT PLACES OR SEASONS HOLD THE MOST COLOUR INTRIGUE FOR YOU?
I adore the light that you get during late summer, early autumn. It's so golden and rich. However, I do love winter because my favourite colours are cool tones. I love the challenge of creating something beautiful from something so bleak.
TELL US ABOUT A RECENT WANDER IN THE PEAKS. WHERE DID YOU GO? WHAT DID YOU DO, SEE, AND FEEL?
My last hike was just off Snake Pass, up a narrow valley alongside a stream. It was one of those September days where it starts off cold and then completely takes you by surprise by ending up warm.The path was narrow and lined with heather and bracken, so the air eventually got pretty humid as is the case with areas full of ferns. On the way back down I decided to have a quick dip in one of the deeper pools. It was freezing, but left me feeling fantastic for the rest of the day.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE SOME NATURAL LANDSCAPES OUTSIDE OF THE UK THAT HAVE INSPIRED YOU?
A few years back I visited southern Germany and Austria and totally fell in love with the mountains there. I also have a soft spot for the north coast of Lanzarote. I love the red and orange colours found in the desert there.
HOW DOES YOUR DOG COMPANION ‘DOUG PICKLES’ FARE IN THE WILDERNESS OF THE PEAKS?
Surprisingly well considering his little legs. He would keep walking for hours if I let him, but I do like to keep the duration to two hours at the most. If I'm ever out for longer, the lucky chap gets carried the rest of the way! He adores walks in the countryside though, as you can imagine. The only real negative is that he does think he is one of nature's great hunters (in his mind he is twice the size of a Great Dane) and so has to be kept on his lead or else he runs after sheep, cows, rabbits, grouse...
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR DREAMS AND ASPIRATIONS FOR THE FUTURE?
To travel more. I've got a bucket list that is way too long and I need to start ticking some destinations off! Some places include Iceland, the west coast of Canada and Hawaii. I'm also in the process of starting to take more portraits. I felt like I needed to push myself creatively and I'm also hoping to incorporate that into my photography business as soon as I can.