A New Chapter: Alexandra Philipp's journey through photography

April 22, 2020

I’m a big believer in fate - the idea that there is something bigger than all of us, guiding us to where we need to be, whether we’re aware of it or not. I also believe that everyone we meet has a role to play in our lives - like a big game of chess, but none of us really know the rules.

Many times in my life people have come up, seemingly out of the blue, and taught me something. Mostly, these have been reflections on myself, providing me a mirror to look back on myself in a different light. Earlier this year, I met someone who was very similar to me - but in a way I hadn’t experienced before. She would turn out to be a - somewhat unexpected - close friend. Someone who I felt completely at ease with from the outset.

Alexandra Philipp
Alexandra Philipp

I first met Alexandra Philipp when she came to New Zealand from Germany. We met at interesting times - both of us seeking change, both of us having placed our heart and souls in creative practices. She’s one of the most talented photographers I know; her photos absolutely blow me away. We have talked a lot about what our creativity means to us, and how we express ourselves through this - her through photography, me through music. She was in my part of the world, and I was about to head to her part of the world. We were both doing so to get away and discover more about ourselves. There were a lot of strangely coincidental parallels between us.

Alex messaged me a week or so ago saying that she wanted to tell me something: she had had a life-changing realisation. What she finally sent through was a beautiful story of self-discovery, learning and letting go. I found it so powerful that I asked if I could share her story on our website. She agreed.

So, here’s Alex’s story, as told by her.


Photography became my hobby when I was 13. It was pretty random actually. I was bored so I drew a ‘tattoo’ on my arm. It looked so cool that I wanted to take a picture of it. Using my sister’s DSLR, I posted the picture on Instagram. I got plenty of positive feedback and noticed how much I liked the process - little did I know how much this day changed my life.

At that time, I wasn’t really in a good place. I was actually in a really bad place and suffered from depression. I had no friends, a bad relationship with my family, no self esteem at all and, to sum it up, nothing that brought me happiness at all.

This changed when I started taking pictures. I found something I enjoyed and my focus started shifting. I started noticing pretty things like flowers, beautiful people, beautiful places - only because now, I tried to capture it. My whole view on life has changed since that day. Not only did my focus change, but I also started making friends through photography and became more self-confident. With time my life became more and more joyful. Now I’ve reached the point where I’m incredibly happy. Photography helped me through the roughest time of my life. It has become such a huge part of me. For years I’ve been wanting to become a professional photographer. Until now…

There was always another feeling coming along with joy - a feeling I was never able to define. I was always in a struggle when it came to photography. It was a love/hate relationship. I loved the part of being in nature and/or with other people. However, what I always disliked was the editing and the social media/sharing part. Way too much time spent on my computer and phone… so many times, I felt like photography was not the right thing for me. I had so many battles in my mind. So many doubts. This heavy feeling wasn’t always there, but it came here and there. I feel like all I did in those years was spend time on Instagram, comparing my photography, my whole life and myself with other people. It was a complete waste of time in a sense. It made me feel lonely, bad at what I’m doing, uncreative and completely unmotivated at times.

I kind of managed to get my excessive consumption of Instagram under control, eventually. But still I feel like I’m not present by spending so much time on my laptop, uploading and checking Instagram and other social media. I never feel really alive. I feel I’m missing out on life. And what really hit me hard was the realisation that I didn’t start liking photography because of photography itself.

I started liking it because of the positive feedback that I received.

It made me feel good about myself.

For the first time in my life, I felt noticed and seen. For the first time I felt like an actual person. It gave me some sort of satisfaction, made my life a bit more joyful and gave me a bit more self-esteem. But I was never doing it for myself. Only for my ego, to get  this sort of satisfaction. I never really loved it like I always used to believe. I never did.

I was obsessed. Completely obsessed. And I know obsession isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Obsession is pretty useful when you are passionate. And I thought I was passionate. But it wasn’t really passion; it was addiction. Nothing else. For sure, it was a better addiction than any drugs. But still, it was an addiction that made me struggle and made me feel bad about myself so many times. I often felt the urge to take new pictures just to have something to post on Instagram. This was the case most of the time. Photography wasn’t only a huge part of my life - in a way, it was my life. I didn’t do anything else and couldn’t imagine myself without it. I identified myself with it completely.

I don’t enjoy taking photos anymore. I mean, I still like to take a few photos when I’m travelling, or randomly on film. But right now I don’t want to take any portraits anymore. I need a break.

I need to understand that photography is not me.

I need to realise that what I’m doing is not my identity. But who am I without it?? Who am I, if I only identified myself with photography all those years???

I’m happy that this burden is lifted from my shoulders. I feel free, now. I feel more like me. Because looking back, I don’t think I really felt I was being myself all those years. I was trying to be someone I’m not. To be fair, I’m happy I found my way to photography. Because, as I already said, it had a huge positive influence on my view of the world. It made me become more positive, more self-confident, and I have met so many wonderful people through it.

But, since I’m completely aware of the negative influence it had on me, I feel happy to leave this chapter of my life behind and start a new one.

Alex and I at North Head in Devonport on Auckland’s North Shore, just before she left to go back to Germany.
Alex and I at North Head in Devonport on Auckland’s North Shore, just before she left to go back to Germany.

Alex’s work:

Website: https://alexandraphilipp.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/w.olkenlos/

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