As you click your way through the colorful picture worlds of Westend61, your eye will quickly get caught up in atmospheric shots of remote places. And then, when you come across some photos of the back of a young man, with an untamed, magnificent head of hair, in his altogether in a wild landscape, you can pretty much bet that you are looking at the works of Valentin Weinhäupl.
At an early age, the 30-year-old from the Austrian Mondsee began taking photographs, and this is no coincidence, since this profession was, so to speak, dropped into his cradle: His father Wolfgang Weinhäupl is also a photographer, and he, too, offers his photographic material on Westend61. From around the age of 19, Valentin devoted himself more seriously to photography and was able to benefit greatly from his father’s know-how. Certainly, Valentin—although already part of the generation of “digital natives”—still got a lot of knowledge about analog photography from his father. Conversely, Wolfgang Weinhäupl repeatedly benefits from his son’s knowledge of the many possibilities of digital photography and image processing. Valentin describes this fruitful cooperation of two generations of photographers as a “give and take.”
It was precisely these new, diverse possibilities of digital photography that interested Valentin from an early age and reinforced his desire to make photography his profession. Today he mainly does commissioned work, such as wedding and advertising photography, but Valentin’s heart belongs to landscape photography, and he offers that through Westend61: “I simply have more leeway to realize my ideas,” he explains. These images are often taken in remote, exotic places. A special place of longing for Valentin is New Zealand: “This country fascinates me with its diverse landscapes, especially on the South Island,” he explains. The juxtaposition of the most diverse climate zones, vegetation, and settings, from beach to glacier, exerts—and he is certainly not alone in this—a very special allure for him.
But he was also attracted to the wild fields in the northern hemisphere, for example, the northern Norwegian archipelago of Lofoten. Among his most impressive experiences in the far north was a rarely observed natural wonder: the northern lights. “It simply is something mystical; you feel very small, but you also have a feeling of happiness,” enthuses Valentin. All the better if he managed a few magical-looking pictures of it… And it was also this special light of the north that really did it for him: “In autumn, the sun is up there deep in the sky, even at midday, and you can take good shots.”
No wonder such environments really inspire Valentin, especially when he, as he sometimes does, sets off alone to explore the world with his camera. Standing alone on a godforsaken jungle highway in New Zealand, he came up with the idea of a self-portrait in a wild landscape. “But there’s already stuff like this in abundance,” he thought, however. Some special accent still had to be added… That’s how the idea for a motif came about, one that has been recurring ever since, but always with new variations, which also became his trademark, so to speak: the rear view of a naked man in a wild landscape. “Naked-ass photos,” Valentin calls this genre with a smile.
His young and fresh approach makes Valentin a valued partner for Westend61. And vice versa with Valentin: “The relationship is very uncomplicated. While at other agencies you are sometimes just a number, here you notice that you belong and get support. I like this very personal relationship with the team,” he says about his now eight-year partnership with Westend61.
Westend61’s self-image and team spirit go well with the spontaneity and casualness that distinguish Valentin Weinhäupl’s photos. “I actually don’t like planned shoots with models so much,” he reveals. He would much rather simply take off with his camera, preferably with a few friends, and see what comes in front of his lens, what ideas develop with one another, and finally compose them into a picture.