Hi, my name is Anselm Wiethoff, I am 17 years old and well known on Instagram with a following of 20K+ and have collaborated with a few major brands including 'Daniel Wellington'.
Since I was a baby, I've been constantly moving to different countries, including Amsterdam, Singapore, Dubai and finally Shanghai. I used to never pay attention to details anywhere, but ever since I was on summer holidays in my hometown Ibbenbüren, Germany, in the year of 2015, I saw different and new faces of the small, and quiet countryside-town.
I had an Instagram account that time with a following of under 1000 and took amateur photos with an iPhone 6 that I got from my mother. If you've ever scrolled all the way down on my Instagram feed, you would know that my first post was a picture of a bee crawling on my phone, which I actually took with an iPad.
One late afternoon in Germany, I decided to go out by myself and borrow my grandfather's digital camera - it was a Canon Powershot. For the first time, I discovered a new feeling in me, and that feeling was the feeling of being alone, having time all to yourself and the freedom to do anything. I took random pictures of people's chimneys, cows, and the nature around me - just playing around with the camera really. I went out by myself every single day after that and took even more pictures and explored places I've never dared to go by myself - Such as the forest or simply just walking away from my comfort-zone known as 'home'.
After returning to Shanghai from the holiday, I was lost and had no idea what to take because the city seemed "boring" and I was afraid of going out alone. But after finally forcing myself to commit, I walked around and revisited familiar places of the city and discovered so many things I've never noticed before.
After I convinced my mom that this was a passion to me and wanted to continue, she bought me my first 'beginner' camera, a Canon EOS 750D - I still use it till this day. I still had those nature vibes from Germany, so I continued to take pictures of plants, trees, flowers etc. at a park nearby home, but I had the urge to try something new. So I went on Instagram, and stumbled across someone who is still a great friend of mine till this day. He opened my eyes and brought me to my first rooftop near 'xintiandi' which is a very well-known office building. Ever since that day, I've learned that there's always a way, and anything is possible if you commit to it.
That brings me to today, where I've met many great friends through social media and met up with them to shoot together - It inspired me in a way to share my own view of the city. So I decided to commit even more and try new things, and started to get into 'rooftopping' and urban exploration also known as 'urbex'. I never labeled myself as a 'photographer' or 'rooftopper', because it limits me.
Rooftopping really opened my eyes and made me live in the moment, but when I'm up there, I still can’t believe I’m there at that specific time. Many people remind me to be careful and ask me how I'm not afraid. I don’t think I was ever afraid of heights; it’s just the fear of falling. I started to enjoy going out by myself and sometimes with other shooters to explore the city. Finding a special place and having it all to yourself makes you feel powerful and as if you are in a completely different world.
As a result, I am recognized for my breathtaking photos that show a never before seen side of Shanghai. Instagram is like a fuel to me in a way, but I’m not depending on it. No matter what, I'll still go out to explore, because my purpose is to express, not to impress.
One big advice for anybody taking photos, is to commit and be unique. Do what you love, don’t think about what you don’t have, and don’t let anything or anybody limit you. The world is yours, so what are you waiting for?