In focus

Sturgeon Bay woman balances her photography business with writing projects

Posted on Nov 28, 2018 :: For the love
Sharon Verbeten
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Heidi Hodges’ camera has captured some of the most important events and people dear to her — the demolition of the Berlin Wall, her German immigrant father’s marine handiwork and her own journey through breast cancer.

But while her camera is always close by, so is her computer. Hodges’ photographic, editing and writing skills have made her a triple threat. While her photography business, Heidi Hodges Photography in Sturgeon Bay, pays the bills, writing is her true passion. She also edits Door County Magazine and recently co-authored “Hidden History of Sturgeon Bay” (The History Press, 2018).

“It’s a lot to keep track of, and it’s sometimes difficult to find quality time with my sons,” says Hodges, a single mother to two teenage sons. “But Door County has a unique economy, so many people do what I do — putting several pieces together to make a whole. The best part is, I get to do what I love, in a place I love.”

It’s a lot to manage — her photography business along with her writing and editing gigs — but Hodges has nearly perfected her juggling act.

“Now that my kids are older and more self-sufficient, it’s easier, but work certainly keeps me busy,” Hodges says. “I’m regularly traveling up and down the peninsula on photo shoots and interviews, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Hodges says. 

Kathy Steebs, her longtime friend and co-author of the Sturgeon Bay book, agrees that juggling is one of Hodges’ fortes.

“When Heidi is busy, she plans her day right down to the minute, which helps her to be engaged at so many levels,” she says. “The sheer number of different projects Heidi can juggle successfully is amazing — conducting interviews, writing articles, doing photography sessions and managing the magazine.”

A native of Kenosha, Hodges and her family spent many summers in Door County, so living there now is a full-circle dream. She interned at the Door County Advocate in the late 1980s to complete her degree in technical communications and remained there for 13 years. In 2001, she left to start her own freelance business.

“That was the culmination of all the skills I learned at UWP (the University of Wisconsin-Platteville) and I knew I could take the plunge and be successful, especially in an area I had come to know and love,” Hodges says.

Speaking of taking the plunge, in 1989, Hodges started a Polar Bear Club in Jacksonport that has since become one of the largest in the Midwest.

“Jumping into Lake Michigan on Jan. 1 — the year can only get better from there,” she says.

As successful as she is, while she was building her career and raising her sons, fate intervened — she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 41. But, in her typical can-do style, Hodges chronicled her journey in words and photos, and in turn, earned a 2009 National Newspaper Award for a special-issue magazine she spearheaded, Taking Flight.

“Sharing something so personal was cathartic, of course, but I feel it also was important to represent strength and resilience in the face of adversity,” she says.

Hodges enjoyed being able to combine her love for writing with her love for her adopted hometown of Sturgeon Bay. That’s why her new book, “Hidden History of Sturgeon Bay,” is so special.

“Not only did I get to collaborate with a friend, but I’ve always loved uncovering the forgotten or unknown stories in Door County,” she says. “People know the idyllic beauty of Door County, but they should also know that its history is so colorful and noteworthy.”