• Photo Diary: Leila Peterson

    One look at Leila Peterson’s work, and you’ll realize why the London-based photographer has built an enormous, devoted following. Join us a closer, wanderlust-induced look at her photography.

    Who is Leila Peterson? Can you us more about yourself and describe your path that led to what you’re doing now?
    I'm a photographer living in London, UK, but am originally from a small town in Hawai'i called Aiea. I grew up in a family that loved documenting everything, so naturally I started doing the same. My parents taught me how to use their Polaroid SX-70 when I was really young and eventually passed it on to me when I was in my twenties. I still have and use it to this day. Before I left Hawai'i to move to Los Angeles, I was working as a clothing buyer for a surf shop chain. I met my husband (then boyfriend) who was building a start-up surf/skate brand.  We left our jobs and moved to LA to work on it full-time. I'd shoot all of the lookbooks, I'd supply the online photos, and I did a lot of the design work. I've always loved photography, but after working on it professionally I knew it was something I wanted to take more seriously. I started shooting weddings every weekend for about 4 years.

    In 2012, my husband got offered a job in London — somewhere neither of us had ever been. I had never left the U.S. at that time, so the thought of moving to a foreign country was a bit frightening; but we decided 'why not' and did it anyway. Now I'm here in London shooting mostly commercial and editorial work. It's been a crazy ride so far! 

    Your photos capture the most amazing light — what’s your secret?
    Light plays such a big part in my photography. For most of my life, I grew up not being able to experience season change. I'm always trying to find interesting light and it's exciting to be able to capture subjects and scenes during different times of the year. Even in the winter when the sun goes down at 4pm, the morning light is so beautiful and different from anything I'm used to. 

    You always seem to be on the move — how has traveling influenced or inspired your work? 
    I notice I feel the most inspired when I'm experiencing a moment that wasn't planned. In July we took a trip to Tuscany. One day, we were driving back from a small town and saw an overgrown path on the side of the road that led to an open field. We parked and spent an hour talking, taking photos, and watching the sunset. It was so peaceful. That was probably my most favorite part of the trip.

    I really feel inspired from simple things. How the light changes around our flat during different times of the year, hearing someone singing or playing an instrument in a crowded tube station, summer storms, and landing in Hawai'i and feeling the humid air and breeze as you get off the plane. Those sort of things influence my photography a lot.

    What’s your favorite thing to photograph? 
    The ocean. I never knew how much I needed to be near the sea until I moved to London where the nearest beach is an hour and a 1/2 away. I feel most connected to scenes that are based around water. Over the past few years, English seaside towns have been my favorite subjects.

    What’s the best place you’ve traveled to this year?
    Sweden was really nice. We took a ferry out to the archipelago in Gothenburg and spent some time exploring a few of the little islands there. 

    Do you ever go through periods of not feeling creative or not having ideas? How do you deal with it? 
    My creativity comes and goes in cycles. I try to fill the downtime with other creative hobbies so that I don't put added pressure on forcing inspiration. I've learned that nothing good ever comes from me trying to force anything.

    You have a pretty huge following on Instagram! Has it prompted you to shoot differently or cater to an audience?
    I definitely think the photos I share on Instagram are still a reflection of my true self. I don't always explain each image, but a lot of the time there's a personal story behind it. Even when I'm really going through a hard time, I'll try to channel my feelings and translate it into a photo without having to go into detail. 

    What are 5 other things you’re really into a the moment?
    1. Learning to play the piano.
    2. An old favorite of Angelo Badalamenti 
    3. A Japanese dish called Niku Jaga. My new favorite for winter.
    4. Andrei Tarkovsky's book of Polaroids. 
    5. Planning for a trip next month

    Follow Leila on Instagram