Interview by Ariel Beesley Photos by Lili Peper
“...that feeling of honesty and intimacy is what I strive to emulate
in all my work and I think the few photographs where I have been able
—Lili Peperto successfully capture this are my most captivating.” — Lili Peper
Up and coming photographer Lili Peper is currently living on the lower east side of Manhattan. She attends The New School as a dual-degree student, studying at both Parsons and Eugene Lang where she is majoring in Photography and Film Theory.
Ariel Beesley is a model/musician/stylist. She is also currently a fashion editor in residence as part of Issue Magazine’s editorial residency program. This is her first piece.
The Rising States
A women’s boutique on the Lower East Side in New York City, selling unique, fashionable clothes and exhibiting works of emerging artists.
This was Lili Peper’s first showcase. The twenty-year-old Los Angeles-born artist began shooting and developing photographs as a young girl. Her work explores themes of gender identity and sexuality while seeking to interconnect depictions of female empowerment with the editorial aesthetics of fashion photography.
Ariel Beesley: When did you decide you wanted to work in the world of photography?
Lili Peper: It was actually less of a conscious decision I made to pursue photography as a career and more of just following the inevitable. I’ve been taking and developing film photographs since such a young age that it eventually evolved into a passion that was far deeper than just a hobby. Probably because I was so young when my interest in photography developed that I wasn’t even aware of the possibility of doing it for the rest of my life and making a career out of it — well here’s to hoping.
“I believe someone is their most beautiful when they are truly embodying themselves.”
— Lili Peper
AB: What does beauty mean to you?
LP: Beauty is comfortability. I believe someone is their most beautiful when they are truly embodying themselves. Then that manifests into an unparalleled intimacy which reveals their true selves–or what they perceive it to be — to another. It is an incredibly difficult thing to achieve with someone, especially when there is the layer of the camera invading the already vulnerable space. But that feeling of honesty and intimacy is what I strive to emulate in all my work and I think the few photographs where I have been able to successfully capture this are my most captivating.
AB: Has your source of inspiration changed from when you first picked up a camera to now?
LP: When I first picked up a camera I was about seven years old so I think for a long time my photography was sole based on my eye and my natural instinct. Naturally since then my eye has been massively refined due to everything I’ve been exposed to over the years. But I initially began deriving most of my inspiration from the wonderful people around me and from the very specific experience of growing up in the thick of Los Angeles. Moving out of LA really changed my perspective and that’s when I began making art heavily focused around explorations of sexuality and the female body.
AB: What is your favorite camera to use?
LP: Definitely the Hasselblad. But I do love my Nikon 35mm, I have a motor attached to it which makes shooting a lot very fast dangerously easy.
“I think people are beautiful and what they feel is beautiful, but the most beautiful thing is how they then express that in front of a camera.”
— Lili Peper
AB: Why is taking portraits your favorite outlet of photography, and how do you incorporate this into fashion?
LP: I am just really interested in people. I think there is something so telling in a portrait, whether it is a series with a narrative or a fashion editorial or just a single portrait hanging on the wall. I think people are beautiful and what they feel is beautiful, but the most beautiful thing is how they then express that in front of a camera. Fashion comes into my work because I value the aesthetic of fashion photography and the fashion editorial. That is why I am so inspired by photographers like Helmut Newton. He was able to achieve an aesthetic that was greatly admired for its contribution to the fashion world while simultaneously existing as exquisite portraits of women that stood on their own. Newton’s work epitomizes the perfect balance of art and commercial fashion photography and executing that duality in my own photographs is the goal.
AB: Do you have a favorite photo you’ve ever taken?
LP: I don’t think so. My body of work is rapidly developing so I appreciate everything at varying degrees. My overall awareness of how I want my photographs to look and be received by others has progressed, which has helped to emphasize my artistic intention and convey it in a more distinguishable way. I’m finally beginning to create and explore the aesthetic that I hope to one day be recognized for.
AB: Goals for the future?
LP: Putting on this showcase was an amazing learning experience and I’d like to continue displaying work, but not just my own. I want to begin to curate art shows exhibiting the work that is being produced by all of the unbelievably talented young artists I know. We are all living in the same overwhelmingly saturated city and it becomes very depleting at times. If I’ve learned anything from art school it’s that it is vitally important to acknowledge and celebrate the incredible and taxing efforts that go into artistic creation — and I have a burning desire to start doing so as frequently as I can.