We had the good fortune of connecting with Piper Ferguson and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Piper, what do you attribute your success to?
I think the most important factor behind the success of my career/work is that I started it from a place of wanting to be around something that I love; Music! I ran a weekly mod/indie dance club for 15 years and I just surrounded myself by the people that were like me and that organically led to my success by simply wanting to document it. I I carried my photos around with me in a pile of prints to show people because it made them happy and gave me the opportunity to share my pictures as there was no phones or internet yet. That led to people asking me to shoot for them because they liked what I did. Without even realizing it I stuck with what I knew and wanted to have in my life constantly around shows, bands, clubs, record labels, management companies, festivals, etc. I became the brand I am by knowing what I liked and immersing myself deeply in the scene in order to photograph it and experience my escape in life, and then get paid for it which was the bonus.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
What sets me apart from others- I would say is my story of my career. Being a music photographer I’ve had so many fun, crazy, adventurous experiences around the world, backstage, after parties, in the studio, on locations, tv shows, festivals, you name it… that money seriously can’t buy. I’ve been able to get myself into places that people really dream about. I’ve been able to surround myself in a world that to me feels like home at this point. After 20 years I will always have my music family! excited about- Right now I am super excited about making a book. I have an amazing editor and designer and I am about to start a kickstarter in order to pre-sale books to order the first round as self publishing is quite costly. My team are helping me create something special, me and that really tells my story. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? It was definitely not easy to get to where I am today but i will say I did sort of Forrest Gump my way into most situations. I was one of the only women in Los Angeles in the mid 90’s taking photos of musicians, there were only a handful of us and everyone needed a photographer so it just worked out because there was a demand for it. It’s rock n roll so you didn’t really have to be Steven Meisel shooting Vogue covers. I felt like what I was doing was fine, but I needed to improve of course, I feel like I didn’t really hit my stride until around 2007. About 10 years of shooting and processing a lot of film. I did some of my best work early on, but I wasn’t always confident, I got nervous a lot hoping things would go well, nervous around people like Joe Strummer or whoever celeb musician I was working with. Now I just kind of know whatever I’m doing is going to work out and be good no matter how difficult things can be in the prep. the part of my career that was hard was definitely being judged and not taken as seriously because I was a girl back then, now a woman. I felt what I was doing was cool and different but it wasn’t seen that way because it wasn’t like everyone else, my work was indie but to me that was cool! I was never in the position growing up that what I wanted to do was even a possibility being from a small town with small town ideology. Doing photography on a bigger level was hard for me to even wrap my head around. It didn’t even exist in my thoughts really, or understanding you could make real money doing what I did. I had an assistant one time who worked with a really successful photographer and he told me what his day rate was and I was blown away, never realizing someone could even earn like that. Overcoming the challenges started after I got into doing affirmation work, meditation, reading self help books, understanding loving myself more and how much that plays into one’s success. I’m still a work in progress but the spiritual part of what I do has definitely been my saving grace with whatever challenges come my way. I want the world to know that whatever you do just keep doing it and defining what it is you want and repeat it over and over in your mind, script it out, visualize it. My story is still ongoing and it’s evolving in ways I can say are the things I was hoping my life would look like when I first moved to Los Angeles in 1995. It has taken a long time for the confidence to build in order to feel deserving of attaining those goals, I feel ready now.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The first thing I would want to take a friend to do is all the amazing hikes in LA. I live in La Canada and there is a beautiful yet strenuous hike right behind my house that takes you up to a tipi put there by the employees of JPL. I would of course take them to Malibu to spend time on the many wonderful beaches and take a drive through Topanga Canyon. I’ve always loved to hang out and have beverages and dinner at Cafe Stella in Silver Lake. The eclectic crowd and amazing vibe and food of that place makes you feel like you could be anywhere. Of course I would take them to see some music. My brother is the sound guy at the Fonda Theater so I get to hang out in the sound booth and watch anyone I want which is always so much fun. I always love to take people to the Observatory because it’s such a classic, gorgeous LA landmark with spectacular views. I would love to introduce them to my magical sister friends like Laurel Stearns who is just one of a kind and lives her life like like no other, Steffi Nelson who is an amazing writer among many things, Caroline Ryder a screen writer-writer and all around eccentric human being. It’s always fun to cruise out to Joshua Tree and see the place Graham Parsons spent time, the stars in the park, I’ve apparently come much more outdoorsie in my later life.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The first person I would thank is Matthew Libatique. He is an incredible cinematographer who shot PROM, A Star Is Born, Straight Out of Compton, Iron Man, Black Swan and on and on. He took me on my first couple photo shoots and helped me with understanding exposure, F-Stop, film stocks, black and white and color, pushing/pulling, etc. He’s always been a good supporter of me. He even shot my third music video for one of my favorite bands, Hepcat. I would also like to thank Shalyce Benfell. She has been my best friend for 30 years, we lived together in SF and she moved here and we started our clubs together and it was her idea. Cafe Bleu and Bang were my platforms for learning. She started working for Golden Voice in marketing and we began working on the first Coachella in 1999. Also a platform for me to shoot anything, everywhere I wanted and be surrounded in that world for 20 years now.