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Meet Pete: Pete Halvorsen by Andres Tardio

A few years ago, Pete Halvorsen decided to take his daughter for a walk. Is there a better place for this than the nearby pier? The sand, the ocean, the beauty and the freshness give you a calm sense of joy. Perfect for a father-daughter stroll.

The pier also happens to be perfect for photography, something Halvorsen understands quite well. Since those first walks with his daughter, Pete has crafted some of his greatest works under and on that pier. His eye for the pier is a sharp one, and that love for photography has extended from the pier to other countries. His photographs, ranging from stunning landscapes to striking portraits, continue to impress.

AT: How did you get started with photography?

PH: I’d always been drawn to photography as a medium to tell stories. It wasn’t until 2010 when my eye began to be develop and sharpen that I decided to commit myself as a full time photographer.

AT: How has your life and perspective changed since you started working with mobile photography?

PH: In this image-based world a single snapshot has the ability to say so much. As an early adopter of Instagram I saw first hand how well non-tranditional (mobile) snapshot photography was received. From traveling around the world to walking down to the beach, I began looking for quick moments to share with my iPhone. Those moments wouldn’t have been as organic or easy to share before I had mobile photography as one of my weapons.

AT: Your work is pretty diverse. How do you approach portraits differently than you approach landscapes?

PH: I try to use the same approach to both; I strive to catch a real moment and freeze it. If it’s a sunset or a portrait of someone laughing, these are both experiences that can be felt if captured in the moment. I try not to over think it when shooting either, when I start “trying” to be creative it becomes inauthentic and that translates in the image.

AT: You’ve also done some humanitarian photography. How did you get involved with that initiative?

PH: A friend of mine was involved in a non-profit called Kusewera based out of Los Angeles that made humanitarian service trips to an orphanage in Malawi. She approached me travel with them live in the orphanage and document their work. I was also able to lead a mobile photography class for the kids. It was such a life changing experience not only professionally but also personally.

AT: Of course we have to speak about #pierpressure. How did this start and what do you think inspired that original spark?

PH: I was a stay at home dad to my daughter when I first downloaded Instagram, I live pretty close to the Manhattan Beach Pier and would take her on walks down to the pier almost daily. Two of my first Instagram friends Julya (@obscuralucida) and Greg (@leggomygreggo) would join me in providing hilarious puns on each others photos. I had noticed that posting a picture of the Pier at Sunset would get the most reaction of any photo I’d post. So one day I made the joke that I was giving in to the “Pier Pressure” of getting likes by posting another photo of this pier at sunset. It became a thing.

AT: A lot of people shoot the pier, but what advice do you give photographers to make their pier shots more creative?

PH: Piers all have such interesting personalities depending on the time of day or the time of year. From empty mornings during the winter to packed sunsets of summer there is always something different. I’d also recommend you go to geotags of whatever pier (or any location for that matter) and see how other people have shot it that you love. There are always images that pop off the screen to me and new angles I’ve never seen. Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, I enjoy the work of Peter Lik and saw one of his shots under a pier, this inspired me to slap an Olloclip fisheye on my iPhone and shoot a similar shot. I still remember the feeling when that image went to the Popular Page and got over 200 likes (that was a lot for back then).

The other advice I’d give is something that I’ve been working on myself. Turn around. So many times recently I’m shooting and do a 180 to look for the first thing that catches my eye. More often than not it’s a better shot than the one I had originally set up for.

AT: You’re also pretty involved with meets. What do you enjoy most about meets?

PH: Meets for me are a way to give back to this Instagram community that has given me so much. I feel blessed to have the platform I have. If it weren’t for the early Instameets I went to my network wouldn’t have grown like it has today.

AT: Which meet would you consider your favorite and most memorable thus far? Why?

PH: Great question – They are all so memorable for different reasons – #foggypierpressure because of its amazing climate change within 2 hours #givingpierpressure because of the amazing donations we were able to put together at Christmas time. #brodeotree was a religious experience with some of my now dearest Instagram friends. But you never forget your first Instameet. Mine was in San Francisco back in 2011. It was put on by Laura Lawson (lauralawsonviscontti) & Michael O’Neal (@moneal). I met so many amazing Instagrammers that day at the now infamous #gandhigram

AT: Meets can also bring some negativity sometimes. For example, people may be upset when a person they meet doesn’t follow them on Instagram after the meet. Or someone may not like another’s attitude or whatever. What conflicts have you seen at meets. What do you think people can do to resolve those conflicts?

PH: The follow aspect of Instagram adds a different dynamic for some. A few of Instagrammers I know who large followings won’t go to Instameets anymore because it becomes more about them being there than taking photos. For me, that high follow number has given me the ability to help organize our local southern California instagrammers. They’ll always be a few who aren’t there for the right reasons, but that’s life. The majority of the people at my meets (we had over 150 people at the #dogtowninstameet) are amazing people and photographers. The reward of the great people I’ve met is worth the risk of running into a few bad apples.

AT: When you go shooting, what are some things you are always mindful of?

PH: Story, story, story. What story am I telling with this image or video? Focus isn’t a bad thing either…of course you can always tag it #bluronpurpose and call it art.

AT: What apps do you recommend photographers use?

PH: I’ve been through a lot of different Apps but I keep coming back to a handful – Snapseed is normally my first stop for quick tweaks, I just like it’s interface. Then I usually go to either VSCOcam, PicTapGo or Afterlight if I want to play with tones or moods. I used to shoot with Camera+ but since I got the iPhone 5s I am only using the native camera to shoot with because I shoot so much video too.

Behind The Photographs

Pete Halvorsen also shared five of his most prized shots and discussed the photographs with some details. Those images and Halvorsen’s descriptions can be found below.

“Pure Joy”

PH: While I was in Malawi I ran up and shot this while the kids were playing red light green light. While I was shooting all day with thousands of dollars worth of camera equipment, this quick snap with my iPhone captured the essence of life within the walls of the orphanage.

“The Griffith Observatory” 

PH: One of my favorites I ever took with my 4s. I’ve had good photographer friends of mine that couldn’t believe I shot it with an iPhone and I had to send them the original file so they’d believe me.

“Shadow Swings”

PH: I shot this of my daughters shadow on the playground, it was featured by Josh Johnson back in the day and was the first image that increased my following beyond the friends/family in my circle. I shot it with Hipstamatic and just rotated it because I thought it looked cooler.

“You’re Never Too Young To Dream Big” 

PH: A street snap that caught a great moment of youth and art. This Banksy art on the side of the wall was across the street from where she was born (Cedars Sinai), so once again for me it held even more significant value of the message and the image.

“Chris Ozer” 

PH: In this Chris Ozer portrait in New York, he and I were walking in SoHo just north of where the World Trade Center had stood…So to me, this flag which looks like it had been hanging for 10-plus years had a story.


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