Ema Peter, our Architecture & Interiors Winner: Growing up surrounded by film equipment and the secrets behind her winning image


Ema Peter is an architecture photographer based in Vancouver, Canada. Ema’s outstanding photography has helped many firms reach award-winning status and she was responsible for creating photography standards for some of the top hotel brands around the world. So, it is not surprising that her hard work was rewarded once again. Read our interview with Ema Peter to know more about the winner of the Architecture & Interiors Category of Spotlight Awards 2019, her photography and the winning image.

“Teahouse” – Award Winning Photo for the Architecture & Interiors Category Spotlight 2019. Photographer: Ema Peter

Production Paradise: Tell us about the winning image – the idea behind it, how was it shot?

Ema Peter: The winning image is a Teahouse by Kengo Kuma specially designed for Westbank in Vancouver and positioned on a terrace of a high-rise in the very center of the city. This made it quite challenging, as this is a very unusual place for such a building. The teahouse has glass all the way around and we had to drape a theatre blackout curtain to wrap around the building from a few floors above so we don’t have any reflections. I requested the tea master to come and perform a tea ceremony so I know where exactly to position people not to be against the traditions.

Production Paradise: How do you feel about winning the Category Prize of Spotlight Awards 2019?

Ema Peter: I am very honoured to win the Spotlight award. Knowing the caliber of judges it was a real highlight for me as some of the best in the industry were reviewing our images.

Production Paradise: How would you describe your style?

Ema Peter: I am a huge follower of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment, and working in architecture I try to frame the photojournalistic moments within the buildings and structures I photograph. So architectural photojournalism is the best way to describe my style.

Production Paradise: Name three photographers that have inspired you.

Ema Peter: The photographers that inspire me are Cartier-Bresson, Fernando Guerra, Peter Lindbergh. Three very different photographers, but all of them catching the environment they are working in the most pure and natural way.

Production Paradise: How did you end up behind the lens? Tell us about your career path.

Ema Peter: My father was a film cameraman and in his spare time he always took photos. He used to blackout our kitchen every evening to turn it into a dark room and I sat next to him since I was a little girl seeing the magic of the blank sheet of paper slowly turning into an image in the developer. He gave me my fist camera at six and I used to travel with him while he was filming and watch how the big film productions build lighting and film the movies. I slept on top of equipment boxes at the back of film trucks. Later I studied in the National Academy of Theatre and Film art in Sofia and have a masters degree in Art and Applied Photography. I later interned in Magnum photo agency in Paris. My first job was for VRX studios and Expedia, I used to travel and photograph hotels around the world – 240 days a year I was on the road. I became their global head of photography for six years. 10 years ago I started my own firm.

Ema Peter | Spotlight Awards Winner 2019 – Architecture & Interiors Category

Production Paradise: What do you think is necessary to become a successful commercial photographer?

Ema Peter: I feel we need to inspire people. Having a successful story in architectural photography, I hope I will inspire a lot more women, especially to join this business. It is not an easy specialty, we are on-site from dawn till dusk, almost 14 hours every day on our feet, but it is incredible when the right shot is achieved.

Production Paradise: If you weren’t a photographer, what would be your alternate career path?

Ema Peter: If I was not in photography, I would be creating strategies for firms. I have always had a strong interest in strategy and I truly enjoy reading Harvard Business Review and learning how the most successful firms have achieved their goals, and how those strategies can be implemented in different business models.

Production Paradise: We believe you are not resting on your laurels – what are you working on now?

Ema Peter: With my team I am working on a variety of residential and commercial projects, from celebrity homes to big universities, opera houses and museums: literally all over the world, from Hong Kong to London.

Production Paradise: The Spotlight awards had a judge’s panel composed of potential clients for commercial photographers – did that influence your choice of image(s) selected for your entry?

Ema Peter: I feel a good image is a good image. The judges will recognise this. I definitely feel no matter in which field they are in, if an image talks to them it will make an impact.

Production Paradise: What made you want to participate in these Awards?

Ema Peter: I was very impressed by the awards last year and the calibre of images that were shortlisted and won. It is an incredible jury too, so great combination overall.

We would like to thank Ema for taking the time to share his experience with us! If you want to see more of her work, visit her member page or her website.

Production Paradise will publish a special edition of the Spotlight Magazine featuring all the winners and their images. Make sure you subscribe to our blog and Spotlight Magazine so you won’t miss out!

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