Today we’d like to introduce you to Jenna Peffley.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Jenna. So, let’s start at the beginning, and we can move on from there.
I tend to be tangential, and I’m not always the best at condensing information, so fair warning.😊
I was born in Colorado but grew up in Florida and North Carolina with frequent extended trips to Ventura/Ojai to visit my massive (60+ people) family that lives there, so Southern California has always been “home” to me. I officially started my adult career in 2001 as an assistant to a luxury interior designer in Fort Myers, Florida (during the height of the stucco Mediterranean craze that everyone is still trying to recover from) after skipping college for a few free-wheeling late 90’s post-high school years (thankfully social media didn’t exist then), and took a non-traditional path to get to where I am now. After three years immersed in the world of luxury interiors, my then boss (and still mentor) convinced me to go to art school to get my interior design degree and license (at the time, having a license in design mattered more than it does now).
When I started college at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida. I was bored out of my mind because I had already worked in the industry and learned everything they were teaching us in school. I wound up switching majors and majoring in photography/minoring in graphic design. My personal work always focused on women and their things in their spaces (funny, that’s often in line with what I shoot now, so life does indeed come full circle). I met my now husband in my senior year of college, and we moved to LA with our now senior dog shortly after (a plan I’d had in place from the ripe age of three). I remember thinking I would be a super successful photographer right away, because I had graduated at the top of my class, only to have the rude awakening that everyone in LA is talented, and at the time photography was MUCH more of a man’s world.
I assisted various male photographers (and learned a lot, but also collected my share of horror stories – I could honestly write a book), freelanced as a producer, art director, set stylist, photo assistant, editorial director, gaffer, craft services person, photo agent, retoucher – you name it – and got completely disenchanted with the industry. I wound up retiring my camera and taking a job retouching for Nasty Gal just to have a regular income, insurance, and have a corporate job where I could try to use my degree. While I was there, I learned all about digital startup life, got really good at retouching/post work, and also learned that Nasty Gal was not the right fit/culture for me. I went on to be recruited by Katherine Power of Clique Media Group (WhoWhatWear and formerly Byrdie/MyDomaine) to head up their creative production team and while there, started bringing in female photographers to shoot.
Out of necessity and budget constraints and knowing that I could be doing what the photographers I was hiring were doing, I started shooting again, and moved on to be the Photo Director over all editorial brands, as well as cross-branded marketing, which was amazing because it gave me the opportunity to work with big brands and bridge the gap between editorial and branded in the digital marketing world. In 2016, I went full-time freelance as a photographer. I now work under the umbrella company I share with my husband, Casa De Peffley, Inc, primarily as a photographer (often with production and creative/styling direction and lots of scrappy hands on creating), but also as a visual brand advisor for various startups and rebrands, with a side of book design and publishing (you can find them on Amazon if you google my last name), cooking and recipe creation, and whatever other creative projects we have up our sleeves.
I am currently working on a site called Wellnesswayfarer.com so stay tuned to that for more on cooking healing foods and creating and traveling healthy. Aside from my career path, I’m full of wild (but true) life tales that you may hear snippets from if you spend time on set with me (I tend to lack a filter), am incredibly nostalgic and sentimental (my love for recording memories and documenting life is what got me into the photo world, to begin with. I actually used to document everything with my LeClic camera in the ’80s, including posing my Barbies for family portraits – true story), collected business cards as a kid, hoard vintage muumuus, love to feed people and cook healthy/paleo meals (I have an autoimmune situation that I maintain through diet, and love teaching others how to do the same), regularly serve tea, love to travel, and live for a good road trip.
I’m an introverted extrovert, I laugh loudly and often (because life is funny), tend to cuss like a sailor from time to time, refuse to wear heels, and once described my personal style as “can get dirty.” I’m at my best when I’m on an adventure or creating or cooking, but I’m working on how to be happy sitting still too. I believe in the power of sharing stories, knowledge, and compassion. I love to connect with people and to connect people. My personal motto is “kindness first, followed by take no shit.” I believe in giving and taking constructive criticism, in holding space and listening, in telling it straight when needed, and I’m always ready with a cup of tea, homemade healthy treat, or some kind of potion and a ton of creative ideas on how to grow a business, as well as ways to execute them.
Also, I’m a Virgo sun with an Aries moon. So that’s a thing, I’m not sure if you wanted all of that information, but it was incredibly cathartic to write it, all the same. Brief isn’t my specialty.😊
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Is life ever a smooth road? What would be the fun in that? When I was a kid, my parents always sped up to go over a bump in the road, calling it a “whoopie ride” (as in, you say “whoopieeeeeeee!!!!!”)- always a little scary, but fun if you shift your perspective to see the excitement in it! At least that’s how they tricked us into not being afraid. 😊
Bumps in the road are half the fun of the overall adventure, and I like to think of them as life’s “whoopie rides.” Ok – they’re not always fun when you’re in it, but definitely can be fun when you look back on them. There’s a line in an Indigo Girls song (which I’m clearly dating myself here) that says “every five years, or so I look back on my life, and I have a good laugh,” and it’s one of my favorite lines because it’s so true.
To answer the question, while obstacles always show up in the typical ways – financial, logistical, emotional, personality clashes, contract negotiation, respect, health, etc. (and again, I could go off on a million tangents here, but I’m trying my best to be concise), the biggest obstacle for me has always been myself.
When I get out of my own way, release insecurity and fear, remember that I know what I am doing, and just create with what’s inside me – that’s when the best things come. In the early years of my career, I spent so much time being afraid that I wasn’t good enough, or didn’t know enough (and I probably didn’t), but with time comes experience and confidence, and I wouldn’t trade that experience and confidence for anything now.
To me, life is always about learning if you get your head out of your ass and look around at the lessons. And there is always more to learn – but there also comes a time in every career where you absolutely “get it.” For me, that proverbial “ah ha” moment came in my early to mid 30’s when I started working for Clique. I was excited again about what I could create, and what I had to offer, and it’s been forward motion ever since.
When we first moved to LA ten years ago, as I mentioned, I had the hard realization that everyone here was super talented, and I wasn’t going to just “make it” on sheer talent. I was 28 at the time, and positive that I was too old to start fresh (haha – to think I thought of 28 as old), but went for it anyway.
We loaded up our 2 door Honda with our 70lb dog, our prized possessions, a lot of debt and barely enough savings to cover gas across the country and put a deposit on an $800 300 square foot studio apartment in East Hollywood (which is now hip, but at the time wasn’t so hip). I was sure I would get creative work right away, but I didn’t (I even interviewed with a paparazzi friend of my father – who never hired me, thank goodness).
Thankfully I’m scrappy, and never afraid to try anything, so when the opportunity showed up for me to be a weed delivery driver, that’s what I did. I always love telling people that “weed delivery girl” was my first job in LA. What’s interesting about that (aside from the obvious) was that I got to meet so many amazing people in various creative industries (because a lot of people – young, old, and in varying professions love pot), and it taught me the true value in networking in this city.
I believe that networking, alongside being nice are crucial to being successful – especially in LA. You never know who you’re talking to (although now it’s easier to know because of social media, but still). I also believe that it’s ok to not be in the same exact place as your peers, even when it seems you may be late to the game, and that comparison and setting age limits on when things are “supposed” to happen in life are recipes for disaster.
That said, it’s taken me a long time to get to that belief, and it’s an obstacle that I still work with from time to time. We lived in that 300 sq ft apartment for five years while we worked to get started in this city, and we still share one car (which is much easier now that Uber/Lyft exists, and also because I happen to have a super supportive husband who lets me have the car the majority of the time). We’re definitely big fans of keeping a low carbon footprint and not living in excess. For me, money always seems more fun when spent on experiences anyway.
From the time I moved out on my own at 17, I’ve been fully responsible for my own financial survival and never had a nest egg from family to fall back on. At times that has definitely felt like an obstacle – especially in LA, where many people come from a more financially fortunate background.
I’ve found myself comparing my place in career/life to others who seem to be so much further along, and it’s been challenging at times, but I have to regularly remind myself that I did this on my own, and everyone has their own challenges and hardships and triumphs, and everything happens in perfect timing, just as it should. It’s definitely the thing that’s driven me to push hard and to never give up, but of course isn’t without struggle, if I’m being honest. Needless to say, “Trust the process” is a regular mantra in my world.
We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I’ve definitely already touched on this, but a little about my company/what sets me apart:
Primarily, I’m a photographer. I create imagery for various brands, large and small, as well as across various editorial publications and digital platforms. Having a background in interior design and fashion, as well as a production background, retouching background, art direction background, food making/prop styling background, and experience in marketing and digital media has definitely given me a unique perspective when working with brands and on editorial shoots.
I think in terms of broad marketing across various platforms, but also create to align with a brand’s unique vision. I tend to take a holistic approach and love helping my clients rebrand or create a cohesive visual representation for a new company. I love the energy of startups, and I also love the knowledge and experience that comes from companies that have been around for a while, but that may need a fresh vision to keep up with the changing marketing trends and re-establish their brand.
I am capable of wearing many hats and being scrappy when necessary, but also, because I have worked in various aspects of the creative world over the years, I have an amazing network of people who I can bring in when the budgets are bigger or when it’s impossible for me to wear multiple hats. I love the challenges that come with digital media and social strategy, and I love bringing brands together for co-marketing projects. I have a vast knowledge and proven track record of growing brands. From an editorial aspect, I love the creative energy that comes from the editorial world.
While there’s not much money in editorial these days, there is the freedom to create, and that’s a pretty amazing thing to experience and collaborate on when it’s a great team. It’s incredibly important to me to always work with a great team, and I try to steer clear of overly dramatic clients. I keep a very tight crew of people who are not only kind but also love what they are doing and bring great energy to the set.
I’m good at getting a lot done with minimal team and gear and time (and tend to prefer it, unless absolutely necessary). I believe in taking the job seriously, but not taking myself too seriously. At the end of the day, this job is fun, and along with my team, we’re getting to create for a living. Laughter is important, maintaining a positive attitude is important. Eating well is also important.
Ordering coffee/tea at 3 pm is important (I’ll always have a producer deep down inside me). While ultimately I’m bringing my experience and expertise to set, there is so much room for collaboration on every shoot, and when something is suggested, even if I don’t think it will work, you’ll always hear me say “let’s try it” because I believe everyone’s ideas have value.
I have a really strong understanding of light and can likely replicate just about anything, but also know how to do a lot of things in post if needed. I’m notoriously fast while maintaining quality, and I don’t take a million shots to get the shot (one thing that used to drive me bonkers when I was producing). I always turn unretouched edited images around within 48 hours. And I LOVE bringing healthy and nourishing treats that I’ve concocted in my kitchen, so I’m sure that sets me apart. 😊
As far as other things that I’m involved in professionally – my husband Eric and I have been working on book publishing, starting with designing and creating his first two poetry books (we just released the second one last month on Amazon). We’re planning to take on another project in this realm in the next year, and we’re definitely excited about that.
Another thing that I’ve been working on, and I’m not totally sure how it’s going to evolve yet, is Wellness Wayfarer (which isn’t launched yet online but I do have an Instagram page for it). I’ve been working with various autoimmune issues for a while and have been able to maintain my health through diet and lifestyle.
That said, I’m a total foodie (and fell so in love with the LA food scene prior to getting sick – so I got to try ALL the good things – we did live in Thai Town our first five years) and when I learned I had to give up grains, dairy, soy, and sugar (and currently nightshades and legumes) I was incredibly frustrated, but born out of that frustration was learning to cook up some really tasty healthy dishes that win the hearts and mouths of even the most discerning pizza and bread and donut lovers.
Being able to funnel my creativity into the kitchen has become my favorite hobby, and the last two years I’ve also started taking healthy cooking on the road or wherever I’m traveling to. I’m currently shooting food and planning to release my recipes in some format in the near future, as well as create healing food retreats in collaboration with some amazing friends, so stay tuned for that. I’ve also started going into people’s kitchens, teaching them how to swap healthier options into what they use, and teaching how to make healing / paleo (and sometimes vegan) food.
What were you like growing up?
I think I covered that in the first question, but I was an incredibly creative, sensitive child with a definite wild streak and a sense of humor. I was (and still am) incredibly sentimental. I regularly had “talks too much” on my report card. I always came home with obscure stories and “fun” facts that I learned from other kids and loved to share at the dinner table every night – leaving my parents and sister amused and horrified, and often speechless. I was full of mischief. I was definitely not easy, but my mom says I was still a joy (moms say things like that).
My 4th-grade teacher had to bribe me with Butterfingers to keep my desk clean (I’ve always had a streak of creative chaos). This might have created the “candy as reward” pattern I’ve tried so hard to break as an adult. It’s a situation. I was in local commercials a bit. I had these curly pig tales reminiscent of Cindy Brady, and people thought that was charming, I guess. I was always more fascinated with what was going on behind the camera though, and still remember the hack of creating a reflector out of a cookie sheet with tin foil from a BMW commercial I did when I was five (my mom still has a VHS of my commercials, and will gladly show them if asked.)
My big line was “You forgot your lunch” and everyone in my family loves to drop that one on me from time to time – especially my husband when I actually forget my lunch). I collected business cards religiously, and kept them organized in photo albums, ranking them prettiest to ugliest. The ones that had a photo on them were always my favorite, followed by great logos and shiny embossing (this was the 80’s after all).
I used to beg my parents to take me to trade shows because they were the best place to collect business cards. I still love trade shows and still hoard business cards. I got a pink and turquoise Le Clic 110 camera for Christmas when I was around four, and brought it everywhere. I’m sure my mom loved paying to develop roll upon roll of my Barbies and ponies posed in various scenarios, or pictures of my dad eating dinner. I was regularly in the principle’s office – a strict nun with a soft spot who I’m sure was equally as entertained as she was frustrated by me.
In high school, I spent two years in a Catholic school where I grew up in Fort Myers, then moved to Charlotte, NC. I definitely got into trouble, but nothing too major. I regularly skipped school (except for art, theater, and literature) to go hang out in the downtown arts district and barely graduated, but only because I was completely bored by all of the standard subjects, and sure I would never use half of what I was forced to learn and believed that learning usually comes from living (and for the most part, I was right). I was never one to learn the easy way and always had to figure out everything for myself.
There was also a multitude of challenges, but they’re all part of the process, and I’ll save those for a tell-all, someday.
- Website: www.jennapeffley.com
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @jennapeffley @casadepeffley @wellnesswayfarer