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Rising Stars: Meet Esteban Leyva

Today we’d like to introduce you to Esteban Leyva.

Hi Esteban, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
“Let It Develop!”

I am a first generation Mexican American born and raised in Oxnard, CA. This past October, I moved to North Hollywood, LA wanting to try something new and grow my photography business.

My creative journey started in high school. My older sister Vergie gifted me a Kodak M863 point and shoot camera for Christmas. I looked at life through a new lens. I began to focus on the light. My High school best friend Judy Linares was always up for my crazy ideas and went with my visions. I think she sparked that early explorer in me.

In college, one of my best friends Desiree Mize was looking for a photographer for her sister’s baby shower. The stars aligned and my passion and business met. Being a poor college student; I couldn’t turn down the opportunity and I said yes. That first 50$ earned felt as if I had won the lottery! I had never thought about the business side to my photography until this moment.

Christmas of 2011 my sister Lupe gifted me a Nikon N8008 35mm film camera. At the time, my best friend Taylor had enrolled in a photo film class. I crashed the class and the rest was history! I quickly learned how to process my own black and white film and mastered programs like Photoshop and lightroom. “Creative freedom” became my new catchphrase. I gave myself permission to try new things. Forward a few years, I attended WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) in Las Vegas. Photographers from around the world were there. Many of the guest speakers for brands such as Canon, Nikon & Sony. Shortly after, I met Sylvie Gil named one of the top 10 Wedding photographers in the world. At the time, she had just announced she’d be hosting her Wedding workshop. Held at the historical monument Chateau Varennes in the countryside of France.

I took a leap of faith and attended her workshop. Because investing in myself was the most important thing I could of done. When I landed in Paris, I wasn’t able to speak Parisian fluently, but I trusted the universe and what I felt. I was able to communicate with the world around me through; color, sounds, texture and energy. This was what I needed to reach the next level in my career.

Since then, I have been chasing my passion around the world. Photography has connected me to my soul. Venturing and doing things I never imagined. From exploring mountains, top cities in Colombia to learning how to play Polo in the rain in Argentina! Fresh

Argentine Chimichurri Steak and all the savory empanadas. To the natural healing waters of Iceland and photographing a destination vow renewal occurring during a solar eclipse at the edge of a cliff overlooking a black volcano beach. I was in tears because in that moment, I knew I was doing what I love. I’m honored to continually capture the love between two souls. My clients are very receptive to my energy. I show my clients how to live in their heart space.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
I think the journey has always been fluid for me. One thing has always felt like it connected to the other. My clients become friends and welcome me like family. Everything felt like a dream and then something happened in 2019. I found myself facing personal challenges. My mind, body and soul felt depleted. The reality I once knew had shifted. I moved back home with my Mom. I felt like a failure. My vision for the world became clouded. I internalized fear and my creative confidence had suffered. Thankfully, I was guided on the inward journey. One of my soul mates, Rhianna Mercier, another incredibly talented photographer mirrored to me the love and light I had forgotten about. She believed in me and helped me open my heart and regain my spiritual confidence. Grateful to have been surrounded by amazing people, artists and family. Their encouragement and love was just what I needed to uplift myself, trust and surrender. The journey really is everything. I’m sharing my personal trials and tribulations to help myself and others heal. Photography gave me my life back.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
My work has been published internationally and featured in popular blogs and print: Martha Stewart, Style Me Pretty, Trendy Bride, The Hollywood Reporter, Glitter Guide to name a few. I’m best known for capturing emotion “When life imitates art”, whether it be Wedding, Editorial, or lifestyle photography. My photos are real capturing human essence. Before every shoot, I do a meditation prayer to go into flow. My visions are candid and creative! Weddings have been a big part of my life over the years. I am most proud of my ability to connect with all walks of life. What sets me apart from others is embracing the whirlwind. I love thinking outside of the box and how to share that inner freedom with my clients. The culmination of my past photography experience has lead me to develop my current passion project. For the last two years, I have been working on EL Sueño, a coffee book that is unbiased, eclectic & shares the untold story of Oxnard’s melting pot. If Oxnard could speak: this would be its story.

If we knew you growing up, how would we have described you?
Growing up, I was a little more introverted and shy, but I felt like life constantly wanted me to speak in front of people. I remember speaking in school ceremonies about Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King. I was very passionate about human/ civil rights. I’m the baby of six kids. Three boys and three girls. When my sisters would go on dates or adventures, they would always bring me along and I was more than happy to be a part of the journey! I felt my most comfortable around my Mom and sisters. My sisters taught me so much about communication and feelings. It felt like I had multiple moms in a good way. There is an age gap of eight years between the next sibling and I. Growing up felt like I was an only child because I saw them all leave as I grew. I was also a little of an oddball. I’d strike up a conversations with old people and think about what their story is have they always been this old!? But don’t worry being 28 now, I better understand we will all grow old one day. I always loved daydreaming as a kid. Playing with leafs, riding my bike & chasing the wind. The ice-cream truck was like my religion. Hot Cheetos and Pokémon cards kept me running. I’m definitely more healthy and active today in my late 20’s.

“Let It Develop!”

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