Carving Her Future | VI Studio ft. Bee Serene
Popularity is virtual now especially with the social media wave. It might be a numbers game online, but you can have no presence or influence in the streets; famous on social channels with no substance or authenticity IRL. For the VI Studio series, Arianna Jadé targets women who are killing the game in their respective field/industry, whose energy is so contagious it inspires others to be their higher selves, and has a story to tell – all while designing their own future through their crafts and talents.
Meet Bee Serene aka Brianna Peña, the NYC-based wedding and lifestyle photographer you need to know.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born in Brooklyn, NY and lived on Dekalb Avenue in a building my grandmother owned until I was 6 years old. Then I moved to Staten Island in the second grade and have been here ever since.
How did you get into photography?
This is a long story that I love telling, but I’ll spare you the details and just say that I began shooting in 2015 as a means to heal myself without even really knowing that’s what I was doing. I began shooting still life (mostly flowers at the neighborhood botanical garden) and in due time began shooting human subjects and the rest is h(er)story.
When did you discover that photography was what you wanted to pursue full-time?
My son was born in May 2017 and I quit my job the same day I found out I was pregnant. Bold, right? I had no idea what the hell I was going to do with my life, but what I did know was that becoming a mother instantly sparked a fire in me. I no longer wanted to work for anyone else. I wanted to be in charge of my own life and my own time and although my head was clouded with more doubts and fears than triumphs and positivity — I knew that photography was my ticket into the life I’ve always envisioned for myself.
You recently documented a destination wedding in the Dominican Republic and co-shot a local wedding with Laura Huertas. How have those experiences shaped your opportunities thereafter?
Man, being asked to be flown out to document my friend Gabriela’s wedding was one of the trippiest moments of my career thus far. ALONGSIDE second shooting with one of my favorite photographers Laura Huertas. Both experiences taught me more than I could’ve ever imagined. I was the only photographer at a wedding with 175 guests and in my honest opinion there was nothing that could’ve prepared me for that. Just die-hard passion and dedication to documenting the moments that mean the most to me.
Tell us about your shooting and editing styles. Are there any experiences, people or other art that have influenced you?
My shooting style is very, VERY candid. I love to interact with my clients while they’re in front of my camera as much as possible to capture the most genuine emotion. As for my editing style, I’m trying so hard to step as far away from the idea of having a style as much as possible because I don’t want to put myself in a box. For so long I thought my work needed to be dark and moody OR light and airy, but now — my work is both and I’m loving every second of doing what feels right for me. As for inspiration — man the list is endless. My son, my family, my neighborhood, other photographers @viscoseillusion, @laurahuertas, @ravieb, @rociorivera.
What are your top 3 pieces of camera gear? Go!
Ohhhhh, this is a good one! I need to get my weight up as far as my equipment, but top 3 right now — my 50mm lens, my 6D mark ii camera body, and my battery grip!
I quit my job the same day I found out I was pregnant. Bold, right? I wanted to be in charge of my own life and my own time and although my head was clouded with more doubts and fears than triumphs and positivity — I knew that photography was my ticket into the life I’ve always envisioned for myself.
If you could set up the ideal photoshoot, what would that look like?
My ideal photoshoot is any kind of session that allows my client’s purity to shine! I love documenting love and I truly feel like it doesn’t get any better than that for me. As for the location though, I crave large open fields with mountain views or waterfalls. I love nature and my dream is to travel more to gain more opportunities to shoot in different and more beautiful environments.
You have the most adorable two-year old son, Sebastian. How do you juggle motherhood, wellness and photography?
Girl, this is my most frequently asked question and I still feel so awful for not having an answer because I really do not know. I definitely need to work harder at prioritizing my wellness, but being a mother at the age of 24 (or at any age) on top of trying to build something for myself is really tough and takes up a lot of my time and energy, but all I know is that my son is happy and healthy. My business is actually becoming a business, and I haven’t completely crashed yet so I must be doing something right.
If you could give advice to your childhood self, what would it be?
CHOOSE YOU. For so many years all I ever wanted to do was please others, even if that meant being unhappy and as I’ve gotten older all I can say is — fuck that. This is my journey, my happiness, my story, and my battle and no one in this world deserves to “rob” me of any of that. Also, “vulnerability is strength”. My emotions and sensitive spirit are what make me who I am, and I should never apologize for that.
What inspires you and keeps you motivated?
My son. Sebastian is only 2 years and 4 months old and has truly become my greatest inspiration. When I found out I was pregnant, I knew it was time to level up. I knew I was about to shake hands with and meet so many new versions of myself. Some pretty, some not, but I was open to the challenge because I knew he was going to change my life entirely. I felt it in my bones and here we are.
You often share your advice, spread self-love and awareness and always preach about being intentional - all while building your community and tribe. Why is this so important to you?
It wasn’t always important to me, I just want to share that. I used IG like everyone else did, but I love to talk and I also love to write, but I never saw myself using Instagram as a platform to share anything else besides bomb selfies. After purging my following list and organically finding women who were using the platform more intentionally — that inspired me and made me understand that my story doesn’t need to be perfect in order to share it. That’s when everything changed for me. I said fuck what anyone else thinks and write how you feel and share it whenever you wanna’ share it... or don’t. It’s so important to me because my story isn’t a straight line. There have been so many hills, deep scary waters, dark closets, and flower fields filled with sunshine and I know so many other women feel the same way. I want to share my voice and my story alongside so many other women to inspire them to share theirs too because they matter.
CHOOSE YOU. This is my journey, my happiness, my story, and my battle and no one in this world deserves to “rob” me of any of that. My emotions and sensitive spirit are what make me who I am, and I should never apologize for that.
There have been so many hills, deep scary waters, dark closets, and flower fields filled with sunshine and I know so many other women feel the same way. I want to share my voice and my story alongside so many other women to inspire them to share theirs too because they matter.
What can we hope to see from you in the near future? Any projects/gigs/client work that you can spill the beans about?
I have so many ideas that I want to bring to life in this new season of life for me, and I want to spill the beans, BUT y’all just gon’ have to wait and see! But hope for more love and documentation of it because I sure as hell am!
What's your take on female empowerment and what does being a fearless, badass babe mean to you?
Female empowerment is fucking rad and if you’re still hating on other women you really need to grow up. Plain and simple. Being a fearless badass babe to me though means owning my strengths and weaknesses. I meant it up there when I said that vulnerability is strength. Sisterhood has become so important to me over the last 2 years and there is nothing truly more powerful than being surrounded by women who are supporting and rooting for each other. There is strength in numbers, and we are so much stronger together than we are apart.
Bee Serene aka Brianna Peña for VI Studio.
Styled, creative directed & photographed by Arianna Jadé.