dawn bowery

 Photograph by Sam Fielding

The idea for this book has probably been in my subconscious for over a decade. All the times I have travelled to and fro between London and Los Angeles, I’ve been curious about what attracts so many Brits to L.A. and the similarities that our cultures share. I have struggled to choose between the two places and loved both because of their differences.

Having made the move to L.A., it takes a certain type of Brit to go through the trauma of dealing with immigration, packing up their old life and beginning a new one six thousand miles away from home. It’s more than just the sunny weather and personalities here that cause our fellow Brits to leave their homeland, family and friends to embark on a new life. The common threads that weave amongst the British who have followed their dreams and made a life here are determination, tenacity, and self-belief.

When I returned to L.A. in January 2011, my second time living in this City of Angels, I didn’t have the safety net of a job to fall back on. This time it was up to me, and I needed to make new friends and build my career as fast as possible. After a few months I discovered the Brits in L.A. breakfast group at Cecconi’s. I went along not knowing anyone, and gradually over the weeks started to feel like I belonged to this ‘home from home’ community. Being a naturally curious person (as anyone who knows me will testify), I was fascinated by the individual stories of my fellow Brits and what the trigger was that made them take the plunge and leave Blighty for L.A. Suddenly one evening I thought ‘Why not combine my photography with the stories of my fellow Brits and start a photography book project?’ I posted the idea on the Brits in L.A. Facebook page and sent emails out to residents of Laurel Canyon. To my surprise, the next morning I was inundated with stories and so in the spring of 2011, California Dreaming: Real life stories of Brits in L.A. was born!

Many months went into completing each page in this book. It was important to me that every portrait showed each individual’s true personality and together with the accompanying story would give the reader a glimpse into their real story. I took time to get to know each person, and together we could come up with ideas for their shoot, each portrait being totally different from the next and bringing its own set of challenges.
Luckily, a few ‘names’ agreed to be in the book early on in the process and gradually, as I would finish one portrait I would be sent in a new direction. The more shoots I did, the more people were recommended to me and before long the difficult part was not getting people to say “yes” but me having to say “no!”

There are so many behind the scenes tales to tell, but the highlight has to be my shoot with The Atherton Twins, the talented Cirque Du Soleil acrobats. After being taken to see IRIS for a birthday treat, I didn’t expect to discover that the lead act were from Wigan! I emailed them the next day and almost immediately they responded with “Yes – we would love to.” I decided to take them out of context and place them far away from the stage, and so off we hiked to a rock pool in the depths of Malibu. Never will I forget the moment I first saw Andrew and Kevin balancing on a jagged rock in front of my own eyes. Despite it being a freezing cold January day, not once did they complain. It was such a privilege, and absolutely breathtaking!

The subjects of California Dreaming are as diverse and surprising as Los Angeles itself. Over these last three years I have been on a remarkable journey and have made some lifelong friends along the way. Each shoot has taken me out of my comfort zone and all over this magical city.

From actors to acrobats, butlers to boxers, I hope the stories of those who left home for the adventure of Los Angeles will inspire, entertain, and move you. May you grab every opportunity to follow your own dreams, whatever they may be and wherever they take you – enjoy your own unique journey.

As the Fortune Cookie foretold: Anything is possible – if you really believe…