Leïla Joy Berney
A Swiss-French Sydneysider with a flair for taking snaps of the natural world.
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Switzerland-born, Sydney Eastern Suburbs raised photographer Leïla Joy Berney is a French-speaking photographer with a flair for snaps of the natural world.

As a youngster she dreamed of being a National Geographic wildlife documentary maker, and these days she’s not far off the mark; a trained journalist and with heaps of photojournalism experience under her belt, Leïla spends most of her days travelling to the farthest reaches of the world. She regularly volunteers with aid and animal conservation organisations in Asia, Africa, Europe and remote Australia, capturing the experiencing as she goes. Next up on Leila’s travel wish list is taking photos in Canada, a US road trip and South America. Thanks for these awesome shots and stories, Leila! Follow Leila here.

Maya and I rode north along the coastline of Bali until we found a secluded strip of beach at sunrise. I’d dreamed of working with her for such a long time, and she absolutely blew me away. Every movement was elegant, every frame was a shot. She’s got a wicked sense of humour, too. What a woman.

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Fun summer afternoon with this cheeky monkey. Photographing Mimi made me really appreciate dancers; their grace, their strength and their shapes. We worked within the carved contours of oceanfront sandstone cliffs and may or may not have distracted some fishermen.

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Very humbling having the chance to work with one of the rescued elephants at this sanctuary in Bali. He was an absolute chiller and spent most of the time munching away happily on a giant pile of palm fronds (that Inka had to keep dodging). I absolutely love this little lady; she was like a tiny forest pixie calmly playing with this 6-ton giant.

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I spent two weeks road tripping around Iceland with my sister Anouk and two of our mates last winter (European summer). It was like being on another planet entirely. 10/10 recommend. This was one of my favourite waterfalls, Skógafoss. The icy blast of wind-blown water spray was so intense I had to shield my camera with my body and only had a couple of frames before my lens was drenched. Anouk came back literally wringing her hair out. Sorry for bullying you into half the waterfalls of Iceland, mate!

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I spent 5.5 months doing various volunteer work in Africa during my gap year. Before heading home, I camped and road tripped across Namibia to see more of the country. It’s to this day one of my favourite places in the world. This little toddler is part of a Himba tribe in the Kunene region of northern Namibia. He was learning to walk and reached out for his mum (who is out of frame).

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Enchanting morning deep in the Royal National Park with Rhyme. We danced around on a waterfall at sunrise and decided to go exploring up-creek, clothing optional. I again and again come back to the sandstone rocks around Sydney; there’s something about their textures, tones and shapes that I’m incredibly drawn to.

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I’m a huge animal lover and fascinated by big cats. I met this guy whilst volunteering in an animal rehabilitation sanctuary in Namibia. He’d been released into a vast enclosure in preparation for his full release to the wild. Fun fact: if you’re ever face to face with wild cheetahs, make lots of noise, wave your arms around and run screaming towards them. They’re big scaredy-cats and will most likely back down or run away. Just don’t corner them or get between a mum and her cubs.

7 Maya, again. I’d wanted to shoot nudes against Bali’s black volcanic sand for a while, and she was magic. I loved the contrast with her light hair and skin.

8 I’m still not exactly sure what this guy’s name was! He caught my eye whilst shredding the Pretty Poison skate bowl at the Haze & Glory party in Bali, and I really wanted to shoot his portrait. He only spoke Russian, so with (probably embarrassing) hand gestures and mimes on my part, he agreed to meet up a few days later. It was pretty hilarious and a little awkward, as we couldn’t actually communicate with each other and I don’t think he was entirely familiar with being in front of a camera. Massive legend. Zero fucks given.

9 I have a thing for derelict places; cracked paint, ancient walls, old places that bear physical marks of their stories. This was one of my favourite spots in Namibia – Kolmanskop, an abandoned diamond-mining town. It was like a portal back in time, surprisingly well preserved in the dry heat, except reclaimed by the sand dunes. I sneakily ditched my tour group and crawled through some windows to go explore inside. I’m dying to go back; definitely didn’t get to spend enough time there.

10 Portrait session with Mimi. There’s something I really like about the mood of this shot. Black and white photographs tend to have a certain rawness and no-bullshit quality to them.

11 Adventures with Rhyme often seem to result in a lack of clothing. We actually live one street away from each other, and spontaneously ran down to the cliffs to shoot that afternoon when we saw the sun showing off on its downward trajectory.

12 Cindy has one of the most incredible faces. She’s got a really interesting mixed Spanish and Indonesian heritage and I loved photographing her. This very poised frame was taken in between her stealing chicken wings out of my mate’s takeaway food, haha.

13 A great thing about Bali is the general lack of rules when it comes to motor vehicles. A bunch of us took some custom bikes to hoon around on a flat strip of deserted beach one afternoon. Little stolen moment after the general chaos.

14 This is from a recent job for an Aussie bikini label. There’s something so classy and so Vogue about Kyla – all legs and tan.

15 Just for the lols. Absolutely crazy night out at Tokyo Singsong ft. too much tequila ft. jelly wrestling ft. high definition anime porn projected against a wall ft. bubbles ft. tubs and tubs of glitter.

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Words by Christopher Kevin Au February 16, 2017
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