Mainlined through his Instagram @hollywood_irl, avid film and TV fan Steve Peterson has been religiously documenting the real-life locations behind some of our favorite Hollywood properties. These iconic locations are much more compelling sites of interest than conventional tourist attractions—otherwise ordinary suburban houses or city street corners turned sightseeing stops.
Matching up the photos he takes to the cinematography in some of our favorite films and television shows—Edward Scissorhands, The Dark Knight, Stranger Things—Peterson showcases his own carefully-framed shots alongside film stills in Instagram posts depicting the conflation of film fiction and everyday reality. For Peterson, who has loved movies for as long as he can remember and became interested in photography while he was in film school, the project is a combination of both his appreciation of film and passion for photography.
Peterson has come a long way from when he got started with his project four years ago. He has amassed over 500 photos (and counting) and has become an expert in researching locations and mapping travel routes based on notable filming locations. Here, he recounts the stories behind some of his most popular snaps.
Southgate Shopping Plaza, Lakeland, Florida – August 2017 (above)
STEVE PETERSON: I’ve been a huge Burton/Depp fan for just about as long as I can remember. Edward Scissorhands  has always been one of my favorite collaborations, so why it took me so long to visit this old shopping center, which is only about 90 minutes from my house, is beyond me. Even worse, the neighborhood from the film is even closer and I still haven’t made it out there yet. I did a lot of traveling all over the country in 2017, but there are still a bunch of locations in my own state that I would love to see, and I am going to try to make that my focus this year.
Jay Prtizker Pavilion Chicago, Illinois – November 2017
PETERSON: Last June we took a trip to Chicago. Then in July, Netflix premiered Ozark. I was instantly hooked. The first episode takes place in Chicago and I recognized almost every location, but of course I had no pics. Had only Netflix released this a month earlier! I absolutely loved Chicago and loved Ozark, so I decided to make a trip back so I could get these shots (as well as few others I had missed on my first trip).
The Dark Knight
LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois – November 2017
PETERSON: Another favorite. I’ve been a Batman fan since I was about two years old watching Super Friends. It is one of my few fandoms that has never wavered. Almost all of The Dark Knight  was filmed in Chicago, and I visited every spot I could. This scene is so iconic and one I just had to capture. Thanks to the heavy traffic I had to come back here multiple times. I was finally able to get this shot around 10:30 P.M. on a Thursday night. Most of the traffic had died down, but it was still a busy area. I almost got hit by three different cars, but I finally got my shot, nearly perfect. Well worth the risk for me.
Patrick Henry High School, Stockbridge, Georgia – December 2017
PETERSON: In December, I visited just about every Stranger Things location I could find, but this was my favorite. As of then I hadn’t visited any location that was still in production, so to arrive at the school and see “Hawkins Middle School” still painted on the gym was really cool. Added to that, I hadn’t seen anyone else at any of the other locations we visited, but the school was swarming with fans and it was really fun seeing them all running around the school, recalling scenes from the show, and taking pics.
Back to the Future
The McFly House, Arleta, California – September 2016
PETERSON: Back to the Future  is the first movie I ever remember loving. I wore out multiple VHS copies as a kid and can quote the entire film. It started my love for movies, sci-fi, and time travel and basically made me into the nerd I am today. So while in Los Angeles I had to make the short trip over to Arleta to visit the house that started it all.
Married with Children
Buckingham Fountain, Chicago, Illinois – May 2017
PETERSON: I grew up watching Married with Children and for some reason always assumed this fountain was fake. It almost looks animated in the opening credits. So when I was planning my trip to Chicago and I found out it was real, I had to make a visit. I especially love this picture because it’s one of my oldest comparison photos and it amazes me to see how much they’ve built up the city over the past 30 or so years.
A Nightmare on Elm Street
Evergreen Cemetery, Los Angeles, California – September 2016
PETERSON: [This was] another movie that shaped my youth—the first horror film I saw—and created my love for all things macabre, so I was very excited to visit a cemetery from one of my favorite horror films (and of course I visited the house as well). I was not expecting the cemetery to be in such a bad neighborhood though, and as soon as I got out of the car and started taking pictures, the two guys on the left ran towards me yelling and I got a bit freaked out. Turns out they thought I was a location scout and they wanted to be extras in whatever movie I was planning. They were pretty bummed when they found out I was just a movie nerd.
Clerks/Chasing Amy/Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back
The Quickstop/RST Video, Leonardo, New Jersey — September 2001
PETERSON: The very first filming location picture I ever took. My sister was supposed to head up to New York for our cousin’s 16th birthday, but it was just a week after 9/11, so my dad didn’t want her flying and decided to make a road trip of it. He asked if I wanted to go, I said sure, so long as we could stop by some Kevin Smith locations. I had no plan, no screenshots to compare, all I had was a paper map and a crappy disposable camera. This one still came out pretty great.
The Salish Lodge, Snoqualmie, Washington – October 2008
PETERSON: I was going to Seattle for a vacation and found out “Twin Peaks” was only an hour away. At the time I wasn’t a huge fan. I had only just started watching the show maybe a year or two before. This was another one where I had no plan, no screenshots, and unlike with the Kevin Smith stuff in New Jersey, I hadn’t watched these numerous times, so I barely had a memory of the show. Luckily they show this image multiple times every episode so I was able to match it near perfectly. Afterwards we got to hike to the bottom of the falls, which are way bigger than expected. Now that I have seen Twin Peaks numerous times, I can’t wait to get back to reshoot all the locations properly.
- Tracee Ellis Ross and Tyler, the Creator on Falling and Getting Back Up
- Ask a Sane Person: Salman Rushdie Wants America to Take Out the Trash in November
- Meet Roberto Lugo, the Potter Making Ceramics of Biggie and Basquiat
- Chris Evans and Jaeden Martell on Dark Material and Crying in the Mirror Just for Fun
- Mark Ruffalo and Philip Ettinger on Playing Four Versions of the Same Two Characters in I Know This Much Is True