Hi wonderful people! Happy July. It’s officially summer here in my city and it couldn’t have come any quicker. I hope it stays for quite a bit but knowing Chicago weather, we will skip right over fall and it will be winter tomorrow morning. I don’t want to jinx it, so in order to keep the balance here’s a fresh new Swopes Note. Hi!
June started off beautifully with my second monthly partnership with Facebook for our photography masterclass with some of my favorite kids from Off The Street Club. This round we taught them about perspective and how to use your body to frame a shot, whether it be getting low to the ground, or finding a high place to shoot from, they really enjoyed the concept and shot some amazing work. I’m always so proud of them!
I’ll be honest, I’m not much a festival goer, and if I am, I’m quite bougie about it. My boyfriend and I drove over to Manchester, Tennessee in a car given to us by Fiat. They paid for our hotel and food and provided us with VIP/Photo passes to Bonnaroo, a festival located on campgrounds. Being the photographer couple that we are, we made our way to places outside of the festival to get the more visual side of Tennessee. Old Stone Fort Waterfall at the State Archeological Park was definitely my favorite additional adventure. As well as trying Waffle House for the first time. A few of my favorite performances were Paramore, Eminem, Future, and Gogo Penguin.
Through the blistering heat, we also ended up linking with Chance The Rapper for most of our days out at the festival. One of my longtime friends, Kirsten, is the mother of his little girl Kinsley so it was so fun to have friends out there. We have known Chance and them for a long time, but it is still really crazy to see how people are when it comes to seeing him. But I’ll tell you what, the best part was seeing how much fun him, his family, and his whole team have, and being able to experience the festival in the bougie way I like, because without their golf cart rides from stage to stage, and air-conditioned tour bus, we probably would have died a hot death.
In the summer there are always a plethora of influencer parties and events, so that means free drinks, tasty bites and interesting experiences, for better or worse. June proved no different, as I got to experience a brand-new rooftop bar at the top of the Peninsula Chicago on Superior. It was really beautiful and cozy and offered really nice drinks. My favorite part is that the managers there reached out after and thanked me for my visit. I love a good management! I’d recommend having a cocktail while overlooking the city. It has a gorgeous view!
Yayoi Kusama is known for her infinity art rooms and intriguing patterns and finally one of them are passing through Chicago and I was invited to a preview of it. The piece, “Festival of Life,” will be displayed at the Wndr Museum. They haven’t given me any details of when it will be ready, but you should sign up for their newsletter because there will be some really insane exhibits inside this museum between end of July and August. You’ll definitely see me in there a few times this summer.
If you haven’t heard yet, I had my second Apple Talk! If you missed it, don’t worry. Good things will be coming where you can see me speak and learn how to edit on your phone. It was so much fun. The team at Apple are so kind and excited for me. It made it that much more worth it, to know that you’re being supported by a company that has paved the way for me to do what I do every single day. I was so surprised by the amount of people who showed up on account of the rain, but if you know anything about how I work, I tend to thrive in the rain, so I had some really great lessons to teach people about shooting in puddles. It was perfect, and I can’t wait for a third.
Teaching is something I am pretty passionate about and it would make sense because my dad is a teacher himself! As of recently, I have been doing a lot more workshops to kids about the importance of mobile photography and how to build a business for yourself on your phone. With kids being so obsessed with their phones, I can relate, but I know that they could use it to their advantage the same way I have. Through these workshops, I have been able to even teach kids who go to the high school I graduated from. That’s a beautiful full circle to me!
As if June wasn’t wonderful enough, I was surprised with a work trip to Copenhagen, Denmark with Visit Copenhagen, their tourism board. The flight was a quick one compared to a few I have been on at a small 8 hours and I slept through pretty much all of it without the few breaks here and there to catch a free movie. Copenhagen was so damn beautiful! I have to thank my new friend Kenneth Nguyen for showing us around while we were there. He truly helped us get more comfortable with the drone flying and provided great friendship along the way. I’d have to say a few of my favorite things we did was go to the Tivoli Gardens Amusement Park, sail a boat on the canal, buy weed in Christiana, explore the rooftop of the Opera House, and eat amazing vegetarian food at spots like Kalasat, Musling, and Sidecar. I’d like to believe I pretty much conquered Copenhagen the best way I could, but there’s always a next time.
Thanks to AirBNB for sponsoring a sailboat ride around Chicago’s lakeshore to end my June off right. I have never watched the summer fireworks from the lake, so it was definitely a treat. Through their AirBNB Experience section, you can find a bunch of classes and fun things to do from local hosts. You maaaaaay see one from me in the future…
In any case, thank you for always being so supportive and interested in what I do. Please enjoy my 10th Swopes Note made just for you below. Expect some really wonderful things to come soon when it comes to IGTV for me! And as always, keep your imagination alive.
I'm currently in the process of producing an online class for you guys, so that means my tutorials will be on pause for quite some time, but don't worry - it'll be worth the wait!
Elizabeth De La Piedra
As you may have noticed so far when it comes to my Artist Features that I admire beautiful women who make a name for themselves with their natural passions and glow. Elizabeth De La Piedra is no different. I met her through my friend Jetzi, though I swear it feels like I have known of her for so many years. She’s the type to make you remember her, but for good reason. Elizabeth was born in Peru but moved to Sydney, Australia when she was just two years old and grew up there. She eventually moved to Chicago eight years ago and is now a married mum of two. She’s a photographer and creative director, and her hobby includes thrifting. Her style is out of this world, her body is crazy, and her soul is a radiating forcefield of kindness and gratitude, and I could not be more excited to give you a tiny glimpse into the goddess that is Elizabeth De La Piedra.
What are five words that best describe you?
Assertive, loyal, old soul, fun,
What’s it like being a woman in the world?
I feel blessed to have had my experiences in the world and find great strength in my womanhood. it is intrinsically linked to my intuition and empathy, so I am grateful for that.
What’s your dream project?
I love narrative projects that center around the human experience. I would like to tie this more into a historical context and do more work with indigenous communities including my own in Peru.
Best advice you’ve learned in life?
Be patient and kind.
Visit her Instagram, Twitter and Website.
health is wealth
You’ve managed to score a new opportunity, but you feel like you tricked your way to the job and aren’t deserving of it, or maybe you’re a guest speaker at an event, but you don’t think your story is worthy of a packed room. You, my friend, have Imposter Syndrome. Something that I too struggle with from time to time.
The term Imposter Syndrome was coined in the 70’s and is defined as “a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success”. The thing is, perfectionism and Imposter Syndrome are almost one in the same. Most high achievers struggle with it. Most normal people struggle with it. It’s a real thing that affects real people on a regular basis and can be a serious detriment to someone’s goals and dreams if not approached correctly, but lucky for you, you’re here with me and I have some tips to share on how you can get through those future questionable times.
One of the most important things through all of this is to be honest with yourself about it and to separate yourself from what your mind is feeding you. Start by acknowledging that you have the feeling of in adequacy or that dull feeling of being out of place. The first step to accomplishing anything is admitting you need to work on it and honestly, it’s the most important choice next to actually taking the physical or mental steps.
Your brain is a muscle and it’s wired to grow and change forever. So, it’s funny to me when people say, “I am” this or that. When in reality, we are ever changing. That leads me to my second tip. It’s important to know that you can change the way you interpret your own thoughts and the way you handle them. A lot of people assume that because they think something, it’s what they should say or believe because why would the mind tell them something they don’t need to hear? Well, it does. It does it all the time. In fact, the mind is made is problem solve and the minute we give it something to do, it’s going to hone in on that specific thing and find all the problems with it and most of the time, if we aren’t careful, it will tell us all the wrong information. Changing the way we assess our own thoughts can dramatically help us with feeling inadequate or trying to be perfect. After all, no one is perfect and we all continuously growing.
Now, while I love listening to HUMBLE. by Kendrick Lamar, I can’t help but wonder if sometimes we can be too humble and that it goes to show by our thinking habits. Sometimes it’s important to sit back for a second and take note of our achievements, and while we know nobody is perfect, I believe we are perfect at one thing in our lifetime and if we take note of the little things it takes to get there, we would see that personal development is key, but also you’re pretty amazing and can conquer anything life tosses you.
Last but not least, the key thing to remember through anything is that you are not alone. You are not the only person who has struggled with Imposter Syndrome. You are not the only soul in this world who wants to be perfect and be the best person you can be. I promise through understanding this wholeheartedly, you can move forward without a victim mentality. The world isn’t against you, it was made for you and you deserve all the things you dream of. It just takes a bit getting used to the idea! But once you do, there will be no stopping you.
Hi everyone! Happy June!!! It’s truly feeling like Spring now in Chicago and I’m loving it. It’s such an exciting time when all the rooftops are opening up and all the pools are getting filled. I’ve already spent a good amount of time sipping cider beers, BBQing and swimming, so you know my tan is poppin’. I hope wherever you are in the world that you enjoyed your May, but it’s a wonderful beginning to a super fun new month because I have a Swopes Note for you. Hellooooo!
I’m currently working on a super top-secret mission. No, not really but it definitely feels like it when you sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement). Which means I can't say a thing about what I'm doing. All I CAN say is that it’s a very exciting time for mobile editing and creating. I truly believe that it’s going to get more advanced as time goes on and we’ll all be able to create masterpieces with our phones as I already do and soon enough you’ll be able to get lessons from me in person. I can’t wait to share those details, but please keep your eye out for updates.
My bucket list carries an array of things, from jumping out of a plane (which I have done, check!), traveling to every country (nope), eating the best mac and cheese from every US city (close, or so it feels like it), or being on TV. Blessed with an email from one of The Windy City Live’s producers on ABC7, I was invited to be a guest for my first television experience. It was so much fun! Everyone there were so kind and generous. Before I left, the hosts Val and Ryan mentioned that I should get into TV because of my natural ease with it. We’ll definitely see… Catch the whole interview here.
It was a wonderful time to connect with Lily Mercer - magazine editor and owner, music journalist, radio host and DJ (phew!) hailing from London, thanks to my friend Evie. She’s interviewed pretty much anyone who has ever been a legend in Hip Hop from Nas and Mary J Blige to ASAP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar. I brought her and her crew to one of my favorite vegetarian spots called Handlebar and they loved it! Except maybe the fried pickles. Lol! Those are my favorite! We even got a deep-dish pizza later in the week. They were such a friendly and fun bunch, and we eventually agreed to do an interview. I’m hyped for that to release.
In between our hangs, she did an interview with G Herbo, a rapper from Chicago and I got to tag along. It was an honor meeting him at this point in his life. The insight he shared about life in Chicago and the violence associated with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome) and seeing someone die in front of him when he was a kid was extremely eye opening. PTSD is rampant in poorer neighborhoods and it’s going to be a cyclical situation until the world wakes up to the societal structure set up for failure for those who don’t have a leg up. It’s real out here.
The Shedd Aquarium based here in Chicago invited me to a private opening for their new Underwater Beauty exhibit. I always have such a good time at their events because who can complain about fancy snacks and wine while walking through beautiful habitats containing some of the most gorgeous sea creatures this planet has ever known. If you’re from Chicago and have yet to experience the wild life at the Shedd, or maybe you’re planning on visiting, I’d suggest visiting. Matter of fact, I’d suggest checking out all the Museums. We have some of the best in the world.
Thanks to Lorena Cupcake for always sharing very interesting and unique events around Chicago, I was able to find out about Herbal Notes. Herbal Notes is, as they put it, a departure “from the stoner culture surrounding cannabis.” Hosted and created by Manny Mendoza, a professional chef hailing from Chicago who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in New York but currently lives in San Diego, Herbal Notes is truly one of a kind. Manny infuses most of his dishes with CBD oils or cannabis extract, depending on the location. The dinner was absolutely delicious, and they even had dab pairings. I was lit but definitely educated and excited about the movement he’s making so people understand the true importance and need for CBD and legal cannabis.
Well it seems we are out of imaginary count down time, you guys! LOL Thank you as always for spending some time with me again. It’s really amazing that it’s already been 9 months that I have been creating Swopes Note! I appreciate your continued support and I’m excited to share what I have planned for this month with you in the next Swopes Note.
Be sure to always keep your imagination alive. Until next time!
My artist feature for this month is someone who continues to allude me, not with just her talent but I had no idea that she is a mother of two (a MILF at that!) and that she's from the Southside of Chicago. What I knew quite initially, though, is that she's a badass woman. Her art is sexy, unique and endearing, yet sinister and forbidden. Real name Isamar Medina, but better known as Kawaii Suga, her hobbies include bike riding, going to cafe's and reading comic books. Her name, Kawaii, meaning cute in Japanese, truly lives up to her personality. I'm super excited to share her work with you! Enjoy.
What are five words that best describe you?
Five words that best describe me would be curious, artistic, empathetic, innovative & assertive
What’s it like being a woman in the world?
Being a woman in this world is truly a blessing. Despite thing's being unfair at times, I'm happy to see people are opening their eyes and realizing we are deserving of all the opportunities we get. We work as hard as anybody else, Even twice as hard to gain that respect. We are smart, graceful & talented. We have the ability to show the world a different perspective and paint a image of our realities in hopes of opening the eyes of those around us. Throughout history, the greatest muse art has ever known was woman... I think people have to respect that. As a Latina woman, making a living off art can be intimidating.. But it's those feeling's that keep you going.
What’s your dream project?
So far I have 3 of my dream project's off my list! It's such a good feeling. They have to come naturally; I never want to do anything that isn't genuine to me. However I would love to do more curating in the future, travel and paint murals & just let my art tell my story. I know I will accomplish all of this & I cant wait.
Best advice you’ve learned in life?
Best advice I learned in life is to stop doubting myself & just take a chance with things. I am a very self conscious person & often have a hard time voicing out my thoughts. I know I have some dope ideas because they come from my heart. I do things with good intention and people see that. It took me a while to believe in myself and truly be comfortable with who I am. Once you gain that, nobody can take it away from you.
Visit her Instagram, Twitter and Website.
Health is wealth
Taylor, a female contestant on The Bachelor, told Corinne, a goofy girl inept to regularity, that she had no “emotional intelligence,” and the world questioned what emotional intelligence is. Was it real? Did she make it up? Could someone be emotionally smart? To most it seemed to boggle their minds, but it wasn’t until recently where I truly understood what she meant. Although, people who have true emotional intelligence don’t tell others they lack it in such a negative approach. Jokes on her! But thankfully, you won’t need to worry next time tries to tell you that you lack emotional intelligence because you’ll know how to rebuttal.
Emotional intelligence is described as, “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” Seems simple and straightforward enough, though the actual process itself can be a challenge to many. I took it upon myself to take a test that was given for free through the current book I am reading titled “Emotional Intelligence 2.0,” that would provide me with feedback of what my EQ score is. I suggest you take this free quiz I found online to find yours before you dive in.
There are few different levels to emotional intelligence and that includes personal competence and social competence. Between those two are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management. And between those are a plethora of specific skill sets that will build up your initial EQ score. Basically, a list of things you need to work on to be emotionally stable in your personal life, as well as your work life.
All in all, it’s somewhat overwhelming to tackle all at once so taking each strategy one week or month at a time really benefits your life. Good luck!
Happy May everybody!!! I find absolutely no coincidence that I am currently listening to *NSYNC as I type this because of course, “It’s Gonna Be May.” Yes, it’s already May and maybe you don’t get the JT reference, but that’s okay because I have a special gift for you anyway. It’s a Swopes Note. Hi!
April was honestly calm, cool and collected. I got some bad news about a big project that was in the works and sometimes that happens! It’s best to not expect too much until there’s papers signed anyway. It would’ve been a fun one, though. Hahaaaa! It’s safe to say that Pharrell knows who I am, which is better than nothing.
Montréal is a very charming place and they have some very delectable vegetarian food. I would know because I visited for a few days while my beau shot the lookbook for the Raised By Wolves x Timberland release. It seems my lack of appreciating geography came to bite me in the ass, so to speak, because I figured Montréal was woody and mountainous, much like the alps in Switzerland. It’s much more of a city of metal and cement with a side of vintage humble homes. I enjoyed the surprise.
I came into the mini-vacation with the mindset of not capturing photos. Tired of the pressure of sharing my experience, I made it a point to not worry about taking snaps or pictures but to live in the moment and take it all in. Kind of like a creative-mental-break. I snapped a few shots out of habit but kept it moving for the most part.
I explored the Notre-Dame Basilica and St. Patrick's Basilica, two of Montréal’s oldest churches covered in stained glass fixtures and elaborate handmade wooden figures. The best part of the mini-vacation was visiting Bota Bota, spa-sur-l'eau, an old river ferry on the water overlooking Habitat 67 that was renovated to be a glamorous "floating spa." For 15 minutes I sat in a sauna, steam room, or hot tub then right after dunking my entire body into ice cold water. After doing that over and over again for a few hours, I received the best massage I have ever had in my life, then finished off the day with a delicious soup and red wine pairing. Creative-mental-break, indeed.
Pablo Picasso is one of those names you associate with art all of your life. So, when I was approached to partner with the National Geographic Channel to create some content inspired by their show Genius, I was excited to see what we could pull off creatively. The inspiration was strong! Genius was just hitting its second season, it was Emmy-nominated, based on the life of Pablo (hehehe) and the #FramingGenius concept was, well, genius. It was a lot of fun to shoot but I have to admit the frame was extremely heavy! It proved for a fun adventure.
I’m a hip-hop dancer now. No, not really, but life has been throwing me talented-friendship bones. Thanks to my friend Tanya and Beyoncé’s Coachella performance, ah-hem, Beychella, I dusted off my dancing shoes. I was on the dance squad in middle school but lost my love for it by the time Myspace era came about, not much of a correlation, but it has honorable mention. Please laugh at me, and with me. I’m also a soccer player, too, now. It’s been a year that I have been playing co-ed soccer at a preschool child rate but when I say I’m one step closer to scoring a goal, I am not lying. I like to call myself the preschool Messi.
In 2016, I partnered with Off The Street Club and Facebook for a photography workshop for amazingly brilliant and incredible kids. Off The Street Club is Chicago’s oldest boys and girls club, they presently aid more than 3,000 kids with their dreams in one of the most unsafe neighborhoods in the country, West Garfield Park. This year Facebook, the team, and I decided to make it a longer class with each session being unique and accommodating to the kids passions. Facebook provided new cameras and photo printers. Everyone had the best time being encouraged, motivated, and inspired and I even noticed a few of them were naturals with the camera. I can’t wait until the next session. Donate to Off The Street Club if you can. You’d be giving back hope to those that deserve it!
Well, we’ve hit a boiling point of me talking about myself and you all know I am more interested in what I can do for you to inspire you to do what you love than speak for too long, but just know the work never stops and the imagination never sleeps. I’ve got good things cooking.
As always, keep your imagination alive.
I don't remember the first time I met Kali. She's one of those people you feel like you've known your whole life, she's someone who makes you feel warm just by their presence alone and for that she is someone I value as a friend and sister. Born in Houston, Texas but represents the South East Side of Chicago where she's been living since 1996, Kali specializes in natural hair and loc maintenance and styling. Blessed to be able to do what she loves she's never compromised who she is for anybody, which is a sexy, powerful, beautiful, black woman, and that shines through everything she does. Whether it be hairstyling, modeling, traveling, learning new things and acting, I envision it's only up from here for the artist known as Auset.
What are five words that best describe you?
I am loyal, frank, diligent, intuitive, and reliable
What’s it like being a woman in the world?
Being a woman in the world is the greatest blessing and privilege. As I come into my womanhood more each day, my appreciation for the divine feminine grows! It’s so easy to fall victim to societal ideals of what a woman should look and act like and I’ve had to unlearn so many things in order to progress...I’m still progressing. I’ll always progress. As I’m trying I’m finding great comfort in seeking guidance from my beloved ancestors, taking care of my womb, and operating in love.
What’s your dream project?
My dream project would be to buy the CVS public high school building on the south side and revamp it into a privately owned vocational/arts school. Today, most of the building isn’t being used. Back in the day when the building was operating at its fullest potential, it produced so many graduates who went on to work their trade (and are still working) and even open up their own businesses. Schools like CVS receiving proper funding and resources are dangerous to the status quo so that’s why I’m interested. Ultimately, I want to help black kids create jobs for themselves!
Best Advice you’ve learned in life?
Hands down the best advice I've ever gotten came from my paternal grandmother about 2 years ago. “When you are no longer being served TURN THE PAGE.” This advice has literally saved my life.
health is wealth
Well it's safe to say I'm late to the game of enlightenment. I'd like to think it's better late than never but I also know all things happen for a reason, or so they say. I've stumbled upon The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, a book about spiritual enlightenment in the simplest form. I had no idea what I was missing with those read. It's really changed the way I view the world and myself, most importantly. It's so interesting that we all could be living in the same body our whole life but be in tune with it so differently until someone wakes you up. I feel like I have almost been sleep walking most of my life until now, but I won't go that far.
This book is made for people who are living in their past, who can't get out of their own head, who are waiting for something amazing to happen to them, who aren't grateful for the simple things or who live in constant fear and anxiety about the future. If you're someone who just isn't into meditation or furthering yourself spiritually (that doesn't mean religion!!!) then it's probably not for you, but I'd wholeheartedly suggest it anyway.
The Power of Now focuses on one thing and one thing only and that's how to stay present. In each chapter you'll find some things to focus on to get past life's societal hurdles:
My favorite thing about the book is that it's structured in a way where it seems like a question and answer session. Not all the questions might be your own but most of them tend to ring true for me while I am reading. There's also these little symbols that are placed specifically for you to take a moment to really think about what you just read.
I'm not finished reading the book yet, but I know that I will never be finished with it. It feels like a lifelong reminder to be present and to let go of the past in a way where it helps the now. I realized that a lot of my life has been wasted on reliving old moments that served no purpose to my present unless I took it was a valuable lesson and didn't hold the experience in a negative light. I now see the power of now and it's fairly bright.
Well, well, well! It is Spring here in Chicago officially, but it does not feel like it! I will tell you that much. We are one step closer to it than not, so I think that’s something to celebrate! Yes? And I have something to gift you just for the occasion… A Swopes Note. Hey!
As I always do, I hope your last month has been amazing! It’s been quite busy on this side, but I’d never not spend a day or two finishing up this newsletter to send it to you wonderful people. I ended February with going to a Chicago Bulls fundraiser at SPiN Chicago that benefits all Chicago Bulls Charities. It was very dope seeing legends like Scottie Pippen and Horace Grant and young stars like Lauri Markkanen and Justin Holiday play in competition against donators in Ping Pong! Definitely an experience!
When I was reminded by a Time Hop that I tried out for America’s Next Top Model exactly nine years ago, I remembered thinking it was finally my time because it was the season where they let girls under 5’8” compete for the crown. I obviously didn’t make it far past the ten hours of being interviewed to be on the show, but I wonder if the me from nine years ago would be impressed with the modeling I did for Trashhand with Adidas? I’d like to think so.
Sheila Rashid blessed me with a custom dress collaboration. It was awesome to go to her studio to see where she makes all her pieces, one of them being the very well-known overalls Chance the Rapper wore for the MTV VMA’s and more recently Bella Hadid was spotted in her denim jacket and pant from head to toe. I’ve known Sheila for so many years now, so it’s amazing that we finally connected to get creative. I’m beyond happy with the outcome!
One of the best things about Chicago is the food! There’s unlimited number of things to eat for every single taste bud. Unfortunately, I don’t get to indulge in the steak realm anymore because of my almost ten-month meat free life, but if you were to indulge in the finer vegetable things I’d suggest True Foods, Handlebar, Bad Hunter, and Beatrix. All of which I’ve visited multiple times in the last month. Thank me later!
Soccer is a new love of mine. I had never played it growing up but within the last year I’ve been playing on a co-ed league, it’s been such a blast. Every now and then I’ll run into someone who knows me from my work, which is always funny, but this time around I was blessed to play against the Jason M. Peterson. Haha! My team lost but I was definitely close to scoring twice, which is huge to me! I felt the power.
Currently legally named 875 North Michigan Ave because of an ongoing name debacle, the John Hancock Center invited me to a viewing of their 50-year-old time capsule! It was raised to the 100th story of the building on May 6, 1968 – the exact day the steelwork it was completed. Inside the time capsule was a letter from the Chicago Mayor at the time, Richard J. Daley, a triangular section of iron from the Eiffel Tower, a letter from John Hancock himself, a baseball signed by the 1968 Chicago Cubs and White Sox, a roll of film, and a few other random objects totaling a collection of twenty. It was definitely interesting to see what they found was important at the time. I wonder what they’ll put in the new one!
During a Verizon happy hour event, I met a super funny girl named Shaily who mentioned she knows how to do magic! She happily invited me to an event her friends throw where people do magic in front of you, I genuinely mimicked her welcoming aura with excitement to learn about the Chicago magic scene. Fast forward to the night of enchantment – I walk up to a laundromat. I kid you not, it’s the most confused I had been in a while. There was a phone that read “Dial 555,” I followed command and one of the washing machines opened as a secret door to the inside of a giant ceilinged bar with a magician setting up cards and a library covered wall. I was led inside after a few steps of checking in by the pull of a book from the wall that led to a second door to open. That alone stunned me, and I was already entirely happy to be at the Chicago Magic Lounge. The magic was mind-blowing, all of the staff were so welcoming and kind, and the snacks and drinks were super incredible. It’s a must visit!
Twitter has quickly become one of my favorite social networks. Not only because of its ground-breaking news, entertainment and commentary but because of its support for creatives. Twitter launched Niche, a creator-first platform that allows creatives to connect with brands and grow professionally as an artist. I’ve done a few projects with them and have always had a wonderful experience. This month they threw an awesome party celebrating creators in Chicago. They blew up two of my photos – that turned out quite nice I might add, specifically because I make them all on my iPhone, so I am always curious how far we can push them print-wise. But it was dope and very much a success.
Nike tends to go all out when it comes to Air Max Day, hell, any event they throw, and this experience was no different. At the top of the Sears Tower (yes, I still call it Sears Tower even after the name change) Nike gathered some of the best creators on invite only to showcase everything Air Max with special dry ice drinks, sick giveaways, great music and good hangs. They even allowed us to go up a few floors to the Skydeck, a clear, glass ledge 1,353 feet above the ground. Indeed, one for the books.
As if this month couldn’t have been any more exciting, I was invited to my first Apple Keynote at Lane Tech College Prep in Chicago. Initially contacted about the youth programming ideas I have about Apple and Adobe products, they knew I was a good invite to experience and learn about their education initiatives. Sitting behind Al Gore, I watched Tim Cook on stage explain Apple’s new iPad, introduce inspiring teachers from all over the world including local, and open our minds to the future of augmented reality, coding and so much more in education. It’s such a good feeling to have hope in the future of education in Chicago – I have such good ideas and big dreams for change. I know we all do and it’s really quite amazing that Apple wants to do what they can to make those dreams come alive.
It’s been real, you guys! Thank you for reading about my little ol’ life. As always, be sure to keep your imagination alive.
It's official! I've been doing this newsletter for more than a half a year, and I have you wonderful people to thank for that! Thanks for always asking me questions and letting me know you're interested in learning more about what I do. This tutorial revolves around an edit I created recently, it's fairly simple so I hope that allows you to try some things out yourself! Please let me know what you think in the comments and by sharing #SwopesNote on Twitter. Be on the look out for my next print giveaway starting April 1st!
I will be giving away free app codes to Circular, LensLight and Reflect to the first 10 people who comment on this blog! Please leave your Instagram @ for contact. * contest old.
Jada, Jada, Jada. Where do I begin? Most of my features start with a story, but with Jada it's much deeper. You see, when I met Jada she was modeling for a shoot I had for Finish Line in company with Nike. I reached out to her because all of my photo friends suggested she model for my shoot. She had just come to my apartment from a redeye flight from Los Angeles and my first initial thought was, "my goodness, your skin is perfect." She was glowing. How could someone so sleepy glow so heavenly? As I got to know Jada throughout the day I realized that she had the most calming energy, ever. A true angel on Earth. Not only was she super beautiful but a strong-willed character to match. I realized I had only hit the surface layer when finally, I got to know Jada more within the coming year - A stylish, smart and sophisticated woman, someone who will give you the shirt off her back in a millisecond if you needed, someone who isn’t afraid to speak her mind for what’s right, someone who authentically gives loves without looking for it back. Like I said, a true Angel on Earth. It’s rare to find genuine people these days, luckily, I found Jada. Follow Jada on Instagram.
What are five words that best describe you?
What’s it like being a woman in the art world?
Being a woman in the art world, specifically in what I mainly do (modeling), can be tiring at times. people assume I’m intellectually challenged because I’m a woman and ditzy because I’m a model. people don’t expect you to have opinions, and don’t like when you do. there’s constant objectification from male collaborators when it’s supposed to be “work related”. in my experience, I’ve just been taken way less seriously. even if I’m the most talented one in the room.
What’s your dream project?
My dream project would be an i-D cover with my friends on the team. I’ve worked with and grown over the years with the same few people because I truly believe and admire their abilities. what would be better than my dream cover with a touch of their talent?
Best Advice you’ve learned in life?
Best advice I’ve ever gotten was to “capitalize on your strengths”. when I was fresh out of high school with the world as my oyster, I had no idea which direction was the “right” one. but someone gave me that advice, and I never looked back. it was a brand-new philosophy for me. an entirely different perspective. the idea of learning how to capitalize on what you’re already good at vs just pursuing something you’re interested in. it’s always great to learn new crafts but learning to make bank from a skill you inherently possess can be arguably more rewarding. it was the advice that lead me to start my own business and become my own boss. it’s a concept that anyone who is pursuing anything at all should explore.
health is wealth
I’m sure we could agree that there is a lot going on in the world right now and every single person thinks they know the secret recipe to solve it one way or another. Do you ignore it, or do you fight it? You see, for myself, I choose the ignore method. I’ve blocked politicians I don’t want to read tweets from, I mute friends who might annoy me from time to time, and I tend to judge people who don’t know right from wrong. I, too, am a judgmental person believe it or not beside the fact that I am positive and loving to most who deserve, and also very rarely, don’t deserve it.
It’s become apparent that no matter how many times I choose to see the bright side I will still inevitably become judgmental towards something or someone. While reading Judgement Detox by Gabrielle Bernstein, she explains a six-step method in which we can all come more correct with the judgement we will always have. It isn’t about getting rid of judgement but figuring out what you will do with it when you have it. Here are a few of my favorite steps she lists:
The first step is to be able to differentiate judgement and discernment. Discernment is the ability to judge well, but without any bias, merely based on fact. Judgement on the other hand is the ability to make a decision based on attacking someone by separating yourself from them. Another step is to be honest with why you are feeling the way you are feeling. This is a good trait to have in life in general. Being honest with yourself about your flaws opens you up for healing and allows you to be more rooted in truth during your day to day. Identifying the triggers that develop into judgment will save you a lot of time wasted on negativity.
The simple effect of listening when others are in the midst of gossip and judgement is another step. Be aware of why the conversation is necessary and think about the outcome of what you may say. It’s okay to talk about people every now and then but make sure your aware of the reason you are saying it and be very honest with yourself about it.
One of my most favorite of the bunch would be to see the opportunities from the tough parts in life as our chance to heal, grow and learn to be better. It allows us to be more understanding of others and their mistakes. Then finally, having a support system of people who are behind you in your journey of positivity and judgement free mentality. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t think people should go around being fake – I think a lot of people mistake my positivity for fake, when in reality it’s everything but that. I’m more in tune with my flaws, faults and lessons than ever, and that in itself is beyond freeing. I hope you have been on the same road and if not, choose to join me on a new one of a "judgement free" life.
Happy March!! We're officially in the third month of 2018 already. This is absolutely wild! But I am unbelievably excited because it's the first of the month and you know what that means... Hi.
Okay, so, I got a new tattoo. And... It's kind of big? It's on my upper leg and it's a super, super cute. It's based on my three cats, my love for the universe and crystals. It hurt so bad but my tattoo artist Michelle Wanhala killed it and it came out purrrfect.
A few days into my tattoo healing I was set to jet off to New York City with Adobe for their Start with Stock program. With my tattoo wrapped in plastic saran wrap and cozy sweats, I packed my luggage and grabbed a cab to the airport, meanwhile it's snowing crazy style. My flight gets pushed back but, of course, like any proper travel etiquette, we are already on the plane and wait two hours on the tarmac to lift off. I channel my inner cozy, pop my Airpods in, press play on my rain noise and meditation concoction in my Relax Melodies app and before I know it I've landed in The Big Apple. It was raining cats and dogs, so they say, but not enough for me to pass up on oysters and Prosecco at Mermaid Oyster Bar with my wonderful friend Krystal. Oysters were perfect, by the way. I ended the night with watching a win from the Eagles. Not bad, Not bad.
If you've missed my previous posts explaining what the Start with Stock program with Adobe is, it's about a year long partnership I have with Adobe Stock where each month I have a theme, or a task to complete creatively that involves anything Adobe Stock. They invited 13 very talented artists from all over the world to New York who do a range of different mediums to meet each other and get inspired by the Adobe Stock department at their offices. They had a film crew shooting everything we did, I imagine it will come out soon and I'll definitely share it when it's released. We'll all be meeting up again at Adobe MAX in LA in October, too.
I've been using stocks all of my life from when I was a little kid, so this type of project for me is a perfect fit from but meeting all the people who put the program together and knowing how supportive they are in allowing us to be our best creative selves makes it that much better. My favorite thing about our trip was when we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but not your average everyday experience, we went to an EMPTY MET. It was so beautiful on every level. I wish I could've spent a week in there. Immediately after, we went to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. We had a tour guide who at the end of the tour left a much bigger impression on me than the actual art. It was seriously awesome. My new friend Aundre also shot some sick pics of me.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Kevin Coval and Tara Mahadevan of The Cornerstone Podcast at the WGN Studio in the Tribune Tower. We had amazing conversations about mental health, advice for artists and pretty much everything else under the sun. You can listen here. I've actually had a few interviews drop this month. I also sat down with Ear2GroundTV for a short feature that will help tremendously if your attention span is like mine. A few months back I visited New York with Adobe Creative Cloud to shoot their latest #MakeItCC Episode. Enjoy!
The funny thing I run into with these newsletters each month is that there's always something in the works that I can't quite tell you about yet. This month is no different LOL! This is very different for me but it's absolutely amazing and I know you're going to be so excited. Soon though, soon!
Oh, oh, oh I almost forgot. Chrissy Teigen followed me on Instagram!!!!! I nearly died. She is seriously one of my favorite people. She's so funny, so real, so dope. Knowing someone like her enjoys my art just makes my heart so full. Real recognize real, so they say. ;)
Until then my amazingly wonderful peoples, be sure to keep your imagination alive.
Happy March wonderful people! We're back in action this time showing you how I made my latest Adobe project. I also end the tutorial with a Q&A from some people who asked me questions on Instagram and Twitter. Thank you so much for all the continuous love! I am so happy you all are loving these. Please leave me a comment with any questions or concerns. As always, keep your imagination alive. Follow me on Twitter to catch my next print giveaway.
Up popped a text from my mom that read "This looks like your twin!" with an attached screenshot of a photo of my friend Hailey. That wouldn't be the first time someone's said we looked alike, whether it was our waiter or a passerby, it was inevitable that we were long lost sisters. Luckily for more reasons than our common cell arrangement- she's a total badass.
In our short friendship not only have I learned that Hailey is a phenomenal artist, but she hosts candle making classes and plays soccer unbelievably well, among a plethora of other beautiful character traits. I'm looking forward to seeing what Hailey conquers this year. Check out more of Hailey's work here.
What are five words that best describe you?
*Just going with the flow*
What’s it like being a woman in the art world?
Being a woman in any field of work is always interesting. You have to quickly learn how to demand respect from both men and women. But I think being a woman also has its advantages. Since most of my subjects are also women, I think my work feels more personal.
What’s your dream project?
Small scale dream, I would really love to create a mural somewhere in the city. I’ve never done one so that’d be a big accomplishment for me.
Best advice you’ve learned in life?
Be open to criticism but always follow your instincts. Nobody else sees your ideas the way you do in your head. If I never experimented on my own thoughts, I would have never found my own style.
health is wealth
I'm sure you've heard of the concept of working smart, not hard. I believe it coincides with the Law of Least Effort, something I've come upon thanks to a friend on Twitter. The Law of Least Effort contains three important components in making your life a lot less difficult and I'm absolutely a fan.
The first component is acceptance. It's as simple as it sounds, you make a commitment to accept the way things are without struggling against them. When we push back against the culmination of thousands of moments that lead to this one moment, it makes life that much more difficult. The decision to purposely struggle when you could easily accept the moment is when you reach true acceptance, but this isn't to be confused with not hoping for better in the future. The difference is acceptance in the current moment- in the now.
The second component is responsibility. Responsibility starts when you realize that no one is in charge of you but you. When you feel an emotion, whether it's anger or frustration, you have to remember that it's you who is reacting to your own feelings. You have to accept responsibility for your life. It mentions that responsibility means you have the ability to respond to something the best way you can at that very moment. Confront each moment from a perspective of a student. Every experience we have has a valuable takeaway.
The third component is defenselessness. You come to the point where you don't waste energy convincing others of your point of view. Apparently people spend 90% of their time defending their beliefs to people who will never change. So basically, being defensive, not taking responsibility by blaming others, and not allowing the world to work the way it needs to will make your life miserable. The Law of Least Effort allows you to sit back and relax while truly becoming a happier person.
Oh my, how did we get here already? It's February? Well, at least we're a few steps closer to warmer weather!!! Wooo!
2018 has been really amazing to me already. I hope the same for you as I always do! I enjoyed my new years. It was pretty mild! I'm just not into going out like I used to. I had a craving for Hibachi/Teppanyaki with that delicious egg sauce and there was a brand new Benihana that opened up in the Hancock Tower. If you've never had Hibachi it's when a chef comes out and cooks Japanese food in front of you. I didn't find out they didn't carry the egg sauce until the chef came by to start our order on the hot plate. Shoot!! I ordered a few more champagnes and enjoyed my grilled veggies, shrimp and white rice like a true basic. After I went to one of my favorite restaurants called Bavette's. If you ever get the chance, you must absolutely get a reservation, spend a good amount of money on a great meal and end it with the Chocolate Pie. Thank me later.
I don't know about you but I'm a crypto fiend. Yes, I have invested in Bitcoin. Yes, I have altcoins. Yes, I am just as annoying as the last person who told you they were, too! But I just don't care. I'm hooked. I'd suggest learning about how to invest and do it smart. It can be very lucrative as I have seen with a few of my friends with my own eyes. Cryptocurrency is here to stay. I found myself being attached to my phone this month watching all my investments shrivel into a measly nothing but as they say on the internets, "HODL." In other words- hold.
I've been skiing before. It was in 2014 and it was my first time. It was painful but for some reason I felt that snowboarding would be easier, so this time around I chose the good old snowboard to try for the first time in Vail, Colorado. We started off too quickly, I think. Headed up the mountain on a gondola I knew that I was sealing my fate but I kept being egged on to continue - I had to learn. I should've started on the bunny slope, looking back. After the second accidental front flip that knocked the wind out of me, I stayed lying on the ground wondering if this is learning? or just pure hell. To be quite honest, feeling like death and all, I had so much fun and I can't wait to go back. The second day I figured out it was best to do a bunch of back and forths on the bunny slope and I quickly found my footing. I'm ready for round two. Oh and the smoke shops weren't so bad either.
I'm a big fan of commissioning up and coming artists. It's so confusing to me when someone is so talented but they sell themselves so short. If I could do anything to support and show them they're art is worthy of praise monetarily, I'd gladly do. The first commission this month was by @mjanetmars based on an image that my friend Dennis shot. The second is by @acornfriend.
I had the chance to take over the Chicago Bulls Instagram this month, as well. Such an honor to be involved with the 6 time championship team that is THE BULLS. One of the most iconic teams in the world. I was contacted by my great friend Chuck, @nopattern, to shoot the Bulls versus Lakers. It was so much fun! But extremely tiring. I was asked if I was bringing an editor, i thought that was a funny question but looking back now with the way you have to quickly turnover live images - you need one. I'd even consider myself one of the best mobile editors but even this had me stumped. It would take me another game or two to get the hang of it, but it was such an amazing experience. Oh yeah and my mom was at the game, too! Ha!
I always love to give back any way I can. When people ask about my goals, and aspirations, I can't help but immediately think, "To Inspire." I mean it. Even through my failures, my imperfections, my immediate regrets - I hope to inspire. This month I packed lunches for the homeless through Hashtag Lunchbag. I had a good rhythm going while making sandwiches and think I packed about well over 100. As a collective, Hashtag Lunchbag packs over 1,000 lunches each event then hands them out afterwards at churches, or safe spaces. I plan on doing much more community service this year, it always feels good for the soul.
DJ Swopes has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? I think so. So much so that I even might start DJing way more after the amazing set that I had at AuxCordDJ's. My awesome friend Emma, aka StitchGawd, contacted me about DJing because she wanted a super girl group to join her, including the out of this world talented Jas Petersen. I said yes immediately even though I felt reluctant because I had never DJ'd anything in my life, let alone get passed the AUX. As a connoisseur of putting myself in uncomfortable situations for self prosperity, it just seemed right. I had my friend Evie teach me her skills and it was all up hill from there. Check out a 15 second clip of my set here. You'll definitely catch me spinning more soon!
That's all folks! Thanks for reading and please have an amazing rest of your February. Keep your imagination alive!
I am so hyped we made it to #SwopesNote 5! I was so happy the way the last vlog went. I hope you all liked it as much as I loved making it. This time around I am going back to showing you a little behind the scene of my editing style. Towards the end of the video I do a Q&A from a few tweets I got from people, so be sure to watch or simple skip towards the end if you're interested. Again, thank you so much for tuning in and I hope you learn a thing or two. Feel free to send me a comment. Be on the lookout for the next Twitter giveaway, too!
Krystal, a New York based Graphic Designer, whom I had e-met randomly in a Twitter chat, quickly became one of my best friends. We would talk almost every single day for more than a year before actually meeting face to face while I was on a visit to New York. It was funny actually, I had a small stop in New York for a few hours before heading out to Iceland, but I made my friends I was traveling with grab a bite to eat at the Meatball Shop in the Lower East Side with me. I managed to get Krystal to meet us, too! When she came into the restaurant we jumped and screamed and hugged each other. My friend goes, "You guys childhood friends?" We both burst out laughing. "Nah," We go, "Just met."
Krystal is one of those people who makes you want to be real and honest with life. Someone who doesn't take the bullshit life throws at you quietly. Her creations exude her personal characteristics of a sexy, fire-driven Latina. There's a lot to learn from someone so fierce and talented, which is why I consider her a sister who I can share anything with and find complete intrigue and inspiration in her art. Check out more of her work here.
What are five words that best describe you?
Creative, Emotional, Nurturing, Passionate, and Inquisitive
What’s it like being a woman in the art world?
I feel things very deeply, and I love everything about being a woman. The art world can be an odd, beautiful, and intimidating place to be. It is very polycentric and there is so much to be exposed to. The social aspect of the art world doesn't entice me as much. I've encountered artists, curators, and collectors and definitely feel there is a sense of hierarchy around it. When it really comes down to it, I’m an artist for myself and I choose to do things that will allow me to better understand who I am, therefore, I am grateful for my experience.
What’s your dream project?
My dream project is to be granted a massive space and fill it up with whatever I want without any rules.
Best advice you’ve learned in life?
To let go of the motion that failure exists. I now look forward to making mistakes because it forces us to take a closer look.
health is wealth
I'm a firm believer in what we think we become. When you practice enthusiasm and calmness every single morning and night, it can't help but be inside you naturally. Make this thinking a ritual by finding a sacred place in your home to wake up and go to, or be before bed to write. Continue to read new affirmations, and understand Dharma, meaning "the way things are." Once you accept the way the world is, you become a lot less consumed with it's negativity. Also, find a way to give back to others.
When you really start to practice self-care, a super amazing transformation takes place in your brain. The constant rewiring of our brains is called "neuroplasticity." Neuroplasticity is driven by a few things: whatever a person loves, or hates, whatever they pay attention to focuses the activity of the brain and repeatedly concentrating on the same thing causes new links to form. So basically, whatever you consume you become. The same goes for the opposite. Whatever a person tends to ignore, they will have no neuron links.
By repeatedly placing attention and remaining aware of the flow of your thoughts you can and WILL change yourself to the way you want to be. I guarantee it.
Happy New Year!!!!
Oh my goodness, how did the year fly by so fast? I have a feeling time is just going to feel quicker and quicker the older I get. Nothing like being reminded time is of the essence by realizing you have none. LOL I celebrated my birthday on December 19th - now happily 28 years old. I went to my favorite restaurant Bad Hunter and kept it pretty chill. No more parties for me! Ha. I had a wonderful time celebrating the holidays with my family, too. I didn't go too far. My immediate family are all based in the suburbs so it's just a small skip over a town or two.
I hope you all had some special bonding time with distant family, simply had a break to yourself for once or maybe the holidays aren't for you and you worked just the same and nothing changed- fuck it. 2018 is all about taking the struggles in your life and making them your friend. I think perspective is everything and we have the ultimate power in shaping our reality. If I learned anything in 2017 - I have the opportunity to chose how I internalize things and how I react.
2017 was kind of crazy when I put into perspective all the work I did. I managed to do projects with Lenovo, New Balance, NBC, Adobe, Mercedes, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes, Google, Nike, Bud Light, Finish Line, Effen Vodka, American Express, Fruit by the Foot, Moncler, Mozilla Firefox, Apple and Red Bull. As I have been sharing this list, the most asked question has been, "How?" I don't blame you for asking. I have the same question and I even have a few answers in my latest tutorial. Scroll down to the tutorial portion to hear all that and more.
January started out beautifully with a project I did with Lenovo for their new 360 tablet. It was up to to me to successfully promote this product and it took some back and forth to get to a final image - I even had to shoot my own video. A big first for me!
A few years back, I visited Budapest, Hungary for NBC's show Emerald City. It took quite some time for them to come back around after we shot for me to actually post the images I captured during my visit. It was a conflicting situation because I felt my style had shifted in a better way since then and it was definitely a first for me having to share work from so long ago. I can only imagine what a director feels when a movie comes out years later. I had a innate reaction to ask if I could re-edit the photos and they let me - which was freaking awesome.
Still in January, I went to Obama's Farewell speech in Chicago, released a collaboration hat with my friend Timmy Ham and shot the first half of a fun project with Hypebeast. Hypebeast has always been a great supporter of mine and being the fan that I always have been of them, it's been wonderful to know that they think of me for different projects that come up for them. I was asked to be the subject in a fun role reversal scenario with my new friend David as he switches his natural landscapes for my Chicago grind then I visit his home turf in Switzerland in support of the 247 New Balance shoe. It was so super lit. Closing out the first month I visited San Francisco to record 3 days straight of 2 hour live editing sessions with Adobe.
Immediately coming into February, I began working on my project with Kelloggs introducing the new Cinnamon Frosted Flakes. That was wild and definitely a dream I never knew I had until it happened. Up popped a small gig for Google promoting their favorites feature and skip on over to March with another for Nike at Nordstrom on Hypebae.
I have had some conversations with people about the concept of getting work through your DM's. I think some of my favorite gigs have been from a DM- This one included. Iceland has always been on my list of absolute must visits. I had the honor of visiting thanks to Pursuit of Portraits and Ink Law Clothing. It was fun but it was quick and it was indeed something very different for me - though not far off from my talent - awesomely different. I met a lot of really amazing people and learned a lot about time management. LOL
April going into May was extremely exciting because I got to visit Barcelona with Adobe to speak about Mobile editing and do super dope workshops for 1 hour every day for three days, and another Adobe live! I absolutely adore my relationship with Adobe. They have always been so open to everything I do creatively and putting me in a position to be out of my comfort zone in a great way that pushes me into better fields of work. It's just honestly an honor to even say that I have worked so much with them. I wrapped up a big project with Finish Line. I even designed my second Vinyl cover, started my Bud Light partnership and became a Bai Influencer.
With a hop right over to June, I had the amazing opportunity to go to the opening of the Murakami exhibit at the MCA, I even got to meet the man himself. Such a friendly and kind artist! In this month I stopped eating meat, I started up in a soccer league and started a project with the Wounded Warrior Project. The WWP was something I hadn't felt would fit into my style but I said yes because of the message. I successfully figured out a way to spread the message of support to wounded veterans, physically and mentally, by taking helicopter rides above the certain locations where they would be playing their respected sports. It was indeed a feel good moment and an eye opening process.
July was dope, I got to see Kendrick perform twice. Shouts to my g RetOne! I also went on a camping trip with my family and boyfriend. That was something I will never forget. All my life growing up we took yearly trips to go canoeing in Wisconsin and it was definitely special to bring my man along. My new friend Lorraine Loots had an amazing gallery show at the Annex featuring her tiny paintings. I was honored when she chose one of my images of the giraffe to paint. The event was so much fun! August came and went with the yearly Lollapalooza chaos, Bud Biliken Parade, meeting of Lady Gaga.
Oh. Wait! Yes, I met Lady Gaga. It was an experience. She seemed sweet enough to know for a mere few seconds, though the real experience started immediately after because someone took my purse with my camera, phone, and everything I own in it. I ended up missing the entire show with my front seat being in the first row. Security eventually found my bag with some guy, he said he thought it was his bag... Yeah, okay. Anyway, I got to watch the last song and my night was over. Meeting Lady Gaga was alright. LOL I cried though. I could hear her entire performance going on while I was stuck in the security office dramatically checking Find My iPhone.
In September quickly rolled around and I was whisked away to visit my mom's side of the family in Minnesota and Wisconsin. It's always wonderful to see them. Growing up my mom always told me not to stretch my ears out. I had gauges but this year I finally do not. She gladly exclaimed, "I told you so." As I called her to tell her I was getting my ears sewn up. My teenage scene years are over. Ironically enough, a few days after the small surgery I went to Riot Fest with my friend Jetzi. Talk about bad timing! Closing up my teenage angst while watching my favorite bands like Paramore and A Day to Remember. Oh well.
A ton of things on my personal bucket-list had been surprisingly written and checked off at the same time this year. Having an interactive photo gallery at Champs Sports on Michigan Ave was indeed one of them. What a beautiful event that was! It really would not have been so many amazing without all the people who worked so much on it. With September being a month of firsts, I began experimenting with moving images. Anyone interested in learning more about them should check out and learn more about Plotagraphs.
Well, well, well I'd continue this fun adventure of speaking so much about myself but we're all caught up technically. If you remember, my first Swopes Note went out in October.
I hope you guys enjoyed my yearly wrap up and that you find interest in my latest vlog. Let me know what you think as always by commenting on my blogs, videos, sending me a tweet a direct message, or simply replying to this email. Anything!
Have a wonderful day, Happy New Year and remember to always keep your imagination alive!
tutorial / vlog
Hey loves! How are you? I hope well and happy into the new year. I am excited to share my fourth tutorial, though this time it will be a tad different than the rest because I will share some personal insights into how I get the work that I do and just a few other random ideas and advice. Let me know what you think in the comments! I hope to continue making these into the new year and beyond!
Be sure to follow along with my Twitter for contest giveaways this month.
Newyorknico's instagram isn't your average thought out cityscapes or surrealistic edits, no-no, this is something beyond your imagination. If you've stepped foot on the random turf that is New York you would know that there are many different types of characters you'll come upon. Nicolas Heller makes friends with them. Not only does he make friends with them but he puts them on. A lot of his street friends have been featured on Action Bronson Untitled Show recently and I actually got to meet a few of them when I stopped in New York recently. I was hooked.
It was Halloween weekend and it was the first time I would meet him in person after chatting it up a bit in his comment section on some of my favorite videos of his. He told me he was going to buy a mask for a friend of his named T-Rex. T-Rex was a short-armed drummer who played in Union Square that I had seen a bunch on Nick's instagram. We walked over to Union Square to find T-Rex chilling with his homies and Nick pulled out the mask from his plastic bag. He fit it on T-Rex and the rest is history. This happens to be one of Nick's most played videos at 1.5 million views. We sat around that area for hours and hours and still I had felt like I was so obsessed with learning about each person and even more into the idea that Nicolas Heller was a super, super cool dude who really genuinely cares about these people. Can't wait to link again.
health is wealth
I am such a fan of affirmations. Well, a newfound fan. I have to admit - I am the type of person who hates anything that's too cheesy or corny. I really do enjoy realistic expectations of things and making sure we don't act like everything is perfect. Maybe I am just not a fan of fake but I've learned that self love is never fake. Self love should always be uplifting and whole and positive because we are all personally wonderful and intricate and deserve the world.
Happy December. This is the most exciting month of the year for me. "Why?" you ask? It's my birthday month. Yes, I am one of those people who celebrates my birthday for an entire month long. At least well on into Christmas and the new year...
I have some super exciting news to announce coming up soon. I worked with Adobe in 2016, if you can remember, for their #MakeItOnMobile program. I got to travel all over the world speaking on behalf of Adobe about the magic of mobile editing. I'm not saying that's who I am working with but you get the hint. It's going to be a fun new year and you can catch me at Adobe MAX 2018 in Los Angeles.
In other news, I was invited to shop the Moncler store on Oak St in downtown Chicago. I was welcomed ever so kindly by a woman named Nya who was organizing my experience and an amazing man named Bart. Bart eventually brought out a few pieces he thought I would love based on a few color choices and style tips I gave him. I think he noticed the yellow shirt I was wearing and surprised me with a coat they had somewhere hidden downstairs. Bart called on his ear piece for the coat and up it came and immediately when I saw it I gasped. I knew it was the one. Yes, I walked out of Moncler with a coat. But at what cost you say? I suppose you'll find out. I will also be attending an event they're throwing this week. I'll be sharing the experience on my socials, of course.
It snowed in Chicago and I finally got the nerve to go outside and shoot. I was in my pajamas. Yes, imagine a matching long sleeve and pants combo. LOL Threw on my long Canada Goose, with my Ugg boots and strapped up my camera. No cover on the camera. By the time I got back I was soaked but thoroughly happy with the images I shot. Check the shots below.
Also - OMG- It's been 6 months that I stopped eating meat. I am still eating some fish and shrimp, but absolutely no chicken, pork or beef. Nothing! It's been somewhat easy. I can assure you it would be much more difficult for me to go vegan, but I am staying patient with myself. I've been making some really amazing vegan meals at home, though. It's difficult to find good things when I travel. People always ask me how I feel after not eating meat for this long. I think I feel different - Better. I can't say I feel any worse. I think it's a personal choice at the end of the day. I would never judge someone for eating meat but I always welcome them to this side. If you ever have any questions, I am always available.
I think I pushed my limit on concert photography. I can't imagine doing another back-to-back-to-back show. People beg to be on tour but I just am not the one. I shot a bunch of stuff for Red Bull and don't get me wrong - I had a blast! And I do believe I shot some really amazing content that opened their @RedBull account up to new creative avenues. But it was tiring and I commend all the people who worked effortlessly for 30 days straight to put on all those Red Bull Sound Select shows. I did have to shoot a pet photoshoot in between if its any correlation and that is extremely energy consuming. Haha!! Just kidding.
This month I will be turning 28 years old and all I can think about is how happy I am and how grateful I am to be feeling that happy. Life feels much longer when you put into perspective all the struggles you went through, though it seems so quick when you remember the good.
On December 19th, my birthday, I hope you donate to a good cause and donate to Social Works, Chance the Rapper's non-for-profit organization that helps empower Chicago youth. Bless up!
We made it to tutorial #003! How exciting. I hope you guys like this one as much as I did making it. Let me know in the comments on what tutorial you would like to see next. Enjoy and have fun! Don't forget to check my twitter for updates on a canvas giveaway.
Jetzi, pronounded like Hetzi, has been one of my longest known friends. We have been through lifetimes of changes together and have kept by each other's side no matter what! What I have always known about her is her creative side - most memorably she had a photo show at one of our friend Chance the Rapper's early performances. I remember walking up gazing at the black and white prints placed so thoughtfully. Since then and many year later, Jetzi has captured one of the most iconic photos of our generations hero. Not only is Jetzi one of my best friends, but she is also the person who taught me how to protect my energy and keep in touch with the moon and stars. Be sure to follow her on her Twitter and her Instagram.
What are five words that describe you?
Bold, Resilient, Honest, Determined, Healer.
How did this shot of Chance come about?
He asked me to tag along with him to meet Austin for the 22 offs video, for moral support and to pick out his afro.
How does it feel when you see people use it in their own work? I've seen this photo everywhere!
It’s refreshing to know that my work has inspired others to create something. I’ve seen some cool vectors, paintings, flyers, and stitches of the photo. But it was annoying to see that there were other people/companies out there selling my photo as poster via amazon and ebay years later. Most of them took them down when I messaged them. Ultimately, it’s always nice to see it still floating around.
What do you have planned for 2018?
I just want to learn and create a whole lot more. Going back school in the spring, majoring in Political Science and minor in Photography.
health is wealth
I am always searching for a new way to feel happy but aren't we all? I think I finally found my forever habit and it lies in the pages of a book titled Five Minute Journal by Intelligent Change. I start off every morning not checking my phone - but opening this journal and writing away. It's helped the way I think - which is much more positive and puts the little things into perspective. I do think it's important for us to keep celebrating the little accomplishments. This has helped me do just that. Here's a little sample page!
Don't forget to keep drinking lots of water!
Hello wonderful people,
It's been a month since you've had me in your inbox and I hope you're as excited as I am about it! This month I will be sharing how I made one of my recent cinemagraphs. It's a fairly simple process and you'll only need a few apps and your mobile phone, tablet, or simply press play, sit back and enjoy the show. No pressure!
What have I been up to? I hosted two labs for Chicago Ideas Week, met Tim Cook of Apple, inked some exciting future projects, and finalized SWOPES, LLC! It's crazy... I am an official business owner!!! Wow.
Right at the beginning of the month, my good friend Jason Peterson hosted a photowalk for the new Adidas flagship store in Wicker Park. It got rained out but did that stop us? Nah. We had mother nature on our side. We were blessed with a double rainbow, sweet raindrop overlays and multiple sunsets in one night. A few weeks later Open House Chicago, a behind-the-scenes access of more than 200 buildings, was happening and I asked my super friend Dennis to come along. Dennis also happens to be my artist feature this month. I'll be sharing a few of his shots from the Adidas photowalk and our Open House Chicago explorations. His photos are crazy.
For Chicago Ideas Week, I hosted two separate labs about how I got to where I am professionally and mobile editing with teens and another with adults. I managed to get free access and usage of the classroom at 360 Chicago, 94 floors up at the Hancock building with a fantastic 360 view of Chicago. We had a perfect time to go up because there were these amazing shadows being casted on the lake. The attendee reviews came back with such great things to say. If you're reading this and you attended, thank you!
Nike had a really great October in Chicago with their NBAxNike pop up, I made a super sick designed jersey, and honestly mine turned out super dope. I also got invited to an exclusive Nike Lab dinner where I received my own pair of Virgil Abloh's 'The Ten' Prestos. Them thangs is SWEET. Nike really hooked it up.
I also was invited to preview the new flagship Apple Store located on the river downtown Chicago, you should totally check it out BTW, but little did I know that this preview and opening was as extravagant as it was. When I go into events, I always have such a weird expectation. Things can be super easy going or things can be complicated and insufficient. This Apple Event was one for the freakin books!!! I met the Tim Cook and was gifted an iPhone 8+. Also, I somehow managed to get featured in Karlie Kloss' Youtube series. Now that's what I call a grand opening.
Between all of that I was asked to be interviewed on Adobe's MAKE IT series on New York City. I can't wait until it releases. We had a ton of fun filming it and you will definitely feel inspired after watching. While visiting NYC I managed to see Pusha T release his new Adidas sneaker, visit Just Creators gallery show, party with Soulection, try the Impossible Burger (completely meat free patty that tastes exactlyyyyy like beef), explore Union Square with newyorknico, and see Travis Scott fly on his bird 300 feet above a crowd of zombies and strange thing characters. My last night had to end with me eating a pizza slice the size of my head in the street and indeed it did. NYC was a success.
Oh and I almost forgot! I ordered a pizza this week and when I opened it someone who apparently made the pizza at the restaurant who knew my work wrote "ur photography is rly good" on the inside. Super funny!!
Alright, alright. Enough about me, let's get back to the art! I'm sure you're eager to learn how to make your own cinemagraph, so hold on tight because you're going on a fun ride. Enjoy!
And as always, please be sure to keep your imagination alive.
Last month's tutorial was so much fun to make and this was no different. This one will be much simpler and straight to the point. Hopefully you learn a thing or two! Feel free to comment about what you think and check out last months tutorial.
From now on I'm going to host my contests on Twitter because it gets more eyes and the last contest didn't get enough entries. Be sure to keep an eye out on my Twitter for the next giveaway. Anyway, this tutorial you will learn how to make your images move. It's quite a simple process but I know all it takes is for someone to show you one time and you've got it from there. What's that wonderful quote? Give a man a fish and feed him for a day, but teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime... Ah, yes. Have fun!
Dennis has been a close friend of mine since I met him a few years ago. I immediately felt a connection to his friendly animated characteristics and became entirely obsessed with his color coded world. Check out more of his work on his Instagram.
Health is Wealth
Something I have put into my morning routine is writing and most importantly, making sure what I am writing has meaning. I gladly pass along my morning routine as of late to you in hopes that you gain what I have been: clarity and hope.
Grab yourself a journal and a nice hot tea or coffee in the morning. Begin to write down things you are grateful for for two whole minutes. This will make you much more optimistic throughout the day. Keep in mind by day 21 of writing these things everyday it will feel like second nature to think this way. Next, remember a specific positive encounter you had within the last 24 hours and bullet point every single detail about it. This will help you keep in mind that positive behavior is important.
Make sure you workout for 15 minutes. Simple stretching works and there are ton of apps are out there for people like myself who don't really want to do crazy stuff but stay stretched. I use SWORKIT, It's free in the app store. The act of simple breathing really helps a ton so I literally just sit in silence for two minutes and breathe in and out. Again, nothing too crazy. Finally I make an effort to be kind and generous as much as possible in the morning. I'll send someone a text saying something they made it super dope, or I'll help someone in need. It sets the tone for the energy I hope to receive back. It's been about a month and a half now and it seems to be helping my mood but who knows how long things last haha! No one is perfect and we are all learning how to be better every than who we were yesterday.
Hope that helps! Don't forget to drink lots of water.
It's October officially, and let me tell you, this is my favorite freakin' time of the year. I love the weather, I love the energy, I love the inspiration from colorful leaves falling from their fruitful summer place, family cozy time, hot chocolates. It's timeeeeeeee!
Okay, so, this is so exciting. First of all, THANK YOU so much for signing up for my first newsletter, Swopes Note. It brings so much happiness to my heart to know that you’re interested in anything that has to do with what I do, how I do it, what I think and everything in between. The most important thing to me throughout all of this is YOU getting exactly what you need out of this every month. Which to me means that I must provide you with something new to learn, something fun to look forward to, and something free to download. Who would I be if I didn’t give back to those who have supported me for so long? Plus, you've been asking to see how i edit for so long... you ask, you shall receive.
But hey! From time to time I will also feature different artists, and not just painters or photographers but thinkers and healers. The world is going in a messy direction but the most important thing to us all is each other’s mental and physical health. It took me awhile to understand that but once I did, oh was life good! Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this as much as I did making it, which was a lot.
And as always, keep your imagination alive. <3
I love getting asked how I got this giraffe into the Skydeck in Chicago. I always answer with "Magic," though it sounds farfetched, I do believe it takes magic to create these tedious surrealistic masterpieces. Make sure you watch it on your phone, it'll be fun in that perspective.
First and foremost, I know a lot of it will probably be very, very new to some of you. On the other hand, it could be extremely easy to many you and you may question why I do something the way I do it. That's just the chance I am willing to take. Ha!
I'd suggest watching on your phone. It's more cinematic that way. Feel free to comment below on what you liked and didn't like and I'll be sure to make those adjustments or keep something up on the next one!
health is wealth
This months health read is by my friend Codie Monowi. Codie is also a model, a photographer, and visual director based in Brooklyn, NY and Southern Maryland. Though as amazing as he is at those things, I really enjoy his writing because it's super relatable without being cheesy, which tends to steer me away from most self help talk. In this write-up, Codie speaks to the old me who used to struggle with finding the strength to find confidence in a world where we are tend to comparison and pressure. I know there's people out there who need a simple push of inspiration.
Ladies and gentlemen, Codie Monowi.
You Don't Need Confidence, You Need This
Google search “confidence” and the first definition you’ll see is “the feeling or belief that one can rely on someone or something; firm trust.” In this article, I’ll be referring to self-confidence, or the feeling of self-reliance. This is being able to tell yourself you can and will do something or trusting your ability to handle a situation in the best way possible... READ MORE