Photographing Chicago’s Premier
Independently Owned Boutiques & Businesses
for CS Modern Luxury's, THE SOURCE
Coffee in one hand, I cranked open my office window with the other and a warm August breeze greeted me. I always like my space open to the outside air until I can’t stand the heat any longer. It makes me feel as though I am part of the activity in the outer world even though I am inside alone, sometimes for days at a time, often only taking breaks to grab a snack, go for a run or exercise to some capacity.
What I love about my job is that for weeks at a time I am on the go meeting clients for shoots. Every day is different. As a photographer, I am grateful for the days of hustle and bustle, connecting with people, exploring places new to me and intimately discovering that very outer world around me. I also welcome the office days of quiet and solitude to focus on creating new business while nurturing current and past relationships.
On this particular day, I sat down at my desk to begin my office routine which often consists of prospecting: by answering and sending emails, keeping up with social media postings, editing photos, creating new works of art, and then of course the “fun” stuff like invoicing and expensing reports.
As I opened my email that morning, to my delight there was an inquiry from a contact at CS Modern Luxury, a premier Chicago Scene magazine. As a freelance photographer, I work with them on editorial and social event photography.
It’s always a nice surprise getting unexpected inquiries for new business opportunities, and this was one of those emails. CS Modern Luxury asked me to be the exclusive photographer for an annual publication called, THE SOURCE, highlighting Chicago’s premier independently owned boutiques & businesses. I was thrilled. What a wonderful opportunity. That they asked me to be sole photographer, well....I felt honored to say the least.
I, of course, accepted the invitation. Suddenly, my quiet office days turned into a whirlwind of twenty photo shoots within a few weeks, in addition to my other photography jobs and business travel in between.
I was all across the city photographing portraits of business owners, interiors & exteriors of their spaces and the products they offer.
There were various kinds of businesses such as City Escape Garden Center and Design Studio, a beautiful garden supply retailer and landscape designer located in the East Garfield Park neighborhood, Halsted Eye Boutique, an eye glass haven in Lincoln Park, Tracy Clifford Style, a personal stylist in a posh condo in Streeterville, Enaz, a chic clothing boutique in Highland Park, just to name a few.
Not to forget the gorgeous interior design space of 2Design Group in Lakeview, George the Salon in Gold Coast, Chicago Luxury Bedding, Oscar Isberian Rugs & Lightology in River North.
Walking into Mira Couture in the Gold Coast, a custom design house and bridal boutique, I was mesmerized by the gorgeous flowing gowns. I couldn't help but envision an elegant occasion one would wear such hand-crafted beauty. Owner, Julie Mersine, shares her dream about designing 'incredibly intricate and detailed gowns for real women who get to wear them to real-life fairy tail occasions.'
Interior photos of mens suits, no problem — check out Daniel George downtown Chicago near Millennium Park and J. Toor in the Bloomingdales building.
From photographing places on the south end of the city to gorgeous summer morning routes along the lakefront up to Winnetka to capture the luxurious fashion boutique, Frances Heffernan, along with Paul Rehder Salon, I was on the go, producing, creating and connecting and loving the process.
Once I began to get a handle on the types of businesses I was photographing, the thought suddenly occurred to me that I had one of these boutique businesses!
Earlier this summer I opened up a furniture showroom & gallery space, with a few business partners, which showcases my fine art photography on the walls.
We call it Live Edge Chicago as the furniture is hand-crafted from 100% salvaged wood from trees in Central Pennsylvania. The craftsman is a friend of one of our managing partners.
I asked CS if Live Edge Chicago would be a good fit. They agreed with enthusiasm. So here we are also featured in this beautiful publication.
It’s quite incredible how a vision, collaboration and inspired action can transform a space from a storage unit to an art gallery. Dream to reality.
Only months earlier I was a craving a sense of community, something I could be a part of with other people — to have a place where we could gather and hold space for our creative juices to flow.
I dreamt for years of having my own gallery space — I envisioned walls filled with my sweeping landscapes & portraits of people from my travels, cityscapes of my Chicago wanderings, and a special coastal collection of seaside vistas.
I saw them displayed on various materials such as acrylic & aluminum metal prints exuding a modern look, sophisticated canvas gallery wraps offering the classic feel and look of a painting, and fine art watercolor paper that is truly exquisite.
During the setup before our grand opening event in the early summer of 2016, as I was unwrapping one of my signature pieces in my coastal collection, Cali Calm — a large format black and white watercolor print, displayed in a clean white frame, I felt as thought I was unwrapping a part of my soul as I peeled the protective layers away revealing the creation.
As this was happening, I realized that my ‘some day’ of having a gallery space was actually here. It is a story of a dream, being open to opportunity and allowing life to unfold before our very eyes. My vision had manifested into reality.
This brought me back to a time when I walked into a photographers gallery in the Florida Keys during one of my travels. I had the exciting opportunity to speak with the photographic artist and asked him how he got started.
He said to me, “It all starts with a dream.” A bit more vague of an answer than I was hoping for, but nonetheless, it was the absolute truth and a wise message that stuck with me.
In celebration of following our hearts, it is with all these premier boutique and small businesses owners that are featured here in The Source, that I share this commonality.
It was a privilege to be a part of meeting each and every one of them, stepping foot into their created visions, offering their passions, knowledge, talents and resources that contribute to the art + commerce of the communities in which they live.
May I encourage you to stop in these establishments if you are in the area, be curious of how they came to be, and consider shopping local in your own community wherever you may live.
May we all be blessed with opportunity, courage and perseverance to transform our visions into real life dreams come true. May you, in turn, have your own exclusive experience.
To view the featured pages of these boutique businesses,
in THE SOURCE, visit my gallery of Published Works.
A huge thank you to group publisher, Randy Hano, of CS Modern Luxury as well as the entire
Modern Luxury Team. It's always such a pleasure working with them.