Chicago-based surrealist photographer and creative director Elise Swopes covers the first bi-annual Fall/Winter 2015 print issue of SWGRUS. In the issue, we talk to Swopes regarding her latest works with adidas Originals, her inspirations and her hobbies while admiring her attractive apartment in the sky. Read our full cover story here.
You may have seen the work of Elise Swopes on Instagram’s Popular page, on the canvas of adidas’ kicks, or maybe some work for NIKE campaigns or even heard some raps from her lips, if you don’t think so you probably have and you don’t even know it.
Tuesday afternoon, 4:01PM, my photographer friend Bianca and I are awaiting to get into the fortress that is Elise Swopes’s condo in the South Loop of Chicago, IL.
We get to the door, no-doorman; a neighbor of Swopes’ building let’s us in. Curious enough he sees we’re geared for a photoshoot, he asks, “Who do you guys’ know here?” we answered, “Swopes?” he smiles and says, “I know her.” he continues, “She’s awesome.” as he farewells to his floor on the elevator.
To the friendly-neighbor-guy quite frankly — we think so too. We reach the elevator to go to the 22nd floor of Swopes’ apartment building and its not your average living quarters in the city.
Swopes’ kindly answers the door as we caught her in a shoe lace-up struggle — one-half of her foot in one untied shoe and the other laced up. She smiles and invites us in her super clean and photographer’s dream apartment in the sky.
As we walk into the apartment and step over the Raised by Wolves welcome mat, she modestly has three authentic KAWS companion vinyl figures next to some framed childhood memories on her foyer mantle. As we enter her gorgeous home we can see the entire city from her large 30ft-high glass cased apartment overlooking the inspiring city’s skyline.
Walking around are two cute cats named Ask and Kizim. Swopes begins to tell us a story about her blind-kitty Kizim which her infamous photographer boyfriend Trashhand seen at a shelter and couldn’t resist taking her home.
On her coffee table is the latest issue of Highsnobiety, Issue 11 which features an editorial of Trashhand in the final pages. We take a breathtaking look outside on the balcony and take in the crisp air on a 68-degree afternoon.
When did you start falling in love with photography?
I started falling in love with photography around the MySpace days. I didn’t have a great camera, some crappy point and shoot but I enjoyed editing the photos so much and capturing candids of my friends. Of course, Instagram sparked that inspiration back up times one million (haha)
What made you want to experiment with surrealism in your photos?
I have always been a super imaginative person. I have been told I live on planet Swopes but I really think it has a lot to do with my little attention span. I think of something wild and try to piece it together. It’s the only thing that can hold my attention.
Can you remember the first subject you shot? If so what was it?
The first subject I shot was myself (hahaha) Myspace selfie queen over here!
How do you feel about that shot today?
I am not mad about it. I wish I still had them.
You recently had an official collaboration with adidas Originals. How did that happen? What did you think when they approached you with that opportunity?
I have done multiple projects with them thus far, about 3 or 4, and each time they are so open to my creativity. There’s no such thing as photo approval before post, which is so rare. They approached me through email and I was apprehensive because sometimes big brands aren’t willing to pay well … but adidas definitely does. To match the fact that they are such an amazing brand, I also used my greatest creativity and grabbed a check out of it, who wouldn’t be happy?
How did it feel to have your imagery on a sneaker that would be potentially sold globally?
I felt excited though a part of me feels like I could have put more of my
personality into the design.
I remember the first time seeing your music video for the song Sulaiman produced ‘Drugs,’ how did that transpire?
Lol! Suli and I had been chillin in our apartment we called the “Tree House” with a bunch of other musician friends. We had been drinking a few beers and Suli asked if I wanted to get into the booth. I knocked it out in one take and we freaked out and showed all of our friends. From there they played it on multiple XM radio stations and we eventually made a music video out of it with our friend Nick Castle.
Is music something you think you’ll do in the future?
Who are your favorite Chicago artists right now?
Chance, Vic Mensa, Eryn Allen Kane, Lili K, Bernie, Thelonius Martin, SABA, Mick Jenkins and so so so many more. These people are not only amazing artists but great people.
“I have always had a passion for graphic design. I knew I would be an artist for the rest of my life even from a young age.”
Any recent albums you like to listen to when composing a photo?
Any album by Kid Cudi.
He just gets me. When I listen to his music I envision things. It’s like a movie in music form. Not to forget, his lyrics are something I can relate to entirely.
What did you have a passion for growing up? What did you think you’d be doing as a child?
I have always had a passion for graphic design. I knew I would be an artist for the rest of my life even from a young age.
What was the moment you knew you could make a career out of photography / visual arts?
When in Middle School this girl named Vianca would have her mom bring her McDonalds for lunch and she would bring me some because I made her MySpace layout. hahahaha
What visual artist inspires you the most and why?
My boyfriend: @Trashhand
As far as appearance, you’re pretty stylish, what brands make you feel the most comfortable wearing stylistically?
I love rocking my friend’s clothes; otherwise I like to keep it simple and straight to the point. I literally think I have OCD when it comes to matching colors so all my outfits match.
What is the best thing you’ve been able to do since shooting photography?
I think the greatest thing has been traveling the world and meeting new people. Traveling is one of the worlds greatest possibilities and a lot of people don’t realize you don’t have to have a lot of money to do it.
If you could sum up your work in words, what would that word be?
Bitch, you crazy.
Pre-order a copy of our first bi-annual print magazine: volume 001 issue featuring Swopes in the online shop.
Terrell Johnson is the Editor-in-Chief and Founder of SWGRUS.