By Elvia Francis | May 19, 2016 | People
As Frank Sinatra said about New York, "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere," but Ol' Blue Eyes never exactly specified how to make it—especially as a creative professional. Designer Katie Lares and photographer Matt Licari recently teamed up with writer Elvia Francis to document 14 up-and-coming New York creatives. Here are their stories....
Hallie Hutchinson and Bryan Tuckman.
With a population over eight million, New York City is one of the most competitive and diverse cities in the world. Often seen as a haven for young creatives and those seeking a challenge or an escape to express themselves and their talents, the city boasts the best and the brightest.
But, if you look at New York City’s history, you’ll know this wasn’t always the case—especially in the 1970s and ‘80s, when the city was in great decline. Although it was a time of fiscal crisis, declining population, crime, prostitution, and drugs, the nostalgia of the era is predominantly accompanied by New York’s gritty Downtown Scene, which gave birth to the punk-rock movement, gonzo journalism, street art, and the emergence of subversive, radical ideas. “Downtown” was more than lower Manhattan—it was an attitude that pushed the notions of tradition and forever changed the culture of our nation.
Inspired by the unrestrained heritage of the era, along with the artists and creatives that lived in and shaped the city at the time, photographer Matt Licari and designer Katie Lares, both based in New York City, have teamed up to produce a contemporary project that showcases their deep love for New York. The concept for the project stems from a “Made in New York, Making It in New York” phrase that has a double meaning: inspired by Katie Lares’ luxury leather accessories that are made in New York City, but also creative individuals themselves who are being made in, and shaped by, the city itself to some capacity.
Here, we chronicle 14 young creative professionals, all based in New York City, who you should keep an eye on. Their stories and career paths will not only inspire you, but they will also show you the dedication it takes to survive, thrive, and succeed in one of the greatest cities in the world!
Musician Jason Sebastian Russo and filmmaker Tara Autovino teamed together to create Guiding Light, a band that they’ve dubbed as “shoegaze meets soft ‘baby-boomers-going-through-mid-life-crisis’ rock set to a David Lynch film.” Their forthcoming debut, tentatively titled Eagles Greatest Hits, will be out this season and they’ll be performing at Pete’s Candy Store in Brooklyn on select dates until end of June 2016. Guiding Light is also a film project that the two have conceived and shot in documentary style.
Jason moved to New York City from Poughkeepsie, while Tara arrived at Penn Station years ago, as a teen mom, looking for a place to stay with her two-year-old and $300 in tow. She says, “The city doesn’t treat people who demand things of it kindly, but if you work hard and stop asking it to make you the most famous whatever of all time, it may throw you a bone.”
Paige Campbell is a Brooklyn-based makeup artist, who works in the realms of music videos, film, television, and editorial. The Virginia native moved to New York after college to launch her career in the fashion and makeup industry. Upon moving here in 2012, she went through a “Saturn Return” (a life crisis that puts one face-to-face with their deepest fears). After a horrible breakup and uncertainties in her makeup career, she fell into a crippling depression. Fortunately, she was able to realize that she was trapped in a prison that she created in her mind.
“Everyone has something they just have to do. You can make excuses and try to push it away somewhere, but it's slow suicide,” she declares. For Paige, that something was to create a punk band. She’s always wanted to be a singer and an electric-guitar player. After conquering her fears, doubts, and excuses, she’s now making her dreams a reality and anticipates releasing her songs this year.
California native Tina Vaden is a New York-based video editor (currently for Nylon) and photographer. She’s passionate about telling stories that connect on a personal and emotional level. In her words, “There are stories in limbs, in the sky, in the sea. They are happening all around me and I don't want to miss any of it—that is what drives my art. I want to share all the good I see. Perhaps, if I can show the world how beautiful it can be, it will begin to follow suit.”
Hallie Hutchinson is a Brooklyn-based visual artist and model (signed with Muse Model Management). She grew up in Milwaukee, migrated to Baltimore, and then, took a chance on an opportunity to move up to New York as a full-time model, following a stint on a E! Network television show called Scouted.
She tells us, “Because of a couple wonderful friends and supporters, my ongoing pursuit has allowed me to glean life experiences I never thought possible. I've traveled the world, but I've really found a home in New York. It's an exhaustive and competitive city, but there's truth in its magic. Nowhere else I've visited quite shares its level of imposing energy and refreshing diversity. I'm proud to have a collection of inspiring individuals as friends, mostly artists of some trade. I paint in my free time and have become increasingly interested in both sides of film over recent years.”
Bryan Tuckman is a Brooklyn-based visual artist. He grew up in Indianapolis and received his BS in Fine and Studio Arts at Skidmore College in upstate New York. For the past five years, he’s been working for an artist on a massive independent graphic novel production known as maxandcharlie.com, which is set to release later this year.
Bryan discloses, “With so much time committed to unreleased work it can sometimes be difficult to measure any accomplishments outside of this immersive project and to justify so much energy spent just covering costs of living here. But that's what makes New York so irresistible to me. I want to grow. I want my art to grow. The pressure of living here provides the momentum I need to be active in pursuing those influences and experiences I crave. I don't think this is a city I'll stay in forever, but I also don't think I expected to be here this long. New York forces regular personal reflection with the promise of constant distraction. It's hard to leave a place with everything, especially when you're still figuring out what you want.”
Originally from Maryland, Brooklyn-based Jessica Plummer is the beauty editor of Ladygunn. She’s also a singer in the band PMS & The Mood Swings on Burger Records, a professional makeup artist, art director, and tour manager. She says, “New York taught me how to hustle, how to survive. It is my worst enemy and my lover. New York makes all your dreams seem more feasibly within reach if you keep focused while the city is spinning around you.”
New York-based style and makeup expert, Valissa Yoe is a world-renowned DJ, fashion stylist, and makeup artist. Growing up with entrepreneur parents and being inspired by Patricia Field, she’s always been focused on innovation on her own terms, which explains her broad range of talents.
Valissa has appeared in Glamour’s web series Dressed to Kill. She also gives lectures about styling at FIT, where she previously studied fashion design. She is currently a brand ambassador for Perrier, Ardency Inn, Sol Republic, and most recently a spokesperson for New York-based luxury active wear brand Alala.
Molly Fletcher is a violinist and model (signed with Major Model Management) living in New York City. She graduated from New York University with a dual degree in Music Performance and Psychology. She began playing the violin at age five under Paul Landefeld and started modeling her last year in college, where her first New York Fashion Week (NYFW) experience involved performing with the NYU Chamber Orchestra at Illesteva’s Fall/Winter 2012 presentation at Milk Studios.
Molly says, “New York City has allowed me to perform alongside the greatest [musical] artists in the world… I’ve watched the growth of my friends into larger-than-life musical acts, I’ve been able to tour Europe with indie band Mutual Benefit, and, this summer, perform alongside Donna Lewis at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland. All this is just a long way of saying that I love New York City. It sounds corny but ‘dreams don’t work unless you do,’ and the same thing could be said for this city. New York City is what you make of it, and you have to be willing to face the blood, sweat, and tears to get to the sweet glory of doing what makes your soul fly.”
Matthew Michael Leibowitz is a Brooklyn-based musician, audio engineer, and sound designer. He plays bass for Brooklyn-based psych-pop band The Midnight Hollow and has most recently produced an EP for New York-based singer Allie Dobyns. He says, “There are so many fascinating stories in this world, and I love to share ideas that come from intimate thoughts.” Going with that statement and passion, he’s created an ongoing experimental project called Secret Voicemail, which tracks secrets through anonymous voicemails.
Based in Brooklyn, Ashley Martin has a knack for designing solutions to problems you didn't know you had. She specializes in working with super-small teams driven by love, dedication, and commitment to humanity in all its faulty glory.
Previously the Assistant Editor at A Public Space literary magazine, she is now the Executive Assistant for the transformative justice arts organization Young New Yorkers (YNY). YNY aims to raise awareness on the fact that the state prosecutes 16- and 17-year-olds as adults and builds the need for positive and constructive alternatives to this school-to-prison pipeline.
Brooklyn-based writer Ren Khodzhayev is an avid smoker. Since 2009, due to health concerns and peer pressure, he has been actively trying to quit. He is pictured wearing a 1960s Wrangler jacket in left-hand twill. During a two-year period of smoking abstention (coincidently, a period during which the jacket was in storage), he received an MFA in creative writing from New York University and is currently working on his first novel.
Chad Saville is the founder and editor-in-chief of Beautiful Savage, a Brooklyn-based independent, niche publication devoted to art, fashion, and the creative lifestyle. Chad grew up in upstate New York, in a small town near the Adirondacks. As a young boy, he suffered from epileptic seizures that often landed him in the hospital; this became the catalyst for his photojournalistic aspirations. He would leaf through National Geographic in bed, reading every caption, every inset, every article… imagining what it be like to be in Tibet, or some other exotic land. These formative childhood experiences instilled a deep appreciation and passion for the power of storytelling—whether it is through human voice, the printed page, or a pixilated screen.
He says, “What I care about is telling a story. The medium doesn't matter me. If it's an artist interview I'm doing, or if I'm producing a fashion shoot, or a music video, it doesn't matter. I want to produce strong narrative content, and to push the envelope in terms of execution for independent artists and designers.”
Shanon Kester is a producer and project manager, as part of Visual Mercenary Group, a New York-based digital production agency. Holding a photography degree from FIT, she shoots and retouches images, primarily focusing on portraiture. The city has been a major source of her artistic growth since her early teens, so the energy and madness that the city exudes is part of her every day and she wouldn't have it any other way.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Matt Licari