One of the advantages of living in or visiting a city is finding local gems like Rare Co. Vintage. Located on a side street in Queen Village, Rare Co. is a carefully curated antique furniture store. While I was exploring Rare Co. I couldn’t help but think that it felt like going through someones attic. The feeling of intrigue while looking over objects from the past, later followed by the thrill in finding a potential treasure. An interesting fact about Rare Co. is that the space is divided in sections where each section features a unique interior perspective. At first glance, everything might seem as though it is placed in a random order but that is not the case at all! Instead, the owner puts thought into the placement and selection of each object and furniture piece in each section. Unfortunately, when I was exploring the store and taking these photos it was during the time of the transition and setting up of the sections. Therefore, the finalized set ups are not featured in the photos on this post. Although everything was being moved around, the store was still fun to explore!
Although Rare Co. is mostly a furniture store, it does offer plenty of small trinkets, books and other miscellaneous objects. I found various books, vintage clothing, globes and figurines etc. I really liked the Black and White framed photograph pictured in the photograph below.
Another great thing about Rare Co. is that it joined toMoon + Arrow, a socially-responsible and environmentally conscious boutique for handmade and vintage jewelry, clothing, accessories, decor etc. The staff in both Rare Co. and Moon + Arrow are friendly, knowledgeable and willing to assist anyone that comes in. This place is a must for antique lovers and anyone who enjoys exploring thrift shops!
Whenever I see Chris Hytha’s photography, I can’t help but feel his love for Philly. When describing my city to others, I have this dramatic dream version of Philadelphia in my mind. Chris has an uncanny ability of capturing this dreamscape through his work. Chris is an explorer who climbs various locations (usually abandoned) in order to capture the city in it’s full glory. Ironically, his current living situation is like those he likes to explore.
I met Chris through a Philly Mag influencer event where I was able to ask him to invite me on an adventure (so I can take photos and interview him). Chris did not disappoint and invited me on an adventure to see the sunrise from an abandoned building. The day started with me waking up at 5 am and driving to center city area. After I met up with Chris, we climbed over a fence and trekked toward a building where we had to climb a 10 floor ladder. My hands still burn remembering that climb. Once we reached the top, we were welcomed by a birds eye view of the Philadelphia Skyline. I had a lot of fun on this photo-interview and I would love to do something like this again.
Tell me about yourself.
My name is Chris Hytha. I’m from a small town outside of Philly. It’s like 30-45 minutes down 76, called Phoenixville. I went to Phoenixville High School and then I moved to the city to go to Drexel University. I am currently on my third year of architecture school.
How did you get into photography and what do you like most about it?
Like I have written in my instagram bio, I am a Philly enthusiast. I’m not really into photography, I am into the city itself. The only reason I started to take pictures is because I love the city. I would literally get excited whenever I would see the skyline (even when I was younger). The city has an energy to it and pictures have a way of showing that. Like you were saying (how my pictures are your dream version of Philadelphia) that’s just how I always see it. I want to show that through my photos and I am glad you see that in my work.
Why rooftops? What is it about them that makes you take the time and effort to get to these locations in order to take a photo?
It’s just a different perspective, I mean, everyone says that (laugh). Before I got into photography, I really liked to climb things (like water towers or anything with a ladder). This was well before I cared taking pictures of these places. Eventually I realized that I could climb things in the city.
About two years ago, before I got into photography, a buddy of mine and I climbed a high rise in center Philly. I don’t know why we did it, maybe just because we wanted to climb? (laugh). I didn’t even have a camera on me! When I was up there, I thought to myself, “This is incredible, how do I capture this?” After that, I borrowed one of my brother’s camera, which was eight years old. I had no clue how to use it, I didn’t know what I was doing. Eventually I bought my own camera.
Can you share a favorite moment while on one of these adventures?
It’s hard to say. I think one of the best ones was another high rise building I did in Philly. It was Cinco de Mayo and I was still getting into photography. It’s interesting, in the beginning, I was terrible at photography but I was ballsy and bold, I would try anything. Walk into buildings and get into cool spots, although I was terrible with my camera. So this story, is from back when I was bad at photography but good at getting into places.
I saw a place that an instagrammer posted and I went on Google Maps, looked for it and tried to line up the perspectives. After figuring out which building it was, I hit up my friend and was like “I know it’s possible, let’s just do it.” It was 10 at night, we found the building, walked around it, found a way to get in and we walked up 45 flights of stairs. We couldn’t find a roof door and had to figure out this maze of a building until finally we got to the door, which was propped open. There was the whole city. It was incredible! It’s really special when you live your whole life on street level and you’re always looking up to the tops of the buildings. Then when you’re at eye level with the tops, it feels like you’re standing at level with all of the skyscrapers.
Where do you work and are there any projects you are currently working on?
I work at Ewing Cole, a large architecture firm of about 400 people. I just started there a couple of weeks ago. I am doing whatever they need done, such as construction documents, grading, modeling etc.
As for projects, since I have started working, my time has become limited. I am taking classes at night. Pretty much, I work and go home. Actually, I don’t have a home right now, I live on a construction site. Afterwards I buy food, bring it to class, have class, then it’s 10 at night and I bike back to my construction site and sleep in the cold.
What do you mean when you say you live on a construction site? Can you explain?
It’s a very unfortunate situation (laugh). My dad does real estate, he buys houses and renovates them. He bought a house in Philly and I did the floor plans and design. We started renovating but ran into some delays with the city because there are a bunch of permits we need to get.
I had promised some friends that we could all live together in this great house that I designed, and now we are all homeless. It was a bad situation. Now, I am living in a house, but there is no drywall and there is no flooring, it’s just concrete. Bare, gets a little cold (laugh). It’s funny, I moved into the city, started classes. I started a new job, where for the first time in my life I had to wear professional, business clothes. Meanwhile, I’m living in a construction site and trying to keep the dust off my stuff. Yeah, it’s a tough time (laugh). This is why I don’t have any projects going on at the moment. Although I guess the house is a project! That’s a good thing to bring up (laugh). It’s kinda fun, with my friends, to play house and pick out flooring, kitchens, build a roof deck, watch some HGTV and do some home renovation.
What would you say is your greatest achievement so far?
There are two big things that I consider to be my accomplishments. I biked to Florida, which was really awesome and took two weeks on the road. We slept in tents on the side of the road. It was really great! My friend and I were playing ping pong together one day and asked ourselves “What if we just biked to Florida? We just need to keep pedaling, right? It’s not THAT hard.”
I also participated in an Ironman triathlon, which is a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and then a 26.2 mile run back to back. I consider this one of my greatest accomplishments because I am not into running, biking or swimming. The only reason I did it was to see if it was possible. The reason I decided to do the Ironman was because I was trying to one-up the bike ride (although I am not sure if it did). It was this crazy decision, where I realized that I was at that point of my life where I would be able to do it based on time and how physically fit I am. I knew that if I didn’t do it then it wouldn’t happen. So why not do it? Marathon running was abstract to me until I tried it out and realized just how difficult it was.
I’m really proud of these accomplishments because they are these impossible looking tasks, but when you break them down into small increments of training and researching, they become possible. Because I was able to accomplish both of these goals, I feel like if I put my mind to it, I can accomplish anything. Sounds cliche. (laugh).
Can you share some of your future goals with me?
I would like to start my own architecture firm at some point. I don’t really like being locked in a 9-5 job and would want to be able to do my own thing.
I guess a more unrealistic goal would be if I was able to somehow get paid to travel and take photos. I don’t know how one does this and it’s not something I am currently, actively pursuing. I am not ‘trying’ to become a professional photographer, but I am excited to see where my photography takes me. If it takes me towards being able to reach this goal, that would be great!
What inspires you?
This is going to sound repetitive, but architecture and the city inspire me. The stories behind anything that architects come up with is fascinating. The fact that they create someone’s life in their daily routine. I once heard in a video that if you look at all the lights in the city, you can think of each light as a person in their cubicle or driving home to their condo building – architecture has a real power of forming the world we live. People spend so much time in buildings and I think it’s a big responsibility to design a place where someone is living.
As far as photography goes, all of these buildings I photograph are massive concrete and glass structures, all bigger than I am. It really humbles me. I don’t really know what it is about cities that inspires me. I think it’s the combination of the aura, vibe and energy of the city. Not people as individuals, but the people as a collective. It’s weird because it’s not a community, it’s not like you know these people and you wake up every morning and say hi to all your neighbors. Yet all of these people, together, are working towards something simultaneously. I love looking at people walking to work in the morning and just thinking about how much we can get done if we all put our minds to it. Everyone in their suit and tie, going up their buildings and getting work done. It gives me pride for our country, in a sense. It’s exciting (laugh).
I get inspired by music a lot. I used to make videos (I would make more now if I had the time). I love listening to music and visualizing what it is the artist is trying to show me through their song. Sometimes I get a particular mood from a song. I listen to a lot of electronic music such as ODESZA, mainly instrumental and not many vocals (not dubstep). Music like this is very repetitive and puts you in a mindset. There is a vibe to it. Sometimes I think about this vibe when I am considering what kind of picture or environment will be able to capture it.
Can you tell me about some of your hobbies?
I skateboard and play piano. Regarding skateboarding, I have never been ‘skater kid’, although I have always been good at skateboarding. In middle school, I had my ‘skate posse’ and it was great. Eventually, my friends took the ‘skater’ route and started drinking, doing graffiti and doing drugs, the typical ‘skater boy’ things. I never got into this scene when I was young, instead I focused on my skating. In fact, I was hyper focused on it in order to perfect it. Nowadays, I still skateboard but more as a meditative thing. I am not getting any better but am mainly doing it to relax and relieve stress.
Piano is the same way. All of my hobbies are actually a way to do something and forget about any issue. I think that is the point of a hobby. I don’t know how to read music, don’t know many songs but I really wanted to improvise and just jam. I know one scale and I just play funk or jazz improv piano. I’ll just sit down for an hour and play the same thing over and over. Its hypnotic and meditative. I hate performing because I don’t have an opening or a closing to a song. I just have the jam! I wouldn’t be able to play with a band (laugh). The reason I started playing piano was because I used to play the saxophone. I took lessons and did it the normal way but it lost it’s magic as things do when you make it a task. With piano, I wanted to play whatever I wanted to play. I am not going to practice playing scales, I am going to play whatever I want to play and I will become better at playing whatever it is I want to play. I would recommend this to anyone actually (laugh).
Can you tell me of some causes, issues or ideas that you are passionate about?
I am really fascinated with virtual and augmented reality. In the past, architecture has been this challenge to communicate with clients. Architects develop the skills such as visualizing things in 3 dimensions, drawing floor plans and sections, and sketching them in order to show what is in our mind so the client understands. Through virtual reality, I can imagine building a 3-D model and having a client walk through a new building. We have been trying to do that through drawing but it has been close to impossible. It would be a great way to show a finished product before it’s built. It would also be a way of learning. In architecture school, we have crits, where we design something and a professor comes and asks us about our decisions, why we did this and why we did that. It’s a challenge to learn how spaces affect you since anything drawn on paper is scaled down. Can you imagine being in that space and knowing what it feels like? Does it need to be more open? Does it feel light or maybe it’s too dark? On paper, you can only assume these things. Being able to go into and experiencing that space could open up a lot of possibilities and make it way easier to learn.
I think the reason I am not super fired up or driven for a cause is because I had a good childhood and upbringing, which I am super thankful about. I try to credit my accomplishments as a result of how and where I was raised. Because of this, I sometimes catch myself feeling that I am not an artist. I think there are artists out there who are really expressive because of their issues and qualms. A lot of people have tough things that they go through growing up, and I never had that. I constantly remind myself to be thankful for this because it is relatively rare nowadays.
In the future, are you planning to stay in Philadelphia or are you considering moving to other locations to pursue architecture?
I grew up around here and never moved in my life. I always imagine myself here and can see myself as someone based in Philly. I went to San Francisco recently, and it kind of opened my eyes of what I could be missing out on. There are so many cities in the world, so many places to live. I realized that I can’t backup my love for Philadelphia with any other experiences. I am an easy-to-please person that sees the best in any situation. I can be happy wherever I land. Because of this, I am conscious of not getting too comfortable of where I currently am. Hopefully, I will move to another city and experience it. This way, when I come back to Philadelphia, I will have something to compare it to. I will be able to contextualize it and say “This is what I like about Philadelphia, this is what I don’t like”. San Francisco was incredible, I could definitely see myself living there. I think San Francisco is such an easy place to be a photographer, everything looks beautiful. Either way, I need to experience more before I totally decide where I want to settle.
Is there any advice or personal life lessons you could share with me?
I think that it’s important for a person to find what it is that excites them. When you find something that you are really passionate about, you will be able to tell. A lot of people have found their “thing” but some people haven’t. If you don’t know what it is that makes you giddy and excited, makes you want to spend hours researching different things, then I would tell you to not be afraid to try different things. Something will click. Whenever I notice I put so many hours into something, that is when I realize that this is what I am passionate about. I am a risk taker and I am a fan of putting yourself in uncomfortable situations and getting out of your comfort zone.
Another piece of advice would be to not being afraid to ask for what you want. The worst anyone could say is ‘no’! I love sending emails out with ridiculous proposals. Most of the time they end with a “No, you’re crazy” or they don’t get back to me, but what’s the harm in trying? I constantly email building managers to get on their rooftops. I even emailed a helicopter company and asked for a free ride in exchange for pictures. The answer was no, but I am still working on that (laugh). I am really passionate about this and it bugs me when people don’t ask or don’t take the initiative to get what they want.
If you liked the photo interview and want to keep up with Chris, follow him on his instagram! Otherwise, till next time! Sayounara!
I am not quite sure what it was that had me so enamored with Octavia. Perhaps it was the confidence with which she presented herself. There was just something so interesting about this bad-ass woman and I knew that I had to meet her. My instinct was “on point” and I am so glad that she and I were able to create some photos and have a conversation. Octavia really inspires me. She doesn’t let herself get beat down but hustles through whatever is thrown her way.
For this photo interview, I decided to challenge myself and take photos in the evening (this is something I do rarely). The location chosen was Dilworth Park , although we did end up wandering around City Hall.
Tell me about yourself.
My name is Octavia, and the number one question I get is if that is my real name. It is my real name and I don’t have a nickname. I went to a culinary school for international cuisine and due to personal situations, I was unable to complete my education.
Would I go back and do it? Yes, I love cooking!
Am I able to? No, because it’s not a single parent career.
I am from Leesburg Virginia, a town close to Richmond. When my parents immigrated to USA, they were sponsored to live in Virginia. My mothers family was sponsored to live in Philadelphia, while my Father’s was sponsored to live in Virginia. My father’s side of the family did not stay in Virginia because it was too cold and they ended up moving south. After this, my mother convinced my father to move closer to her family, which was in Philadelphia. So I ended up moving to Philadelphia when I was three and for the most part have been in Philadelphia my whole life.
Where do you work and are there any projects you are currently working on?
Currently, I own a company called 215Yoga. We specialize in onsite yoga and wellness. This means that I don’t have a brick and mortar. I have instructors, including myself, that go out to corporations and other locations (such as roof top pop-up events or private clients). We have customized yoga classes, guide in meditation, nutritional presentations or mind/body presentations. Whatever the clients needs are.
Sometimes it’s working with children with mental health disabilities. This whole summer I taught at a summer camp for kids with mental health disabilities and behavioral issues (CCTC/Children’s Crisis Treatment Center) through a non-profit.
I also do real estate. I am a real estate agent in Philadelphia, primarily, although I sometimes travel outside PHL.
What do you like about Yoga and what do you like about Real Estate?
I love interacting with people and helping them. What I love most about yoga is that it allows me to maximize my potential as a human being, while helping me learn what I can control and what I cannot. I am not talking about poses on a mat. Yoga, for me, is off the mat as well. It’s about taking care of your mind, body and soul. Not about doing a crazy back bend and post it on instagram and hashtag #inversion (laugh).
Real estate challenges me because each time I meet with a client, each one has different needs. Sometimes it could be a smooth transaction, where it’s just too good to be true. Other times, it’s extremely complicated. I love meeting new people and finding out where they’re from and what their stories are, just like you do.
What would you say is your greatest achievement so far?
My daughter, Audrina. She has been my main focus for the past six and a half years. I am devoted in raising her and helping her maximize her potential. I want her to become a loving, caring, serving, compassionate person, not someone who is selfish.
Can you share some of your future goals with me?
There is something that I’ve really, really, really, REALLY wanted to do, but life took its turn and I was unable to go through with it. I used to volunteer a lot with children, actually, I still do whenever I can. It’s difficult, as a full-time, single parent to have extra time – especially time to volunteer. I am already heavily involved in my daughter’s school, life and in the community.
I used to travel and work with children. I went to Montego Bay, Jamaica where I worked in orphanages there and Teen Challenge. We brought non-perishable food, clothes, shoes, school supplies to kids and spent time with them.
One of my goals was to go and live in Thailand from six months to a year in a safe house. It was one of the safe houses for which I was helping raise money to help them out. I was selling bracelets from the Red Thread Movement and was raising money and awareness against sex and human trafficking. Both of these huge matters are close to my heart and 100% of the profit goes to rescuing and helping more girls, children and humans. It’s not just targeted towards women. Anyway, these safe houses help train girls to have life skills. When it’s safe for these girls to return back to their homes, they leave. Otherwise, they stay and continue training. If I had gone on this trip, I would’ve been volunteering at the safe house and I really, really, REALLY wanted to go but now I have my daughter and I can’t even bear to be a day away from her. So, this goal has been put on the backseat.
Do I care less about this matter? No.
Am I still trying to raise awareness and whatever I can to help? Yes, I do.
If I could, in the future, do this, then I would love to.
In terms of personal goals, I would love to grow my company 215Yoga. I want to monopolize Philadelphia (laugh).
Can you tell me what drives you towards your everyday and future goals? I want to know what it is that makes you work so hard everyday.
I know what it’s like to be at the bottom of the barrel. I’m not talking about starting from the bottom because my parents were immigrants. Yes, that’s one thing, but I know what it’s like to start over from zero. I am not talking about monetary but about starting over your identity. Starting over from childhood then starting over after marriage and starting over yet again after leaving the marriage. This is very, very difficult. I couldn’t have prepared myself for this difficulty in any way. Even knowing in advance what I would have to face, there was no way I could’ve prepared myself and said “Hey Octavia, this is what you’re going to face and this is what you need to do.” There is no law book, no blog, no word of advice that could fix that. It’s something you have to learn to do on your own. My daughter is basically driving me to continuously strive and I want her to know that. No matter where you are, whether it’s zero dollars to your name or in a sticky situation, there is always a solution. It might not be your ideal solution or the perfect solution. It might not even be what the world might consider a solution, but there IS a solution. It should never be an end all.
What inspires you?
Actually, it’s kinda corny, but seeing other people smile (laugh). Whether it’s giving someone a meal who may not have seen one for a couple of days, providing a piece of advice or tip for somebody or dedicating a couple of hours to assist somebody, whether paid or unpaid. Making someone else happy and putting your own selfish goals aside, makes me happy and is very rewarding to me. Especially since I’ve worked with kids in the past, in the orphanages, and seeing how these kids have nothing. Everything a child owns can fit in a bag or a single drawer. Seeing how minimalistic they are and with no attachments, it’s inspiring to see how these kids are willing to put a person above them. You come and they ask “You want this toy? You can have it.” Just being completely selfless, loving and helping others is something that inspires me.
Can you tell me about some of your hobbies?
I am very crafty! I used to hang out on First Fridays and I would make and sell barbie shoe jewelry (laugh). I would import barbie shoes in bulk.. You’re laughing at me but I actually sold them for a couple of hundred dollars a pop! They were so tacky and I wouldn’t be caught wearing one (laugh). One of the designs I made was with all of the scrap shoes I had left. Usually I made them color coordinated but this one just looked like a box of Fruit Loops. I would give each piece of jewelry a name and a story, which helped boost my sales. So this particular one, I called Hula Baby because it looked like a floral lei. This one lady bought it for like three hundred and something dollars. The materials probably cost me about $10, although it took me a couple of hours to make it. It’s very tedious and there is no way you can cut corners. You have to punch the holes and move the wiring, your hands get really sore and you get tired of sitting. Anyway, this lady was so excited about it! Meanwhile I was thinking to myself “Oh my God, I cannot spend this money, she’s going to return it, she’s going to hate it. This must’ve been a drunk purchase or something.” Eventually, this woman sends me an email and I’m like “Oh my goodness, here she is, requesting her refund.” I open the email and saw that she had sent me photos of herself wearing it out! (laugh). She was so excited about this huge necklace! (laugh) I used to make them with Swarovski crystals, sterling silver and feathers. I made them really fancy, Audrina has some of them now.
I really enjoy designing, crafting and making stuff. I made my website 215Yoga myself! I enjoy the challenges where I have to teach myself coding, what’s visually appealing or if its user friendly. Also, I do simple art projects with my daughter.
Can you tell me of some causes, issues or ideas that you are passionate about?
We kinda brushed upon this earlier, but human and sex trafficking – which I believe go hand in hand. Many people say this is a women’s issue but it’s not. Many people ask me “why are you so passionate about this, you should be helping your own country”. Believe it or not but there are people who traffic for strip clubs and you don’t know what kind of threats they are under (such as whether their families will get killed etc). Just because these individuals are out there doing it, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are doing it out of free will. Even with nail salons, some of these salons traffic workers to be there. It’s very devastating that people are refusing to acknowledge that it’s right underneath our noses.
In addition to that, I have been vegan now for two years. Animal cruelty has also become a passion of mine.
Is there any advice or personal life lessons you would like to share?
If you are faced with a decision, whatever it may be (whether it’s a personal matter, a career choice or any other kind of decision), if you don’t make that choice, nobody will stand behind you. Whether you come from a very religious or cultured family like I did, (when you feel like no one will stand behind you and you will be excommunicated), and you’re almost forced to make that decision. Know that that you are not forced to make any decision and you have the right to walk away and say otherwise. You’d be surprised how the universe works. I was faced with this kind of situation when my daughter and I had absolutely nothing, yet in so many different ways, the universe just spoke out and provided the assistance we needed, from aspects I had no idea were going to be available. Basically, if you feel like no one is standing behind you in a decision, it might feel like that in the moment. Once you make that decision and people see the confidence you have making the decision you wanted, people will rise behind you with support.
If you liked the photo interview and want to keep up with Octavia, follow her on her instagram! Otherwise, till next time! Au revoir !
In the light of the new season of Peaky Blinders, coming out, I wanted to do something different and photograph a couple in a more vintage setting. For this “couple” photo interview session, I chose David and Olenka Boyko. I had met Olenka when I was at Bucks County Community college but had lost contact with her when I left to continue my studies at Philadelphia University. I later found her on instagram, right before her wedding and asked if she and her fiancé wanted to do a “Peaky Blinders” inspired photo session. Thankfully, Olenka and David Boyko were totally cool with my suggestion and here are the results from that day.
Tell me a little bit about yourselves.
Olenka: My parents are from Lviv, Ukraine and they came here to Philadelphia when my mother was pregnant with me. So, I was made in Ukraine but born in Philadelphia.
David: I was born in Brenton, WA. My family lived in Seattle, and later moved to Lexington, KY. After I married Olenka, I moved to Philly and here I am.My parents were also from Ukraine, Revinskaya Oblast.
How are you liking Philly so far?
David: It’s growing on me.
Tell me about your educational backgrounds, what you do or are a part of.
Olenka: I am finishing up my degree this summer and am getting my Bachelors in Marketing at Temple University. I am really excited about that! In the meantime, I am working at Nordstrom Rack, which I enjoy because I am doing more Visual Merchandising, which I really like. It kind of ties into my degree also, which is cool. I like thinking about how things look and what to do to make them look better. I consider myself more of an introvert and I prefer visual merchandising because of the subtlety of it in regards to marketing. I enjoy learning about what goes on behind the scenes and how visual merchandising psychologically influences people.
David: I’ve done a little bit of everything actually. I started working as a cabinet builder. Afterwards I moved on to become a “professional sandwich builder” in Panera Bread. I was actually impressed with how the company ensures that everything is fresh. The bakers bake all night and in the morning, someone comes in to cut all of the fruits and vegetables. After working at Panera Bread, I moved to Tempurpedic, where I did anything from customer deliveries to trade shows. Also, I do graphic design on the side by making logos, cards, invitations etc. I actually just built my new website, which will go live soon! I have been a second shooter for weddings. In the past I used to drive a truck cross country, hauling cars. I also did landscaping. I even worked in Banana Republic for a while. I had my hands in a little of everything! As for my educational background, I went to college for Graphic Design for a year but it was a total flop. I realized that going to college was not for me.
How did you two meet?
Olenka: Each time was a new meeting (laugh). The first time we met was in New Jersey, at a little tiny church. David and his friends were exploring the area and happened to visit the church. That evening, during a youth gathering, the night was getting to the part where the introduction/ice breaker games were starting. David and his friends approached my group of friends and asked if we wanted to hang out with them somewhere else.
David: That was actually the only time I have ever done something like that. It was done intentionally, I kinda had a crush on her.
Olenka: We had a good time, but I did notice that the longer David was with us, the quieter he became all while sitting in the corner by himself. I remember asking my friends “What’s wrong with that kid? Does he think he’s too cool or something?” I hadn’t really seen him for 3 years after that.
David: I saw you though. I saw you at conferences sometimes. Also, we followed each other on instagram. Whenever I saw you, I would think “There she is”… like a creeper, I guess (laugh).
Olenka: Yes, he confessed this to me. So, three years later, at a conference in Columbus, Ohio, I saw him again. It’s actually funny because he was sitting in front of me with his brothers and I remember thinking “That’s that kid… who was SO anti-social!”
David: Later that day, when we were in line for food, you kind of walked by with your friend who tried to introduce us. I was like “I know you..”
Olenka: Yeah, right. The way you did it was more like “Hi, I’m David”. I thought to myself “Seriously? This kid doesn’t even remember who I am?!” (laugh). I was like “Nice to meet you…”(laugh). I don’t know how it happened, but one we started talking, we really hit it off. Our friend groups ended up hanging out that whole weekend, so we were able to get to know each other a little bit.
When did you decide that you were serious about one another?
Olenka: I actually don’t really know! It just happened! I could tell right away though because I felt really comfortable around him and he was so easy to talk too. It was one of those things where the more you talk to the person, the more things you notice that you like about them. This had never happened to me before because in the past, when I got to know a guy more, I would actually start noticing more things I didn’t like and that didn’t fit with me in order to move towards a serious relationship.
David: I think it happened when we met up in NYC. I was there with Tempurpedic and realized that Philly was pretty close by. I reached out to Olenka to invite her to spend a day with me. It was the first time that we were alone together, without our friends surrounding us. I remember thinking to myself afterwards “I’m done”. Afterwards, I was very intentional in my actions and feelings toward her and I let her know.
What would you say is your greatest achievement so far?
David: Honestly, I am very happy with how my life has been so far. Growing up, all the guys surrounding me only thought about making money. Meanwhile, I was more focused on building a relationship with people. I never really cared so much about becoming wealthy. By traveling, I was able to see a lot and experience a lot. I just absolutely love that I did that. As I look back, I have so many great memories with great people. That, to me, is a great accomplishment.
Olenka: For me, I think it’s more about personal accomplishments. Like I mentioned, by nature, I am more of an introvert. About 2-3 years ago, I was kinda forced to go out of my comfort zone because a lot of people in my life were starting to date and not being so much a part of my life anymore. I had to learn to do things on my own instead of waiting around for someone to do it with me. I was able to become more independent, meet more people and put myself out there. I have always been surrounded by people, but I never really became as comfortable in my own skin as I have in the past few years. Not caring what others think and how others view me. I’ve learned how to find common interests and topics with people I have just met. It’s so interesting how the most unexpected people have the most in common with you! I have gained so much more confidence since the person that I was in the past. I still think of myself as an introvert, but at the same time, if I need to be, I can be more extroverted.
Who or what inspires each of you?
David: I think really thought provoking movies inspire me. Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorites. I just appreciate well shot movies, so I guess cinematography really inspires me. I would say that I am more of an ‘artsy’ person than a logical person. For example, if I go to a cafe and they have a nicely designed menu, then I will immediately like the cafe. Good design, in general, inspire me. I really love a good design! My parents inspire me. They moved to the USA in 1990 and literally, had nothing. Now they are doing better than some Americans who have lived in this country their whole lives. To me, that shows that hard work goes a long way. No matter your circumstances, you can get it if you want it. My uncle has a successful granite business. When I look at him, I think “That guy came from nothing.” When he came here, he probably only had two sweaters and a pair of pants. When I see people like that, I can’t help but be inspired.
Olenka: That’s how I am too. I am a very visual person, visual learner, visual everything… People watching is one of my favorite things to do. Also people that I know also inspire me. One of my good friends, she’s at Parsons in NYC, she just got a scholarship in Paris to design and work with designers. For me, that is amazing! Just to see people I know, who are talented and good at what they do, succeed, makes me really amazed. I am happy for them and it makes me inspired because if you work hard, try to be a good person then good things will happen to you.
What are your hobbies?
Olenka: I am not sporty at all! I am the worst at sports. I love reading, since I was a little kid. I am always reading something. Malcolm Gladwell is one of my favorites, I love everything he’s ever written. I think I might’ve read almost all of his work. I would literally go to the library, where the limit was 12 books for checkout, I would take out 12 each time and finish them before the due date. The Office is my favorite show of all time so I almost consider it a hobby with how much I watch it (laugh). I like going on walks or going on a hike, I really like chill activities.
David: I like so many things. I love sports, except for basketball. Volleyball and Tennis are my favorite. Photography is also something that I have really been interested in for a long time. I always told myself that a camera would be my first big purchase when I started working. That never happened although I did finally get one. I have always been interested in graphic design and reading. In class, I was always that kid in middle school and high school that was always reading during class. Sometimes I would even read through the night. I enjoy driving. I also really love learning. I am constantly watching documentaries or researching some type of topic. I guess my hobby would be collecting information!
What issues, causes or ideas are you passionate about?
David: I have recently have been getting into politics. Like I said, I collect information and recently most of it has been politic driven. I have been watching Ben Shapiro, and that is who I am passionate about. I want that guy to be president! He’s a libertarian, he’s not a conservative for the sake to be conservative. I strongly agree with what he says and everything he advocates for. The arguments he makes, he is able to support logically and I admire that. I like that although he is a religious person, Shapiro does not argue from a religious perspective but from accredited researched information and statistics. I am also passionate about meeting people from all communities. Finding good people and building relationships with them.
Olenka: I think one of the things I am passionate about is the Slavic community, especially the Christian Slavic community here in the US. When one grows up in a slavic culture church here in America, you start noticing how much is culture driven vs religion driven. People are doing or saying things because they are used to things being a certain way. Just being close-minded and pushing opinions onto kids and the new generations without considering their kid’s worldviews. Being a first generation kid in a different country and with everything that is currently going on here, there is a dissonance between the parents/grandparents and their kids. It’s very interesting for me to talk about it with people from all over the USA and how they are dealing with this issue. We have a friend in Kentucky that doesn’t go to a Slavic church at all and many of the people we know only go to Slavic churches just because they don’t want to have an argument with their parents. These type of issues are why I am so passionate towards the teens in our community. Back when I was doing teen Bible school, I was able to have personal conversations with teenagers where I could explain the importance of having your own personal relationship with God versus it just being a “church thing”. I would stress that it has to be your own personal decision instead of doing it just because it’s what your parents want or expect. Especially at that age when many are questioning why they are in church and might even be a little bored with it. It is important for them to realize that it is their decision and that someone like me is available for them in case they need help or advice. It seems like the current situation in Slavic churches is very transitional. I am very interested to see what the future will bring.
Any tips or advice you would like to give anyone reading this photo-interview?
David: I have recently found a quote that I fell in love with. I don’t know exactly how it went but it went something like this, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of remedy”. If you see that something is going to happen, fix it then and this will save you a lot later. If you cut corners, something is going to happen and you will have more work in the end. Also, Olena got a cool t-shirt from United by Blue which says “Well done is better than well said”, and I completely agree with that.
Olenka: Every time I’ve looked back at different situations in my life where I was unhappy with how something turned out, I just wish that I had focused more on what I was doing and doing it well. I think I would’ve been much happier with the results. I guess what I am trying to say is that whatever you are doing, do it well. Even if it’s something that seems small and unimportant. I know sometimes a lot of the places people work in are very repetitive and I think that by trying to make small differences and changes in one’s life are important. Notice the little good things, compliment someone else and try to make every day different and focus on your own personal growth. Use what you have learned and give to other people.
David: Olena does this really cool thing where if she has a good memory, she writes it down, puts it in a jar and at the end of the year, during New Year’s, she reads them.
Olenka: Well it’s amazing how much you can forget about what happened. When I read all these “memories”, I catch myself saying “I can’t believe this all happened this year”. It really makes me appreciate life more and also reminds me of everything I am thankful for.
I hoped everyone liked the interview! If there is someone you would like me to photo interview, please leave a comment below. Otherwise, till next time! Ciao!