Behind the Blog: Our Chicago Stories

 

Meet Devin Sutter (@devin_sutter), one of the two bloggers behind “Our Chicago Stories.”

Website: www.our-chicago-stories.com / Instagram: @ourchicagostories

 

What brought you to Chicago?

My most common phrase while planning my move to Chicago was, “Ohio will always be here.” I knew my people & places in Akron weren’t going anywhere, but I also knew I would do the same if I didn’t just leap and make the move. Chicago was on my radar as I was completing cosmetology school, I had found a “dream salon,” talked to people about moving with me, I basically decided that if I kept confidently saying it would happen - it would. And it did.

I saved every dollar I made while I lived with my parents, I interviewed in Chicago, I signed a lease, and I moved.

I believe that God was divinely moving all of the puzzle pieces to make it happen. I say that because it actually didn’t feel bumpy at all, it all just fell into place - it all just made sense.

What is Our Chicago Stories (OCS)?

Our Chicago Stories is a photo project done quarterly with the hopes of creating space for Chicagoans to vulnerably share their stories. We, myself and Rachel Loewen, invite 5-10 people into a studio space in Ravenswood - where Chelli Harms Collection (a leather bag maker) and Youth & Yarrow (a florist) both operate out of and graciously allow us to use. Rachel takes photos, I style their hair, and we both guide conversation while they’re in front of the camera. We ask them one to two intentional questions about their time in Chicago while capture candid photos of them, and follow up with 10 interview questions we ask them to write answers out to.

We believe the beauty of this project is in the simplicity of the photos and the complexity of each person's heart within the photos

 

How did Our Chicago Stories start, and what was the inspiration behind it?

Rachel Loewen (@rachel_loewen) & I were sharing dreams over cocktails at Farm Bar one November evening in 2016. We began envisioning a styled shoot with white space and minimalism, specifically with a dear friend of ours being the model. By the next day this little styled shoot had grown into a shoot done quarterly to keep us inspired. And quickly we realized the depth that could be achieved within this was missing, the people photographed had stories and we had to include that. Within the month we did our first shoot at CHC’s studio space in Ravenswood.

What is your process?

A couple of months before the shoot, we choose a group of people and approach each of them individually to see if they would be interested in participating. A month before we send out a details email explaining the heart behind OCS and the process they would be involved in, we send them the interview questions so that they can begin to reflect and write on them.

The day of the shoot we spend about 30 minutes at the beginning introducing everyone and sharing with everyone where we are from and what brought us to Chicago. I then begin styling hair and we jump into photographing individuals. We ask one to two questions while they’re being photographed and capture candids of them sharing their story. We also always capture a group photo.

What were some challenges and what were some achievements?

I think both Rachel and I are constantly learning through challenges and successes within this passion project. I think we battle different types of perfectionism and insecurity while putting our hearts out there on an OCS afternoon. But I also think we have majorly learned that we make a good team, and with that, want to continue to pursue more projects together.

 

 

Why do you like blogging?

I think it’s a beautiful way of sharing your heart. Technology has taken over our minds, so I think it’s so important for true, vulnerable, messy stories to be shared - so people don’t feel so alone.

What is the next step/goal for Our Chicago Stories?

So many goals!! But the next one is that we would love to create a book. More on that to come!