Popularity is relative, and especially in the digital age. You could have hundreds of thousands of followers online, but be completely unknown in the streets — massively famous on Instagram, YouTube or Twitter, but lack any kind of real, authentic cool in person. For our new series, Coolest Person in the Room, New York-based photographer Megan Walschlager pinpoints all the people whose energy is contagious regardless of their following count or celebrity. Meet Chicago-based photographer Elizabeth De La Piedra (@elizabethdelapiedra), the skin care guru, style maven, Internet icon, wife and mother of two adorable boys that you need to know.
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What is your day job?
I am a photographer and a creative, so I spend my days either working on my art projects or creating content for the different brands I work for.
How did you get into photography and content creation?
I've always been really interested in photography and art. I did a lot of drawing in high school and I always loved technology, as well. So, when the Internet happened when I was like 14, I began blogging, and because I was already taking photos it sort of lent itself to that medium. I've essentially been doing content creation since I was 14. I went to art school and photo school — which is very commercial, studio-based lighting and technique. There I majored in documentary [photography] and I worked on a lot of stuff.
From there I think things have come my skill level, but I also live my life kind of online via my Instagram, so it just became this very organic platform where I get to share. I'm very multidimensional on IG — it's not just a portfolio, it's not just a blog, I have kids but I'm not a mommy blogger.
I started posting and showing my art, then people would see my style or my lifestyle, and that's when brands got interested in working with me — whether it was shooting for them or shooting low-key as an influencer creating the content. And that has kept growing and growing.
I do creative direction as well which stemmed from my IG. I work with artists sourcing materials for what their tours will look like — from helping them with their style to their graphics and the visuals behind them on stage.
That's so cool.
I feel like because of the Internet I have been able to grow as a creative in multiple ways: as a photographer for sure, and secondly building relationships with brands and figuring out that side of it all.
So, the Internet has been very formative for you and your career.
Yes, I met everyone I love on the Internet. I met my husband on MySpace (one half of the DJ duo Flosstradamus), my best friend on LiveJournal — it turns out we are both from the same neighborhood in the Western suburbs of Australia (shoutout Blacktown). But we wouldn't have been able to make that connection unless I had seen her online and seen how weird she was and been like Yay, there's another weirdo over here.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
I remember following you on Tumblr back in the day — your handle was @elizabethsmart, correct?
Yes! I'm such a big believer in Internet love and friendships. So many of my best friends are from the Internet, it facilitates a lot of connections. And it also broadens your horizon and your world. You can find your people when you come from a place where no one really gets you.
I remember seeing you did a documentary project with fellow tumblr icon Rashida Reneé. Did you guys meet online?
Yes, I had been following her for 4-5 years before I did the project and then she followed me in her funny way. Like, she would block me every time I posted something about Rihanna and then refollow me again a few days later because she can't stand her.
That's so funny. What was going out like then when you were in Australia?
I DJed when I was in school at these illegal bars that all my friends worked at. That was a really fun time for me, but it was almost like too fun, so I had to leave. When that started happening, I was at an age when I was finishing school and I wanted to work more and I found that where I was from in Australia was a little bit limiting in terms of the creative scene and like job availability — because you have big cities like Melbourne and Sydney and that's it.
What are your favorite places to go in Chicago?
I love Blind Barber. And Cafe Marie-Jeanne has a really nice vibe and you can drink at any time of the day there which is nice. I also like the Logan Theatre when they have late night movies; we went and saw Home Alone there for Christmas they had hot toddies, but I don't really like bourbon, so [my husband] Josh got me hot chocolate from the bar and got them to put Baileys in it.
Do you have a special getting ready routine for a night out?
I like to chill in my bathroom, smoke, listen to a podcast and do my makeup. And I really like mimosas, so I'll probably have a mimosa too.
Photo by Megan Walschlager
What does going out for you look like now now that you have two kids?
I love going out for like a really nice dinner and going out dancing afterwards. Or like, I love going out to a gallery and ending up at an art after party because those are the best ones. Or the party Queen at Smart Bar is really big here.
What's your current favorite song?
I almost broke my ankle when i heard "Throw Some D's" by Rich Boy at the club the other night.
What's your favorite thing to take photos of?
I just love documentary [photography] and melding documentary and fashion, if I get the opportunity. That's what's really interesting to me — when I can find a narrative that I can visualize and be like, "This can look beautiful if I shoot it like a campaign, but its real life."
What's next for you?
I'm working on this big art project now shooting a lot of women in Chicago. It's exploring the authorship of our image and how it's perceived as "unofficial" unless the author is a male artist. So it's just trying to create a space where we can start a dialogue about women owning their images — like nudes — and it not being an issue. Just like how it's not an issue when you go into an art gallery and see us naked and presented by men.
Follow Elizabeth De La Piedra on Instagram (@elizabethdelapiedra).