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Meet Lily Soleil Correa of Picture Party (@picturepartay) in Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lily Soleil Correa.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I, Lily, moved to San Diego in 2011 from Nicaragua with the help of my older brothers. An opportunity they offered me because of the toxic environment in Nicaragua that I was exposed to. Growing up I had always been interested and naturally inclined to creativity. Moving to this city exposed me to a significantly larger network of opportunities for me as a middle schooler and high schooler to learn from and grow in. Community became the most pivotal part of my life. Whether at home, at school, at church, or in the art community. I soon created a family with people I shared no blood with.

In 2011 I was twelve years old relearning the English language and participating in programs at Montgomery middle school, Kearny High School, and now onto UC Irvine and the Mission Valley YMCA. Programs such as Girls! Camera! Action!, Mission Valley CYMER Digital Studio’s Youth Institute, and my paid internships and connections with Flood Church and their creative team, have all supported me as an individual, given me the basis to begin my own identity, and most importantly, have given me a community where I could be loved. This passion for community and creativity in conjunction with my ever-growing confidence and skill inspired me to begin Picture Party, an organization focused on creating a community for photographers, models, stylists, and more.

I began Picture Party in 2017 as a tagline for photography networking events where 20 or 30 photographers and models would connect and capture together. Today in 2018, we just celebrated a whole year and a total of ten events ranging in themes, challenges, locations, and demographics and extending to hundreds of people. I could not have done this on my own and chose some of my closest most creative friends to accompany me on this journey. We became a team of six artists – four photographers (Kailyn Schauf, Caitlyn Gaurano,Guillermo Ramirez, and myself), one digital artist (Christina Camitan), and one creative writer (Joshua Koo). Delegating and sharing the tasks of organizing events, crowdsourcing, leading, and hosting each creative event. Once we combined our talents, we were able to continue growing from event to event and as a team.

Now we pride ourselves in working collaboratively not only within our organization but with other communities and with other artists to continue to push ourselves into larger and more intentional spaces for the creative community.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Being a community for photographers is intrinsically image focused and statistic driven. So in the beginning, with hardly a hundred followers on Instagram, it was extremely difficult to gain respect and a reputation when in competition with larger community platforms that feature artists and give photographers the stage to gain more numbers.

This was difficult for me personally to overcome; knowing that Picture Party was so small in comparison to bigger communities that were “doing the same thing.” However, we realized we were not doing the same thing and we have been (since I developed a team of multifaceted artists) providing a refreshing, daring, young and different community for creators. It took many events before photographers begun to notice us, and it was hard I think, to want to join something ran by people no older than 20 years old. In many ways, our journey as Picture Party has done more than be a community, I think it has made all of our obstacles a point of conversation.

I remember having an argument with a photographer about how he had felt that the photography community in San Diego was nonexistent, exclusive, simple, or all of the above. I followed by arguing that he was the same person who would dodge our invitations to come to a Picture Party event. The argument began a conversation about how statistics, age, and beauty are held higher over the quality organization, event planning, and overall concept. He expressed that his hesitation came from us being known as a naive young version of other communities, but then he joined us, apologized, and became a good friend of ours.

I remember the overwhelming frustration I felt being seventeen or eighteen still feeling misrepresented as “too young” to do what we have done. I also remember realizing that although my age could not be sped up, that what we have done here has been more than most have done at this age; which has only meant we will continue to do better. In general, it seems chaotic to have teenagers create an organization, host events, manage volunteers, have professional meetings, and all the other adult things.

However, I have been amazed by our own ability to be professional and intentional. Sometimes I credit our age and experiences for making us more empathetic, thoughtful and encouraging to everyone who joins us. Now we are known as a diverse, LGBTQ+ inclusive space that in the future hopes to incorporate more humanistically relevant concepts in our events to raise funds or awareness for others who are trying to enhance the beauty of our world but do not have the means to.

Picture Party (@picturepartay) – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Picture Party is a creativity-driven community that specializes in event planning. We network with other artists to plan a time and date to visit well-known or unique locations in San Diego that would provide the photography community with a beautiful backdrop to practice, start, or extend their portfolios. We highlight models and encourage them to pose and network with the photographers. We are specifically known for our inviting and inclusive environment for all genders, ages, races, sexualities and levels of experience.

Our intentionality is obvious when it comes to being open to anyone who joins us. When planning themes and events we always consider how we can highlight, include, or celebrate individuals through making our events accessible, free, and with no age limit. For instance, at our Bitter Valentine black and red themed event in February at North Park, we had makeup and a makeup artist available for everyone and we were overjoyed by the openness and support from male and femme photographers and models to be dolled up for the cameras.

Our space makes it comfortable for everyone to be young, or be feminine, or simply be themselves. We emphasize the idea of inclusiveness toward one another and thus has made it natural to expand to more and more artists who feel like they have been missing a place in the creative community. We also attempt to specifically include youth, ages 12-20 because as each member of our team had known, it is hard to find unique communities for creativity that allow people under 18 or 21 years old.

As a community, we are most proud of our June art collective. We felt it truly was the embodiment of our intentions to be inclusive of all mediums of creativity and artists of all kind. Having a large venue where we featured art on the walls, vendors with tables, drinks from Por Vida in Barrio Logan, and food trucks, was already a large difference from what we had done in the past. But then to also include a daring runway highlighting the stylists and the diversity within the group of models was something the San Diego creative community had not experienced before.

It was incredibly important for me as the coordinator of the runway to include individuals that speak for every group existing in this creative community. I chose models of all ages, genders, races and body shapes to celebrate them and their beauty.

We also included the team to show that we are inclusive of ourselves and to prove that anyone who creates community can participate in it. Lastly, we included musical and poetic performances and a studio room filled with art installations by artists like PJ Ortiz (@pacifyo) so photographers and models could experience multiple spaces at once. This event was our largest most complex adventure yet. It highlighted our purpose to uplift the artists of San Diego no matter how old or how different. Our anniversary collective reassured me that with friends and families, anyone can create beautiful community.

This is what sets us apart: Being a community built by youth with diverse life experiences and interests to celebrate others in every step of their journeys. We are what I had hoped to have when I was younger, and we are what I am so proud to represent today.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Personally, my understanding of success has molded itself into more and more of what I am currently accomplishing for Picture Party. When I was much younger I understood success as fame and riches but what I subconsciously wanted was consistency, passion and intentionality. I define success as the time when I developed Picture Party and felt every day a passion to continue to grow it and grow in it.

The more time passed the more I associated this passion as a success because for the first time in my life I was being consistent and intentional for myself and for something I created. I have been a part of many successful programs, hobbies, and experiences, but to say I am the creator of experiences and the coordinator of a growing creative community, has transcended my own expectations of what success means.

To experience mass support from people’s parents, my own family and friends, coworkers, professors, managers, store owners, and many more showed ms that success was embedded in healthy, giving, and beautiful relationships.

I have defined success as each moment that I witness the joy of someone taking their first photographs. I experience success through the relationships that are built from the spaces we create. I feel successful by each connection, each celebration of an artist we cross paths with. I feel truly successful (beyond the fame in numbers) through the joy of knowing I could start something much larger than myself.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Som Vongvilay, Veronika Grechman, Alex Grechman, Guillermo Ramirez, Kailyn Schaulf

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Miguel

    August 18, 2018 at 10:21 pm

    When is your next photo meet? I would love to collaborate with you on any upcoming events. I am a photographer in OC and in LA. If you would like to check out my work my instagram is @zealousphotography.

    Please feel free to reach out. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

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