Erin and Caroline are a couple living in Asheville North Carolina. I met Erin during our Find Your Park Expedition trip with the National Park Foundation during the fall and we’ve been in contact ever since. During our time in California, we realized that we both had a lot in common. We both share a love for photography, storytelling, and hold great aspirations as community builders, which made our interaction a lot more meaningful. I knew then that having her and her partner, Caroline, as featured guests for UNICO would be a great way to show people that creativeness thrives within the LGBTQ community. They are a freelance photography and writing team interested in both slow and fast travel in search of a good story to tell with adventurous minded people. They’ve also recently hosted Asheville’s first instameet, #AshevilleInstameet, and traveled to Beijing China. Keeping up with the two through their various social media accounts, I can tell that they make a perfect duo overcoming different obstacles and having fun while doing it.
Because of our distant living locations, me in Texas and Erin and Caroline living in North Carolina, we decided that a Q&A would be more efficient for this interaction. Hope you enjoy.
Q. First of all how was Beijing China?
Caroline: For me coming back home felt much slower. Life felt fast in Beijing; it was like visiting New York City on steroids. I was overwhelmed by the movement, but I did miss things that can’t experience here.
Q. What was the most interesting thing from that adventure?
Caroline: For me, it’s not a complain or insult in anyway, but there is a third world and first world existing at the same time. All of life there was visitable. Cooking in the street, constant traffic, it was there for everyone to see.
Erin: I felt very stimulated. Things and places that I shot there were challenging. I tend to take the perfect picture but the area was densely packed.
Q. Moving on, how is it being a duo team. I know both of you have recently started as community builders, but dipping your feet with the #AshevilleInstameet, how was it getting it started?
Erin: It was a lot of fun. After the Find Your Park Expedition I got a lot of inspiration from you, the other members, and Javier. It took a lot of planning, but then it happened so fast. We did a lot and as a team we got it done. We both put our strengths and abilities, which contributed into making it happen.
Caroline: It was helpful for Erin that I knew the area. We got local businesses and photographers to come and be part of it. Erin’s excitement was infectious the whole time.
Q. Did anyone or any other group play a role as contributors?
Erin: We developed a core team. When I first moved here I met Chelsea Lane Bollhoefer and Amelia Fletcher. They helped in creating flyers and spread the word about the instameet. We met and talked about ideas and what duties each one had. We also had two businesses take part, High Five Coffee and French Broad Chocolate lounge who gave out prizes to participants.
Q. Did anything surprise you from it?
Caroline: On a personal level I found that planning it and talking about it more gave me more confidence. We were so hopeful that the first one would be a success, which it was, and now planning for the second one feels much easier and comfortable. I’m less awkward getting businesses and photographers to participate.
Q. What was the outcome of it? Have you had any type of feedback?
Erin: We had twenty-eight participants come out and they immediately wanted to know when the next one was going to be. The feedback was very positive. Asheville is a very artsy town and people from outside came out. We had some people come from Boone and Charlotte which is about two hours away. It felt nice to fill that void that was missing in our city.
Q. After hosting your first instameet, what advice would you give other people who want to do the same?
Erin: I’d suggest what you told me during the FYPx trip, which was to create a core team, people who you trust creatively and who want to share with others. Collaborating is also important.
Q. What is after the instameet? Do y’all have any further plans or projects that both of you are working on?
Erin: We are going in different directions with ideas on how to make a living. We left our jobs and now we are both focusing on freelancing, photography, collaborating with other people, writing, and website design. It feels fulfilling but it’s also scary to know if there is a demand for this type of work. Caroline does the networking, she has a good reputation as a business owner and she’s done business within the town for a while.
Caroline: There is a lot competition within the area. It’s not a small city but the area is big with creative types. A local busines whose website we are working on contacted us initially because of Erin’s photography.
Q. How are you getting prepared for the second instameet?
Erin: We started preparing everything early. The first one took us three weeks in planning, but learning from the last one, this one is taking us five weeks. It’s a little less stressful and more people seem interested. We changed the time, which is planned during the afternoon.
Caroline: We’ve contacted businesses already, some of them include Urban Orchard which is a cider bar and where we will finish. The Dry Good Shop, they make all kinds of crafts such as leather goods and host workshops. They are going to allow us to explore their space and take pictures there.
Q. And to finish it up, what are your long term goals?
Erin: With Instagram, if it’s still going strong in the next five years, we’ll try to make the instameets more inclusive for everyone.
Caroline: It’s the first time in my life that I’ve had that kind of involvement within the community. I typically tend to shy away, but this experience was a confidence builder. It’s a new window to the place I’ve lived for years.
If you want to learn more about Erin and Caroline make sure to visit their website or Instagram accounts. And make sure you're keeping up with their work and their upcoming instameet, which is planned to take place on January 28, 2017.
UNICO is an LGBTQ online journal focusing on the lives of various people who are making a difference within the community as individuals. Creatives, activists, entrepreneurs, artists, or anyone who is active within their passions are welcome to join the conversation. We recognize sexual identity as a vast spectrum and respect everyone's identity and likes. For further questions, concerns, or inquiries contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you <3
Website coming soon.