Locations: The Event

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People.  This is exciting.

A few weeks ago, I attended a pop-up creative party that was held at a local super artistic Airbnb in the city.  Local photographers and models were hanging out, listening to music provided by an awesome DJ and taking some killer photos.  The collaborations and connections that happened during this event were insane, and the vibe throughout the entire place was electric.

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This party sparked the creation of Locations.co, the brainchild of local photographers Brandon Lua, Ryan Kell, and Alexis Bandera.  According to their Facebook page, Locations is a new and exciting collaborative experience coming to Buffalo where models, photographers, stylists, and creatives of every industry are invited to mix, share, and bare witness to live photo shoots in unique settings.  Nothing like this has been done in Buffalo before, so this has been getting a LOT of attention.

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Their first event is being held at MES Lounge on April 9th.  Tickets can be purchased on their Eventbrite page and early bird pricing is on now through April 1st.  If you are planning on attending, definitely take advantage of that!

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I’m honored to be involved in such a groundbreaking event.  Follow the Locations Instagram account for updates.  We hope to see you there!

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Photographer Spotlight: Brandon Lua

The second photographer that I’m spotlighting on my blog (check out my first interview with HERE with Colin Gordon) is a newcomer on the scene.  He’s only been at it for a few months, but he’s already making a name for himself.  I came across Brandon’s Instagram account and knew that I had to do a shoot with him.  We did our session in the Old First Ward, and as you can see from the photos below, this is the exact type of gritty backdrop that I love oh so much.

I got the chance to work with him a second time at a pop-up photo shoot/music/model collaboration party at a local amazing Airbnb.  This party sparked the idea to create Locations…a project between Brandon and two other photographers Ryan Kell (one of my besties!) and Alexis Bandera.  This is a super exciting project that’s totally new to Buffalo and I can’t wait to share more details with you all in an upcoming blog post!

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I sat down with Brandon after our shoot and asked him a few questions about photography and life in Buffalo…here’s what he had to say!

How long have you been doing photography?

I’ve only been shooting for four to five months.  So not too long!

Have you always been interested in photography?

Actually, always.  I grew up, my father was always shooting.  He wasn’t exactly a photographer but he always had a camera on him.  He was shooting me, the surrounding area, his friends.  And then also growing up I had friends who were into photography, and then I kind of always envied them.  But I always felt like I was too old to start, but I don’t know…one day I just finally decided to pick up a camera and just shoot, and then next thing you know I was addicted to it.

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What do you love most about photography?

Oh man…everything.  I like capturing the moment.  I feel like every single time I’m capturing a moment, it helps me remember it.  For example, I was shooting one of my friends Denzel at an event that he threw, and his mentor that flew out from California, a really well known director, was telling a story and I remember him pointing his hand out towards Denzel and I captured that moment, and that’s something that I’ll always remember.

Which do you like more- the photography or editing process?

I like them both equally…wait, actually no. I like photography, capturing the moment more so, because I get to interact with the person and socialize.  It’s just all around fun.  I’m more hands on.

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Do you have a favorite location where you like to shoot?

I do, it’s in front of Shea’s at night.  On Main Street…I love the lights in the background.  I like to work with bokeh.  I love to work with lights a lot.  I like daytime, but at the same time, night time…there’s something about it, it’s kind of mysterious and magical.

Do you have a most memorable photo shoot that you’ve done?

I’ve had some crazy shoots!  I’ve done some pretty explicit stuff before *laughs*  Maybe it’s because I’ve never done stuff like that, it was almost natural, though. I didn’t think anything of it until after.  My absolute favorite moment was shooting my girlfriend.  She never likes taking pictures, but she’s very beautiful.  I somehow convinced her and it ended up being one of my most noticed photo.  It was in front of Shea’s, and it was just perfect, because the snow was falling lightly and she was looking beautiful as always and the light was hitting her perfect.

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Where do you draw your inspiration from?

From my lifestyle…that’s why it’s hard for me to find a niche. My life is very random.  One day I’m doing something that looks very innocent and the next day I’m doing a shoot for a rapper, next day I’m doing something for a model.  Basically, I’m not afraid to do anything, so I just do what I want to do.

What do you love most about living in Buffalo?

Most of my family is here.  I like how the city is in a resurgence and everything is coming back to life.  I like how people are taking something with so much culture and history and bringing something new to it, and not just destroying it.  The food here is so good, too.

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What are your favorite local restaurants?

That’s like picking your favorite kid…that’s really hard.  I like Pasion a lot…I’ve been working with them a lot.  It’s Cuban food, and it’s actually my first trying Cuban food and it tastes great.  I also like La Divina. I’m there too much.  They bring something authentic to Buffalo.  They have this drink called horchata which is amazing.  Well, that’s all I got…I guess I only have one kid.  I haven’t been trying many restaurants out recently.

Favorite place to grab a drink?

I like Vera Pizza.  And Pasion, their bar is great.  It depends on the mood I’m in.  I like Vera for original cocktails and Pasion has more tropical drinks.


Thanks so much, Brandon, for sitting down and chatting with me!  I can’t wait to work with you on the upcoming Locations event…it’s going to be a blast!

Also, here’s a bonus shot of the lovely Caralyn and I!

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Sausage, Potato & Kale Soup

So I’m not going to lie…I don’t cook.  It’s not that I can’t cook, it’s just that I don’t like it.  I’m not that type of person who can just look at a basket of ingredients and come up with something off the top of my head.  I would get eliminated in the first round of Chopped.  That’s why I love baking so much, because it’s super structured and you need to follow a recipe for the end product to come out perfect…and also because I have a massive sweet tooth.

On those days when I am feeling ambitious and decide to tackle a savory recipe, I like to stick with one-pot meals.  Minimal cleanup, no fuss, good food.  I’ve made this soup a few times, and it’s always one of my favorite things.  It’s really filling and not super heavy, and it’s an homage to the Olive Garden soup that we all know and love.

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Sausage, Potato & Kale Soup  (adapted from THIS recipe)

2 large bunches Kale, Picked Over, Cleaned, And Torn Into Bite Sized Pieces
7 large Red Potatoes, diced
1 whole Onion, Chopped
1-1/3 pound Hot Italian Chicken Sausage
1/2 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes (more To Taste)
2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
3 cups 2% Milk
3 cups Half-and-half
Italian Seasoning

Instructions:  Prepare the kale and set it aside. In a large pot, crumble and brown the Italian sausage with the onion and little bit of olive oil. Drain as much as the fat as you can. Stir in the red pepper flakes, Italian seasoning, chicken broth, milk, and half-and-half. Add the potatoes.  Simmer for 30 minutes.  Give it a taste and adjust seasonings as needed, then stir in the kale. Simmer an additional 10-15 minutes, then serve.

Nickel City Gritty: Caralyn Mirand

I’m sure many of us have had this experience- you come across a person online who looks interesting, decide to follow them on Instagram, Twitter, or any various social media sites, and become fast internet friends.  From this point on you either keep the friendship digital, or decide to meet up in person, in which that could go incredibly well or you could totally end up getting catfished.

Fortunately for me, I ended up having a wonderful experience with my next Nickel City Gritty interviewee Caralyn Mirand.  Looking at Caralyn’s Instagram account, you’ll see that she is a successful plus size model, securing campaigns with huge clients like Macy’s.  Not only is she a model, she started her own business called Buffalo Beautiful.  She could have easily moved to New York City to work full-time, but instead stays true to her roots and is a Buffalo girl through and through, living here and commuting weekly for jobs.  She is a beautiful person both inside and out, and I’m so happy to share this fun interview with you all.

This is Nickel City Gritty and this is Caralyn Mirand.

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How did you start modeling?

I started when I was a senior in High School.  I applied and was accepted to Clarkson University.  My mom told me to go online and look up scholarship information, and instead I posted my pictures on the Tyra Banks website.  She was having a teen plus size modeling competition. So if you were a size 12 and you were a teenager, you were eligible.  So the next day I received an email saying “Please submit the correct images.” and I was like “Woah, that’s crazy!” because when you were posting the pictures, people were posting them so quickly that my picture went from page one to page ten when I refreshed it.  It was crazy that somebody noticed mine!  So the next day I posted the correct ones and was told “Congratulations, you are in the top 100!” and I was like “Oh my god, that’s crazy!” Next day top 50, then top 25, then top 10…things happened very fast.  They flew my mom and I to New York for about a week to compete on the Tyra Show.  It was a total whirlwind experience and we filmed two episodes.  We did three photo shoots and we did a model walk that had to be creative. We also did a video about Tyra’s beauty campaign that was all about exposing your natural beauty.  So long story short I was the runner up of the competition, and being 17 years old I was heartbroken!  But it’s kind of crazy, I’m the only one out of two cycles of this competition that’s still a working model.  After the show, I met with a modeling agency and they said if you’re not willing to move to New York  then you don’t really have a future, call us after college and maybe we could work something out.  That was kind of a bummer, but I was still able to negotiate myself to work with Seventeen magazine, so I would say “If you could pay for my flight, I would work for free.” and that’s how I got my start! I was feature in Seventeen four times, which was really fun.

How long have you been doing your side business, Buffalo Beautiful?

Living in Buffalo, post college, I thought okay I wasn’t modeling full time, what’s my passion?  What do I want to do? And I wanted to start establishing something here, so that I didn’t need to rely on modeling.  So, to not necessarily fall back on, but to put some roots here again.  So it’s so cliche, but it came to me in a dream.  I woke up and was like, Buffalo Beautiful! And I started writing stuff down in the middle of the night.  That’s how it was born.  It is a consulting company, but that idea is evolving, for sure.  I kind of threw everything at the wall to see what would stick and I’m in the process of updating my website.  I launched it in 2015.  Right now I’m focusing on helping people develop their confidence from the inside out.  So you could wear great clothes, but if you don’t feel good on the inside, you’re not going to feel good on the outside.  I love working with women and men of all ages and helping them become the best versions of themselves.

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Describe your style to me.

Oh gosh. Okay, my style would be classic, easy but polished.  And versatile.  And always evolving.  I think my favorite thing is to invest in pieces that will never go out of style.  Jeans, a leather jacket…I like to buy trends cheaply.  I don’t invest in trends unless it’s something that I’m really stuck on.  One of my goals this year is to invest in better basics.  Better white shirts, better pairs of jeans and getting them tailored.  Being smarter and not just buying to buy, but to actually curate a wardrobe that will last.

Do you have a favorite outfit or favorite piece of clothing?

Right now, I don’t know what it is, I’m all about my black jeans.  Whether it’s regular black jeans or ripped black jeans.  I bought like six pairs of black jeans this year…it’s crazy.

Where’s your favorite place to buy jeans?

I used to be a die hard Gap person, but not as much anymore.  This is crazy to say this, but I’ve actually had a lot of luck at American Eagle this year for jeans.  I recently bought jeans there, and I wear a lot of Fashion to Figure jeans and they start at a size 12.  Every once in a blue moon I will have good luck at TJ Maxx and Marshalls but I don’t really count on it.  I’ve also been all about the little white sneaker.

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Do you have a style icon?

Ummm…I feel like I should.  This is hard, because I really find my inspiration through street style.  I love looking on Pinterest, and let’s say that if I buy black jeans, I’ll type in “black jean outfits” on Pinterest and I’ll search that and get inspiration from that.  I also love to look at magazines and finding inspiration through normal people, as silly as that sounds.  It’s hard because there are people who I love the way they dress, but it wouldn’t look good on me.  Like Olivia Palermo, I love all her outfits, but I could never wear it.  Also, people that I work with, too,  Like everyone is always dressed so cool.  And it’s funny, because they’re not wearing anything crazy.  It’s simple and classic.

What is currently on your playlist?

I am obsessed with The Highway on Sirius Radio.  Backstory, never loved country music, moved to the furthest point north in New York State, fell in love with country music up there somehow.  I love Top 40 pop music, stuff you can jam and move to.  I love being able to sing along.  My boyfriend and I have bonded over country music.  Drake White is so good, I listen to him on repeat.  I like feel good music and the old early 2000 jams.

Do you have a favorite or most memorable concert?

It’s a tie between my first concert ever, which was Britney Spears at Darien Lake or every year my boyfriend and I like to get to Pittsburgh to see Kenny Chesney, he does the stadium tour.  It’s a fun vibe in the summer and a fun atmosphere.  Everyone’s drinking beer and tailgating.  It’s the kickoff of summer.

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Do you have a celebrity crush?

So, I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always loved Adam Levine.  I’m not really even that into tattoos, but I think he’s really good looking.  Blake Shelton’s personality really cracks me up, and it’s funny because I don’t even watch The Voice that much, but those two are good looking.  I’m all about the tall, dark and handsome, though.  It’s kind of my jam.

What’s your favorite restaurant in Buffalo?

I love Sinatra’s in Kenmore.  You know you’re going to get a good Italian meal. I love Acropolis and La Nova.  Tempo I love for the fancy date night.  I also love Andersons, is that bad? Also, I will gladly get a health problem for Paula’s Doughnuts.

What’s your favorite place to grab a drink?

I would say Vera is a really good place to get a drink, and my boyfriend and I would go to Templeton when we first started dating.  That’s more for scenery.  The patio with the fire pits…that’s where my  boyfriend and I fell in love.  We go once a year on our anniversary.  Or even just Canalside or Liberty Hound…that area is just fun.

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What’s your spirit animal?

A turtle.  So I was a Delta Zeta in college and turtles were our mascot.  Ever since then my parents would buy anything with a turtle for me, to the point where it got a little excessive. I have my spare bedroom that’s tastefully turtle themed.  I have this really beautiful turtle keepsake box from Room and I have little turtles all over my house.  And slow and steady wins the race, I guess!  So yes, a turtle.  Or my dog is my spirit animal, because he doesn’t get out bed until noon and really has one hour of active time…so maybe he is.  His name is Walter.  He’s a 30 pound pitbull mix.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received?

I’ll tell you the best and the oddest.  The best one, I’d have to say, is that I know how to make people feel good, and that relates back to my Buffalo Beautiful.  Helping people feel good about themselves after I help them.  The oddest one is that makeup artists tell me all the time that I have really good spacing between my eyes and my eyebrows for makeup.  So I’ve never thought about that, but that’s cool!*

*Editor’s note: The instructor who taught me in makeup school called this orbital space*

And, always my last question.  What do you want to be when you grow up?

My go-to answer to this is usually a stay at home dog mom.  I actually want to be happy and be able to travel and have a family and improve my cooking even more…I’m an amateur chef.  I want to find happiness and laughter every day, and family for me is number one.  As long as you have your health and your happiness  and family…that’s all I could ever ask for when I grow up.  I wish I was funnier *laughs*  It’s never been about where I am, it’s who I’m with.  I would rather be sitting with someone like you in a shack than being with low quality people in the most beautiful place in the world.  It’s important to surround myself with good people, especially in the industry that I’m in.  I want to continue to surround myself with people who challenge me to do better and to care about important things.  That’s all I could ever want and ask for.  Man, that got me in the feels!

Photographer Spotlight: Colin Gordon

A few weeks ago, I talked about my love of photography.  Recently, I’ve been very blessed to work with some extremely talented local photographers.  Instead of just compiling some of the photos in a random blog post, I wanted to really showcase these amazing camera magicians.

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The first photographer that I’m going to feature is Colin Gordon.  I’ve known Colin for a few months now, and he is such a genuinely nice person who has a true passion for his craft.  I shot with him a couple weeks ago on an extremely cold and windy day in Allentown, and although the weather conditions were a little rough, the photos turned out phenomenal!

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I asked Colin a few questions about his business and life in Buffalo…here’s what he had to say!

How long have you been a professional photographer?
I have been a professional photographer for about a year and a half.

What do you love most about photography?
There are so many things I love about photography that it’s hard to narrow down to just one! First and foremost, I love to create. Secondly, I love technology and computers. Being a photographer lets me justify buying new gadgets haha. Thirdly, making people happy with the images I create is an amazing experience. Not only am I doing what I love, I get to create something special for someone that can never be recreated and that will last forever. It’s honestly pretty surreal sometimes. Also, I love that photography forces me out of my comfort zone. It makes me explore new places and meet new people.

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Do you have a favorite location where you like to shoot?
My favorite location is the spot where I have yet to shoot! But on the realz Italy was amazing…

What’s your most memorable experience as a photographer?
There have been countless memorable experiences as a photographer. In the past year, I would have to say shooting the Shakey Graves concert at Canalside was a highlight. They’re one of my favorite bands and to be able to combine live music and photography is amazing. Two of my favorite things at once!

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
There are many sources that I draw my inspiration from: local and national photographers, tv shows, and my friends and family.

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What do you love most about living and working in Buffalo?
I love living and working in Buffalo because you can feel the energy and excitement of the next generation of businesses and entrepreneurs. All I remember hearing when I was growing up was how terrible things are in Buffalo. Now, things are finally starting to turn around and it’s cool to watch it happen. It gives me hope for the future.

Favorite local restaurant and/or bar?
Too hard to pick only one haha. Here’s my top 5: Saigon Cafe, La Divina, Black Sheep, Mothers, and LLoyd (trucks and factory).

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Are there any locations in Buffalo where you would love to shoot but haven’t yet?
Yes! I want to shoot on top of one of the grain elevators. I’ve explored so many of them but have yet to get to the roof. I’ve seen other local photogs do it so there must be a way!

What’s on your playlist- what do you listen to while you are editing photos?
My taste in music is all over the place. I love house and techno but I also listen to a smorgasbord of bands. My most recently played bands on Spotify are: The Decemberists, The Head and the Heart, Odesza, Pinegrove, Ugly Casanova, Modest Mouse, Shakey Graves, Alt-j, and Vampire Weekend.


Thank you SO MUCH Colin for shooting with me!  I had a blast!!  Make sure to follow Colin on Instagram for your daily dose of gorgeous photography inspiration.

Nickel City Gritty: Hertel Avenue

By now, you’ve (hopefully!) read two of the interviews in my Nickel City Gritty series…if not, go ahead and click the link, I’ll give you some time.

Now that you have made yourself familiar with this project that is near and dear to my heart, let me present to you the very first Nickel City Gritty video!

This video was made possible by the incredible duo Brandon & Josh at Buffalo Above. I’ve been working with these guys for a few months now and from our first meeting I knew that we had something special. After hashing out a few ideas on where to take this series, we quickly decided to focus on the one thing that inspires me every day- Buffalo. This city, its neighborhoods and its people are a HUGE inspiration to me, so why not showcase it?

For the first video, I wanted to talk about my neighborhood- Hertel Avenue. I have never felt more at home than where I am now. In this video, I talk about why I love Hertel so much, I touch on my personal style, and you’ll see some gorgeous shots of the street and its businesses.

Big props to my husband for being a good sport and agreeing to be part of this project. He’s an avid cyclist who also has a passion for Buffalo and its culture, so it was only fitting that he would be the first subject. Also, I know that it was difficult for him to describe his personal style, but everyone has a style identity, even if you’ve never thought about it!

The team at Buffalo Above and I have a few more projects in the works, so stay tuned!  Where will Nickel City Gritty be showing up next?

Harborcenter Canalside Artwork

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Before I talk about this colorful piece of public art, first let me say that these photos were taken way back on an unseasonably warm day this past November…oh how I wish that I could walk outside with bare legs and arms right now and not freeze to death!

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These colorful babies are the next addition to my Buffalo Public Art page.  Last year, Harborcenter announced that they had three loading dock doors that needed a little bit of beautifying, so they hosted a public art contest.  Out of all of the entries, I am so happy that this piece won.

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This was created by Thomas Paul Asklar and Matthew Sinclair Conroy.  According to the press release, the bold and bright colors of HARBORCENTER’s winning design symbolize the brilliant renaissance of the Queen City through light rays that radiate throughout the mural and represent sunrise and sunset.  Art Deco is represented throughout the mural to pay tribute to Buffalo’s rich art and architectural history, highlighted by City Hall, which was completed in 1931. The mural’s mighty bison pays tribute to Buffalo’s namesake animal and the Native Americans who held the buffalo in sacred regard. The seal of the City of Buffalo hovers with a lightning bolt, along with an iconic grain mill, to reference the city’s powerful industrial history. The historical sign of the “Two Waterfronts” and image of the lighthouse pay tribute to the merging of the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes, which was vital to grain trade for generations. A young mule represents the Erie Canal’s importance to immigrants and their vital contribution to our region’s commercial success. Paying further tribute to Buffalo’s place as the Queen City of the Great Lakes is the iconic SS Arthur M. Anderson cargo ship, which represents the shipping industry and is believed to be the last ship in contact with the SS Edmund Fitzgerald before its sinking in 1975. The SS Anderson is still in service today.

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This is definitely a must-visit piece of public art, and it’s absolutely hard to miss it!  Whenever you come on down to Canalside to spend a day on the water or head on over to the Key Bank Center for a concert or a Sabres game, stop on by Harborcenter and snap some photos of this beauty.

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Remember to check out my Buffalo Public Art page for the exact location of this mural as well as other beautiful pieces in the area!