Chats With Cath: Aylee

Music is intertwined into so many aspects of our lives. Whether it’s a little jingle on a commercial that gets stuck in your head for days or that song you blast when you need a pick-me-up, it’s safe to say most of us couldn’t imagine a world without music. Some prefer to keep their singing confined to their shower or car while others share it with the world. One of those people who share their talent with the world is Aylee, During our shoot at the Japanese House & Garden in Fairmount Park, we soaked up the serene atmosphere and made the most of the breezy autumn afternoon.

Keep reading to get to know Aylee for yourself.


if you only had a few moments to explain what your art to a stranger, what would you say?

“My art is my testimony. I didn’t chose to make gospel music, God said the only way I could pursue music is to sing for him. My gifts of singing and songwriting are used for his Glory and I’m honored. Plus I get to tell my story and testify about the greatness of God all in one breathe and it’s magical.“

what’s your earliest memory of music?

“My earliest memory of singing is when I was 10 years old and I received my first solo in my grandmother’s church. I sang Silent Night and my grandma was so proud. I also got in a fight because a girl was jealous I got the part. She later became one of my best friends. Lol”


what’s your favorite thing about the music/creative scene in philly? 

“My favorite aspect of music/creative scene in Philly is its diversity. There’s a tribe for everyone where one can feel at home and accepted. What I also appreciate is the growth that’s happened in the creative community. From local entrepreneurs thriving in business, to organizations like Rec Philly providing resources, to music of all genres playing in venues all over the city. Philly is the Mecca of creative performance at the moment.”


as a creative person, do you ever feel a struggle to balance personal & professional work? 

“Yes, all the time. I work as a attendance coordinator for a charter school, run a hair styling business out of my home and write and sing on a daily basis so yes balancing it all is trying at times. On top of that I’m a wife, bonus mom, and active member of my church so a to do list is my best friend. I’m a planner, but I ask the Holy Ghost what moves to make often. So though life can be draining at times I’m enjoying it. I do however want to start yoga lol”

when you get a creative block, what are some ways you overcome those? 

“What I can say is I never force the music. I dwell in the space of creativity when it hits me. Whether that’s when I hear a dope beat I connect to or when I’m overhearing a conversation that inspires a song. When the juices start flowing, I give my creative side full range. Ideas come at the strangest times for me but I will say my bathroom is a place where hits have been created!”

what are some of the biggest challenges you face as an artist, especially as a woman?

“I’ve faced numerous challenges as an artist, first with accepting my sound as different as is it. Then finding the right creatives to work with. As a woman, when I first started in this industry I was combated with many sexual advances from my male counterparts. Being taken serious in the music industry takes talent and dedication, and in the past 10 years, I believe I’ve shown I possess them both. Budget has been a challenge as well but in the right season, God opens doors no man can close. Honestly I’m grateful for all the challenges because I’ve grown as an artist and a business woman. Even with this album, the lack of a team showed the necessity for one but these are all lessons learned.”

what are three things you never leave home without? 

”I never leave without my phone, a coat if needed, I’m always cold and lipstick."

what are you working on now? and what’s next for you? 

“I’m releasing my debut album November 30th so it’s all I’ve been working on this past month. I don’t know what’s in store but I believe greatness is here. I pray to be touring and doing a few productions come 2019. Oh, performing at the Essence festival is #goals.”

Chats With Cath: Samantha Rise

Over the last three years of shooting portraits, one thing has become clear to me; everyone has a story. Conversations with strangers don’t come easy but when my camera is in my hand, it seems to come naturally. Being in front of a camera can be a challenge for most people so I tend to ask a bunch of questions while shooting, partly because it helps the person on the other side of my lens relax but mostly because I genuinely love to learn about people. The creative community in Philly is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of and since a lot of people I shoot with tend to be artists themselves, I’m constantly inspired by each person I meet. While recently shooting with the talented Samantha Rise, it hit me that I often share just the photos taken during each shoot but I rarely get the opportunity to share the stories of those I shoot with. That changes now. Get to know the artists who live and create in Philly.

Meet Samantha Rise in her own words.


If you only had a few moments to explain what you do as an artist to a stranger, what would you say?

“I would say I’m a songcatcher - that I listen deeply to the moments in everyday life that want to be melodies, and try to frame them with music.  I collect moments and sounds and puzzle them into songs with some of my best friends, and I love it. I’d also probably say something super awkward and weird, because, hey, story of my life.”

What’s your earliest memory of music?

”I come from lineage of singers, so music has always been a huge part of my life.

My earliest memory of music is probably singing the raffi song ‘down by the bay’ with my mom as a teeny tiny human outside on our sidewalk in California (we lived in the Bay Area for a minute when I was in preschool). She’s a beautiful singer and always my sisters and I laugh so much!

I remember that, every Christmas, my family would sing karaoke at my grandfather’s house...and I would run out o the room with my hands on my ears .. screaming, ha.”

What’s your favorite thing about the music/creative scene in philly?

“I love that Philly is really good at cross-pollinating… I can’t remember who came up with the language first, but I’m all about it. Where so many other cities have very specific, very isolated scenes/genres, Philly has a beautiful way of bringing together lots of different influences and scenes; not to mention lots of different mediums and performances styles.  I feel like my music doesn’t sound like any one thing, and. I love that I never have to apologize for exploring and incorporating my influences. So many brilliant Philly Artists represent that pollinator vibe, and I love it! It’s definitely a philly jawn.”


Do you feel like your passion for music was something you’ve always had or was it something you grew into?

“I have always had a passion for music- I’m always singing and writing little melodies, recording wild sounds on the street, dabbling in new instruments, studying different records.  I can’t imagine living without music, so I aspire to build my life in a way that I never have to. What I’ve had to grow into is developing a kind of structure for making music - especially practicing, revising (the first try is the rarely the final draft), and figuring out the logistics of playing out.  It takes me so much effort to focus and work on booking and seeing things through. I have to remind myself that I love and trust the work enough to finish it, and get it out into the world. I think I’m in a new phase of growing up as a songwriter and performer, in that I’m learning how to take on more responsibility- learning to trust myself more to stay organized, and to ask for support.”


As a creative person, do you ever feel a struggle to balance personal & professional work?

“Ugh. This is the biggest challenge of my life! Shameless plug: I’m still in search of a booking unicorn human who can help me respond to all the emails, keeping or dropping the follow-up ball, and get to one. Meeting. Or. Rehearsal. On. Time.

This question had really changed as I’ve work in different spaces and places. My job right now is absolutely amazing: as the Program Director at Girls Rock Philly, I’m grateful to work in a organization that believes that our creative work nourishes our professional work, so there’s lots of flexibility in terms of honor my responsibilities and making my music.  I do my own booking/pr/etc, which is the hard part- Emails are the vampire of my life energy, and it’s tricky to be persistent and follow through.”


When you get a creative block, what are some ways you overcome those?

“I think my creative appreciates when I say “I’m not gonna rush you or force you, I’ll just come back and check in.” Finding a balance between committing to finish what I start, and to let whatever will Be take its time, by all skillful means.

I try to get a sense of how urgent a song or vision or idea is- this is always changing. sometimes an idea will come back after 5 years, sometimes it shows up and needs to be added in the last 5 minutes of studio time (both of these things happened working on our most recent release.  I think trying to be patient with myself and the idea is the hardest part.

I love taking a break and coming back to music- taking a walk, reading a book, calling my grandparents- trying to be grateful and sneak a little bliss helps me gain perspective on an idea that feels a little stuck.”


What’s next for you? What are you working on at the moment?

“Getting excited to play at the Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia museum of Art and a bunch of other dreamy venues in Philly soon!

I’m releasing my debut album, Brighter Days, in a series of 4 EPs over the next year. Each one will be released on the Solstice or Equinox, and celebrating the seasons as they change with gifts and rituals.  I just released the first installment, Summer’s End, celebrates and mourns the summer season. Autumn’s End will be released on the Winter solstice, December 21. The second installment might be my favorite of the whole record, so I’m excited!

I’ll also be traveling to L.A. next week - my band won the grand prize of the coffee music project in New York, so we’ll perform at the Coffee Music Festival in LA, perform as guest artists at the LA competition and record our winning song.

Things are really rosy musically at the moment, and I’m really excited to see where we’re headed!”


Check out Sam’s EP Summer’s End and follow her on Instagram for updates on her upcoming release!

Favorite Places To Shoot in Philly

For me, when it comes to location scouting, most of the places I shoot at are found by luck. When I first started photography, I was unemployed and had just moved to Philly so I had plenty of time to explore the city with my camera and my four-legged best friend. At the time, I lived in Old City so I was within walking distance of so many neighborhoods, all filled with hidden little gems. The first location I fell in love with was Race Street Pier. It's where I did my first shoot and it remains one of my favorite spots in Philly in general, not just to shoot. Especially when I was just starting out, I did not enjoy shooting in crowded spots or having people watch me. (Don't worry, I quickly was forced to get over it and now I could shoot in Grand Central Station while still staying in my zone.) RSP is usually not too crowded compared to farther down Penn's Landing and there are tons of elements to incorporate into your work. From the multicolor leaves around the Fall to the harsh shadows created by the metal railings, you really can't go wrong with all Race Street Pier has to offer. 

My next favorite spot was Cira Green and it's still a spot I go to when I can't really think of anything else. It's a location I always keep in my back pocket because, even though I sometimes feel like it's overdone when it comes to photoshoots, there are still so many people who have never been to this incredibly unique green space on top of a parking garage with Center City skyline views. What more could you ask for? If you want to keep the shoot edgy and scenic, there's a side for that. If you want a softer side of greenery and flowers, Cira Green offers that too. I've shot there more times than I can count but I still find new ways to shoot in a limited space. I don't think I'll ever get sick of it. 

Is it considered cheating if this next place on my list isn't really just one place? The alleyways and side street of Philadelphia are by far some of my favorite places to shoot. I absolutely love meeting up with a model at some random intersection and exploring the city. Whether we're venturing down the cobblestone streets of Old City, the quaint little blocks of Washington Square West, or wandering around the cherry blossom lined alleys of Fitler Square, most of my favorite shots are in places we accidentally stumbled on.

I always get out of the habit of doing it in the summer because I don't particularly enjoy sweating or feeling gross while I'm shooting so I tend to stick to one predetermined location when it's hot, but as soon as Fall comes back around, I'm looking forward to exploring this amazing city again. Also, here's a little lazy photographer tip: Google Maps street view can be your best friend when finding locations. When starting my Colors of Philly series, I knew I wanted a bright red wall but wasn't sure where to look so I pulled up Google Maps and ended up in West Philly at a car repair center. The location was perfect and I didn't need to leave my couch to scout it. 

If you've seen even a handful of my photos, you know nature and flowers are my favorite things so it only makes sense that all of the gardens around the city are some of my favorite places to shoot. One of my favorite gardens is at Christ Church at N 2nd & Church St. No matter what time of year, this place is filled with greenery and makes you forget you're in the heart of Old City. Medians around the city also provide some great flowers to immerse yourself. All along Columbus Blvd, the median/train track area is so well landscaped with trees, various plants and brightly colored flowers. After just a short walk down the street, you have tons of options to choose from. There is also a very cool community garden by the Schuylkill River Dog Park that is open to the public and depending on the time of year, it usually has a few flower options to shoot with. 

Another surprisingly underutilized location is behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Wow, where do I even begin with this spot? It's right along the water, the rocks and ledges add an element of adventure and you can always find a hidden spot where you're transported into another world. Even when you think you've seen it all, keep wandering around because you might surprise yourself. 

Last but definitely not least, Washington Avenue Pier is my current #1 favorite location to shoot at. I first found out about it last year when a former coworker recommended this lowkey spot along the river tucked away and covered in foliage. When you head as far east on Washington Ave as you can, you follow a trail down to the Delaware River and have a few different options. One part leads you directly to the water, but don't expect a nice sandy beach. The narrow landing is covered in drift wood and logs so watch your footing but still offers the nature vibe I crave. Down a little farther, there's also a little walkway that takes you out over the water. You'll find some people fishing over the side or dogs playing in the water but I've never seen more than a handful of people there at a time so if relaxing locations are for you, check out this spot.

What are some of your favorite spots to shoot at? I wanna know!