First rule of business and art: Don’t be boring.
Second rule: Be who you are. If you try and be someone else or everything to everyone, you’ll break the first rule.
These two rules are so dang simple, but very few creatives, brands and companies have the conviction to stick to them. Yet, there are those rare few who just get it. They aren’t swayed by trends, deterred by the opinions of others or succumb to the natural insecurity that comes with creating something uniquely their own. Their work speaks for itself and has a depth to it that leaves you yearning to see the world through their eyes. For me, Rico and Rachel Castillero are exactly that. Their work naturally sets them apart, because they set themselves apart.
Going into our interview, I was so curious about where their intense passion to create comes from. I think I found a few nuggets.
Enjoy the interview. I definitely did.
Co-Creator - Lennd
Let’s set the scene: As all good San Diegans do, we met over a craft beer at a local North Park favorite, Modern Times. We laugh a bit about how funny it is to see some big, burly, tattooed guy with a big, burly beard, talk about a pint of beer like it was aged 50 years in a wine cellar, in the Chateau region of France (sorry to half our friends). But on to the good stuff.
Tell me whatever first comes to mind.
Morning person or night person?
Favorite Alcoholic Bev?
RACH: Red Wine.
RICO: Whiskey (Pappy Van Winkle) around a fire.
How do you take your coffee?
RICO: With Almond Milk.
RACH: Chips (any kind with anything).
RICO: Tofu Banh Mi from Tiger Tiger. No one compares.
Now... let’s get serious.
Rach -- What’s your porn name?
Pet’s First Name (or your middle name) + Street you grew up on = Your Porn Name
RACH: Kitty Mango.
...And I’m assuming Kitty is not your middle name...
RACH: It would be really cool if it was.
Rico, I understand you might be somewhat of an aficionado on the King of Pop: Michael Jackson. Where did this all start?
RICO: Hah. There was this movie called “Moonwalker” that MJ put out. I loved it so much when I was a kid. I loved trying to copy his dance moves, especially the Moonwalk.
RACH: I swear we’ve gotten business because of his dance moves.
Yes! Not only do they get two amazing photographers, they get entertainment to boot.
Have you ever performed MJ in a talent show?
RICO: Yeah, well technically it wasn't a talent show. It was a play in 3rd grade - I was Michael Jack Rabbit.
Please tell me you have a photo or video of Michael Jack Rabbit, circa 1990.
RICO: I wish I did, but this might suffice.
Where’s the talent scout when you need one?
Rach, what’s your favorite quirk about Rico?
RACH: That he likes to wear my skinny jeans and has no shame in it.
Well - I think I found what I came for. ;)
I've heard you make a mean vegan nachos.
RACH: Oh, I do indeed. Still haven't found vegan nacho cheese better than mine, if I do say so myself.
Is there any way you'd share the recipe?
RACH: Of course! I'm not a precise person, so forgive me in advance for some of the "measurements"...
My mouth is literally watering… It’s like ballpark nachos.
Let’s switch gears. Get Lost With Us. Rico, what’s the vision?
RICO: It started out just traveling, just to have fun. Take amazing pictures, take amazing videos. Ultimately we’d love it to be a lifestyle, photo, video and branding. It’s just been a bigger response than we thought, so we’re just letting it happen.
Rico, what is the one feeling you want your photos to portray?
RICO: For wedding and lifestyle work, I would hope that my photos would convey a sense of authenticity, simplicity, beauty.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give these two when first starting their business?
RACH: Hmmmmm, good question.
Ha! Thanks, I try.
RACH: Probably just to chill out! Don't stress so much. We learned early on that being intentional about dealing with stress helps the creative process so much. Don't sweat it, making mistakes is ok, that's how you become a better artist and business owner. And really, there's nothing that can't be fixed with a nice glass of bourbon. Blanton’s, to be specific.
How does your background in architecture help your photography?
RICO: Are you kidding me? In so many ways. Architecture school, foundationally, is learning how to beautifully problem solve. Wedding photography is the same thing, you just have to be dressed up while doing it… and hit the dance floor, there’s that. I could talk about this for hours.
Oh, I know you can.
Rach, tell me about The Fox and the Sparrow.
RACH: The Fox and the Sparrow is a project in collab with Sitting in a Tree, Siren Floral, and 1011 Makeup. These are photoshoots that we do all over the country inspired by women, and focused on capturing women and children in a fresh, modern, and intimate way. They celebrate femininity, beauty, and motherhood.
They are blowing up is what they are. Congrats.
Speaking of foxes and sparrows... what’s your spirit animal?
RACH: A horse... Sometimes I'm REALLY sad I'm not a horse in real life, like really, it gets to me.
I feel your pain Rach. I feel the same way about the Jackalope.
Whose Instagram do you absolutely love? Why?
RACH: @benjaminhole (you'll know why once you look at his feed). @local_milk is another one. I love her because she's a deep thinker and she's a lover of food. And her styling/photos are unreal.
INSTAGRAM TIP: What’s one mistake a lot of people make?
RICO: People don’t shoot straight on. They shoot at a slight angle. Maybe it’s the architect in me. Also, over-processing. And using the Instagram filters.
Uh, hold on… *delete*... *delete*... *delete*...
I asked Max & Molly for a little help. They thought inquiring minds would want to know if you've ever had sex at a wedding? And if so, was it one you were working? Remember, this is a safe place. No judgement here.
RACH: HAHAHAHAHAHAHA....oh Max and Molly. Pretty sure the only inquiring minds would be them, but now I'm inquiring the same thing about them, which I'm pretty sure I already know the answer to. ;) But nope, no getting down at a wedding has ever happened, although I guess that's not the worst idea (but never, ever if we were working!)
So... is this 'working'?
Alright, guys. Let’s close it out with some Castillero Words of Wisdom.
RACH: Well shit, I'll just quote one of my fave authors, Donald Miller. "Sometimes the story we are telling the world isn't half as endearing as the one that lives inside us." You are more than your brand, you are more than who you are on social media. True connection, honesty, humility… that's where it's at. Life AND your business/art will be so much richer.
RICO: Avoid trends. Tilted photos are not all they are cracked up to be.
Who should we interview next?
Popcorn: Tori Hendrix from Sitting in A Tree.
Ask her about when she cried at the sight of a herd of elks.
My Take Away + a quick story:
Walking away from this interview, I can’t help but be intrigued by the approach these two have for their craft and their businesses. I think it has to do something with the combination of an architectural mind and the artistic soul. Because when I touched on those areas during the interview, I could see them just come alive.
A little more for ya:
Third Rule: don’t ever ask an artist for their opinion, if you’re not ready for their honest answer.
Rico and Rachel were the very first vendors I ever shared Lennd with. I’m not sure exactly how I explained it at the time, but I remember walking away thinking: F! that hurt :).But I asked for their opinion and they gave it alright.
I look back now and it was the best advice anyone could have given us. It forced us to view Lennd as an expression of our creativity, our style and our voice. Thanks to that early meeting: we are on a mission to create something that the most creative in the industry will love, will use and see as a compliment to their brand. And now when we ask for opinions from others, we hope they will be as honest as that first meeting.
Rico and Rachel - Thank you.