Trip to Chicago

Chicago Weekend Trip

This past weekend (April 12th, 2019) my assistant, Jay, and I set out on the road for Chicago for a weekend full of photoshoots and video shoots.

As i’ve said before i’m the Director of Film for Transilient and although we’ve been off the road for a little while, we’ve still been working our butts off on securing funding and planning our next couple projects that we have lined up. We will be launching a kickstarter on April 23rd to raise funding for a short documentary series covering mental health in Appalachia and will use any extra funds raised to put towards pre-production of Transilient’s Full-Length Documentary.

So, Why Chicago?

We ventured out to Chicago to shoot promotion photos for our Kickstarter campaign, plus we filmed a short promotional video while we were there as well. We’re collaborating with Transfigure Print Co to bring to life three different designs to choose from.

Model: Jacob, @Justjake.lba (Insta) | Photographer: James Heatherly | Location: Chicago  [Image Description: Image is a 3/4 body portrait of Jacob, modeling a t-shirt, with the words “Some Of You Aren’t Trans and It Shows…” in a wavvy text with transgender flag colors. Standing in front of a body of water with the horizon in the background. Jacob is also wearing a bright Lockwood 51 fanny pack around his waist]

Model: Jacob, @Justjake.lba (Insta) | Photographer: James Heatherly | Location: Chicago

[Image Description: Image is a 3/4 body portrait of Jacob, modeling a t-shirt, with the words “Some Of You Aren’t Trans and It Shows…” in a wavvy text with transgender flag colors. Standing in front of a body of water with the horizon in the background. Jacob is also wearing a bright Lockwood 51 fanny pack around his waist]

Saturday in Chicago

Chicago is a very fun place to visit, with a lot to do, see, and eat. We got in extremely late Friday night, so as soon as we got to Chi we passed out.

Saturday was one big day of shooting, but we made sure to catch some breakfast and coffee before starting our work day. The last time I was in Chicago I was introduced to this cute little joint called SmackDab. This place is AMAZING. They have the best breakfast sandwiches ever and they’re Gluten-Free and have Vegan Options! As soon as you walk in, it’s a small but welcoming space. You feel very at home and comfortable. It has the feel of a small coffee shop, but a very inclusive one because theres trans, pride flags everywhere and they have cute merch you can buy.

Photo taken by: Jay Jefferson | Pictured: Mile High Sandwich at  Smack Dab Chicago   [Image Description: A Gluten-Free cheesy cornbread breakfast sandwich, between the cornbread is an omelet with ham, mushrooms, green peppers, and a chive mayo to top it all off. All sitting on a plate while we sit outside.]

Photo taken by: Jay Jefferson | Pictured: Mile High Sandwich at Smack Dab Chicago

[Image Description: A Gluten-Free cheesy cornbread breakfast sandwich, between the cornbread is an omelet with ham, mushrooms, green peppers, and a chive mayo to top it all off. All sitting on a plate while we sit outside.]

After Breakfast

After filling up at Smack Dab, we headed back to Basil’s to set up gear, talk shoot details, and also just to have a general team meeting while we all had the chance since we were face to face. (Basil, Transilient’s founder and executive director, lives in Chi while Jay and I live in Cincinnati) After getting all the equipment together we started our short walk to one of Chicagos beaches, which was our first shooting location of the day.

We lucked up on the weather being so nice on Saturday. It was a bit chilly due to being right by the water and also the intense wind (they don’t call this place the “windy city” for nothing). BUT Sunday took a turn for the worst with a snow storm heading straight for Chicago! Since Jay and I had to drive back home Sunday night we were a bit worried due to the snow, so it was essential that we got enough footage Saturday to pull everything together, incase we needed to for sure cancel Sunday due to the forecast. We just swept that thought out of our minds and kept hoping all Saturday that the weather would magically change.

Photographer: James Heatherly | Models (Left to Right): Basil (@TiniestKing), Jacob (@JustJake.Iba), Hal (@hal.kline) | Location: Chicago  [Image Description: Three folks standing side by side against a cute, aqua, colada stand on the beach. Each person is wearing a Transfigure Print Co t-shirt. Basil (first person in line) is wearing a t-shirt with “Transilient, #MoreThanTrans” on the pocket area of the left side of the shirt, Jacob (second person in line) is wearing a shirt that says “Some of you aren’t Trans and it shows..” that is printed in a wavy text with trans flag colors, and last Hal is wearing a shirt that says “Ask me about human rights” in a bold font. All models are smiling and wearing sunglasses enjoying their time on the beach.]

Photographer: James Heatherly | Models (Left to Right): Basil (@TiniestKing), Jacob (@JustJake.Iba), Hal (@hal.kline) | Location: Chicago

[Image Description: Three folks standing side by side against a cute, aqua, colada stand on the beach. Each person is wearing a Transfigure Print Co t-shirt. Basil (first person in line) is wearing a t-shirt with “Transilient, #MoreThanTrans” on the pocket area of the left side of the shirt, Jacob (second person in line) is wearing a shirt that says “Some of you aren’t Trans and it shows..” that is printed in a wavy text with trans flag colors, and last Hal is wearing a shirt that says “Ask me about human rights” in a bold font. All models are smiling and wearing sunglasses enjoying their time on the beach.]

The Shoot

Before models started showing up, we took some photos of Basil modeling a couple different shirts to test angles, make sure the Ronin was performing properly, and to get a feel of the areas around the beach that we wanted to capture.

All the models we met throughout the day were so nice and very easy to work with. Everyone was laughing and having a great time. Our first two models were Jacob and Hal. During the shoot, we found this old Colada stand (pictured above). They had left quite a bit stuff laying around and we were able to hoist up a Trans flag and briefly call the area we were shooting at “Trans Beach”. It made for some awesome photos and the wind came in handy! (pictured below)

Photographer: James Heatherly | Models: Hal (@hal.kline) , Jacob (@JustJake.Iba) | Location: Chicago  [Image Description: Two folks standing side by side, between them is a wooden pole with a trans flag flowing in the wind. On the left is Hal wearing our “Ask Me About Human Rights” T-shirt and to the right of Hal is Jacob wearing our “Some Of You Arent Trans and It Shows” shirt with silhouettes of bare trees in the background.]

Photographer: James Heatherly | Models: Hal (@hal.kline) , Jacob (@JustJake.Iba) | Location: Chicago

[Image Description: Two folks standing side by side, between them is a wooden pole with a trans flag flowing in the wind. On the left is Hal wearing our “Ask Me About Human Rights” T-shirt and to the right of Hal is Jacob wearing our “Some Of You Arent Trans and It Shows” shirt with silhouettes of bare trees in the background.]

The Rest of Saturday

We continued our shoot by taking a short walk to the area known as the mile of murals. We got some photos of models in front of different murals and lots of cool video footage, which ya’ll will get to see once our Kickstarter video launches.

While walking around we saw a cute little park and decided to get a short clip of one of our models coming down the slide, which was fun! And then went to the subway to get some more different shots.

After wrapping up a full, jam packed day of filming Jay and I couldn’t figure out what we wanted to eat. So many great options when you’re in Chicago! We decided to grab some Mexican food and after eating we headed back to Basil’s briefly to go over footage before we decided to pack up and leave that night due to the impending snow storm about to hit Chi.

So we once again hit the road and headed home with a lot of great photos and video content to share! We ended up having enough footage gathered from Saturday, but it was still saddening to have to cancel Sunday and not meet all the other great models who had signed up. We can’t wait to come back to Chicago to make up for the weather! :)

Talk to you soon and if you’re traveling yourself, safe travels and cheers to being creative

-James Heatherly

On Tour with Transilient

Hello everyone! I’m currently in the process of updating my website, but some exciting news. I’ve been on tour with Transilient for 3 weeks now. We’re traveling the US currently on Transilient’s 3rd tour (my first with them). Transilient has become a project that’s very close to my heart and my personal goals as a photographer and film maker; sharing stories.

“Transilient is a traveling photo and interview-based project. We candidly document transgender and gender non-conforming people in their day-to-day lived realities using only their voices.

The project attempts to humanize, educate and destroy the assumption that trans folks are solely defined by their physical experience and their oppression. To bring about understanding and tackle transphobia we aim to weave transgender lives into the overall human experience instead of merely focusing on the transition.

Our objective is to create a platform that is accessible to all people, in and out of the trans community.” -wearetransilient.com

This tour is about 7 weeks long, going through 17 different states, meeting tons of various trans and non-binary folks and sharing their stories. This specific tour is being sponsored by It Gets Better. The takeover on all their social media started yesterday (October 22nd) You can find our stuff being shared on their Instagram (@ItGetsBetter), Twitter (@ItGetsBetter), and their Facebook page (@ItGetsBetterProject).

So far we’ve been to: Kansas City, Missouri, Salt Lake City, Utah, Seattle, Washington, Portland, Oregon, Boise, Idaho, Casper, Wyoming, Missoula, Montana, and a short break for the team at the beautiful West Glacier National park.


Photo by  Basil Soper

Photo by Basil Soper


This trip has totally changed my life in a lot of ways. I’m just so grateful for an opportunity like this to fall into my life. I’ve been doing video work and photography work through tour along with some graphic design for a state-by-state campaign we’re running while on the road. It has been truly life changing and inspiring to hear all the stories that we’ve heard. It’s also interesting to see how some stories are so similar to another, but the bottom line is we’re #MoreThanTrans. We’re more than our transitions and we’re humans doing typical things like everyone else. We’re artists, military, mail mans, government officials, etc. WE ARE EVERYWHERE. #WontBeErased

Also, we have paired up with an awesome printing company, TransfigurePrintCo to print hoodies and t-shirts for tour. (Seen above; Model Basil Soper; executive director of Transilient) If you buy one before October 31st you’'ll receive $5 off from the regular price they will be sold at. The hoodies are so soft and comfortable. The t-shirts are just as soft as well. While you’re there make sure you check out all the other amazing designs and stuff that Transfigure is putting out. :)

Talk to ya’ll soon

-James Heatherly