How A Local Photographic Storytelling Project Helped Me Realize My Entrepreneurial Path
It was a sunny weekday afternoon in March when I made my way downtown to Travis Park and descended the elevator into the basement of the Jefferson Bank building on Navarro Street. The elevator doors dinged open to reveal vacant hallways and dark rooms – a maze I confusedly wound myself around for one full lap before I realized I had taken a wrong turn. Once I found my directional bearings, I rounded a corner to discover one lonely light on. Apprehensively, I walked toward it. I stepped into the doorway to find my friend Rahm Carrington sitting on the couch texting me on his cell phone.
With a soft smile and a hug that conveyed the quintessential San Antonian bienvenido, he welcomed me into his studio. I was there to be photographed for Uniform300: Rahm’s special photographic storytelling project about San Antonians of all walks of life, an art initiative in partnership with the City of San Antonio that celebrates our Tricentennial birthday to be commemorated in a few weeks.
It had been nearly fifteen years since Rahm and I last saw each other, and within minutes we realized we had grown into creative kindred spirits with a mutual love for our city, for our art and for our family histories. I commented on the tasteful touches of historied household items he had moved into his studio: it felt both comfortable and curated, which he admitted he did on purpose to make his subjects feel more at ease, as portrait photography can sometimes feel off-puttingly intimate. That led us down a conversation trail that centered around authenticity, individuality and a perpetual purpose we both possess to pay homage to our ancestors by wearing and / or using their worldly possessions in a digital age that has robbed us all of the healthy amounts of human connection that former generations once enjoyed.
After a hearty digression session, it was time to get to work. Well, it was time for Rahm to ask me about my work while he attempted to capture my essence in only two rolls of film (shot on his grandfather’s vintage film camera, of course). I told him about my mission to bring female-focused editorial and substantive multimedia storytelling to Oh, Eleanora, and about another project I have in the pipeline that neither he nor I could publish word of yet. What seemed like 25 seconds later, we were done. I left thrilled to have reconnected with a kindred spirit, but I also felt strangely confused about my current professional story. I realize that there is no roadmap for what I do, but I am in the middle of yet another brand transition and things were still muddy in my mind as to how it was all going to piece together- both inside of the business structure, and also how things would be interpreted by the outside world.
I spent the next few weeks reflecting on my San Antonio Story. (The one I ultimately re-told to Rahm that ended up being published this week on his platform.) I found myself wishing that I had focused on narrating the lineage of far more interesting ancestors whose passions and professions ultimately landed me in his studio to begin with. (Follow @uniform300 on Instagram if you haven’t yet – it is such a beautiful body of work reflective of our diverse and authentic local community.) Obviously, I arrived at the shoot wearing my maternal and paternal grandmothers’ clothing and jewelry, which I claimed as my “uniform” to pay them homage…but there were still other elements to my story that felt clouded and unfinished.
Just as I required a reconnection with my roots on my mother’s side of the family in order for me to rebrand as Oh, Eleanora, it turns out I have also been in need of a reconnection with my roots on my father’s side to inspire the finalized structure of my soon-to-be-launching entrepreneurial endeavor. After almost two years of feeling as though I had no concrete answer to the frequent question, ‘so what is it that you do exactly?’ … I can now say with confidence that I’m an entrepreneur. All it took was tracing my passions back several generations on my father’s side to remember why I am who I am. I am excited to share my new personal website EleanoraMorrison.com that presents me as an Editorialist and Entrepreneur, revealing the digital platforms I currently manage to date, and the project I will be launching in the very near future.
I am also excited to share my San Antonio Story for the Uniform300 project below. Thank you Rahm and Alice for creating such a meaningful storytelling piece. I am honored to have been a part of it.
“I want to empower other women to create lives they love through artistic, editorial storytelling.” Ellie (Leeper) Morrison is a 5th generation San Antonian. Born in 1989, she was the first baby to be raised on Alamo Plaza in over 100 years. A descendant of the Pizzini and Guerra families, Ellie grew up ever-inspired by the narrative of her family history, always recalled so romantically by her father, lifelong downtown proponent, Harry Leeper. “My great-great-grandfather Frank Pizzini emigrated to San Antonio from Italy (living first in Mexico) in the 1880’s and opened Pizzini’s spice store in 1891 on Produce Row (now Market Square). My great-grandparents, Henry and Elvira Guerra, founded The Angelus Funeral Home by Milam Park (now on N. St. Mary’s Street). Their son (my great-uncle) was Henry Guerra Jr., the revered news anchor and historian — the first Hispanic television news anchor in the US to use his surname on air; lovingly known to all as ‘Mr. San Antonio.’ I come from a long lineage of hard-working entrepreneurs who have been devoted to San Antonio professionally, civically and personally. Everyone chose to remain here and to make this city better with their passions and contributions. For that reason, so did I. I have a legacy to create so that I can add to theirs.” Ellie is wearing her maternal grandmother (Maria Sollitto) “Mimi’s” clothes and her paternal grandmother (Elvi Lou Guerra Leeper) “Lulu’s” earrings, something she often does as an homage to her roots, and a reminder of the trailblazing women who came before her and who are with her on her journey.