Elise Swopes: From Urban Landscapes To Utopian Fantasies

Elise Swopes is a photographer, iPhone artist, graphic designer, and NFT artist. Elise creates art that converts urban landscapes into utopian fantasies. She’s worked with McDonald’s, Apple, Adobe, and more.

Who is Elise Swopes?

  • MySpace era: Elise grew up during the MySpace era. Her experience on the internet inspired her to create an ecosystem and metaverse. Her mother received a computer with her new job, and they had programs like KidPics. They didn’t have much money to buy paper and other materials. She felt she had unlimited access through the computer.  She created a world for herself.   
  • Finding her place: After her parents divorced, Elise faced some struggled as a mixed-race child. She struggled to find her people and where she belonged. These experiences led to her spending a lot of time on the internet connecting with others. She spent time with people from all over the world.  
  • Gurnee Illinois: She grew up in Gurney Illinois, the suburbs of Chicago. They made the best of it, and she built a world for herself online. This gave her the chance to expand her knowledge and her empathy for art and people.


Timestamp: 6:52 – “Everyone is a photographer now because of Instagram.”

Timestamp: 17:33 - “I sold my first piece for 11 ETH.”

Introduced to Instagram

  • Instagram: Elise started on Instagram in 2011. At first, she posted pictures of her food, cats, and self. She had worked as a designer previously and had developed a few websites for people to edit their photos and create fan art. That background inspired her to use her iPhone.  
  • Leaving college: Her introduction to Instagram coincided with dropping out of college. She didn’t want to be in a classroom. Instead, she wanted to be in the streets learning and figuring things out. At the time, she had no equipment other than a broken iPhone 4. She decided to start creating with that and shared her work through Instagram.
  • Unique community: Elise found a unique community of artists on Instagram. It was people from around the world sharing fun photos created with their phones. She began gaining a lot of followers after Instagram added her to the suggested user list. Her content was teaching people what Instagram was all about, how to use it, and be creative with it. It was the beginning of her career as a content creator.

Creating a brand

  • A new career path: Elise began to create a brand for herself through her Instagram content. She was making a path for herself. Her brand is creating content with the iPhone.
  • Her process: She always uses her phone. The image is “crispier” than when she uses her Canon camera. If there’s a blue day, she will probably shoot with her phone if she wants to eliminate some of the colors. She makes sure to be standing close to her subject or the landscape.    
  • iPhone vs expensive cameras: There are several things to consider because of the iPhone’s limitations. At the same time, she wants to push the envelope with her work. Her mission is to show people they don’t need expensive equipment to make something look good. She also enjoys taking a helicopter ride and using a 70 to 200 lens that attaches to her Canon R5 to shoot.  

Editing with the iPhone

  • Challenges of using the iPhone: The frame rate in the sky can make using the iPhone difficult in certain settings. She wants to accomplish getting a crisp photo that she can put on her phone and edit. 99% of Elise’s editing is done on her iPhone.
  • Browser performance: If it’s a video project or 3D design or illustrations she can’t use her iPhone. However, for composites or art-focused, she edits the work on her phone.
  • Surreal cityscapes: She calls her pieces surreal cityscapes. They are a mix of nature and man-made elements.

Entering the NFT Space

  • NFT inspiration: Elise has a few friends who are involved in the NFT space. She connected with some early on through Instagram. Seeing their success in the NFT space inspired her to get involved. In November of 2020, her management recommended she get into the NFT space. She sat on it and watched things for a month. When she began to get more tweets and DMs about NFT, she decided to get into it.  
  • Joining Superrare: She began doing research on the platform. Her manager also had a connection at Superrare. This helps with her application accepted as opposed to other platforms where she was being denied early on. She learned about the process of minting there and offered her the opportunity to do some editorial work which she leveraged.   
  • Her first drop: When her first NFT went live, no one bid on it initially. On the first day, she began to get bids. She learned on the job without fully understanding how to hold an auction. Elise sold her first piece for 11 ETH and realized the potential of NFTs. The second piece sold for 18ETH and the third for 20ETH.

Growing as an artist

  • Holding ETH: Since she began to make money with her ETH, she has been holding her ETH proceeds. She regrets not investing more in Ethereum on her own time and most of her holdings are from the NFT sales.
  • Making a place for herself: One bidder was already a fan of Elise’s. A majority were new to her work. As an artist and graphic designer, she continues to be under freelance contracts for her current projects. NFTs have allowed her to have more financial freedom and the ability to choose her projects.
  • Self-care is key: She spends up to ten hours a day on Twitter to market her work. Elise always puts art first and pushes the envelope. Self-care is key because the industry has ups and downs. She will be speaking at a conference in New York City.
  • Where to find Elise: Twitter is her home base, you can find her under @Swopes. You can also find her on Instagram @swopes. She also has an app called Urban Jungle, a collaboration with Brain Fever Media.