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Well, let me start by saying that it is my family. Literally. One of its co-founders, Eric Veloso, is my brother-in-law, and I’ve also been a part of SDM’s in-house creative team since the beginning. From the inside, I’ve witnessed the evolution of SDM, which has grown into its own creative and production agency working with clients like Nike, HBO, New Balance, Honda, and Tribeca Film Festival.
Its growing clientele is an extension of the company’s original vision: create a platform for photographers of all backgrounds and experience-levels to showcase their work. This was an important mission for Veloso, because when he had quit his day job as a fashion company’s distribution manager in order to pursue photography, he found it difficult to gain exposure and get his work published. So, he took matters into his own hands. In 2014, SDM launched as a quarterly print publication, sourcing content and discovering photographers mainly through social media. The platform has united professional and aspiring creatives alike, creating a community that never stops dreaming.
But Veloso didn’t do it alone. SDM has three co-founders, including Veloso’s longtime friend, Michael Cobarrubia, who serves as the company’s Head of Art & Design. They operate SDM from their native Vancouver, BC residence, while the 3rd co-founder, Steven John Irby (aka @stevesweatpants) is based in Brooklyn, New York. Veloso first discovered Irby through Instagram, and with the help of a mutual friend, the two met while Veloso was on vacation in New York City several years ago. With a shared passion for street photography, they instantly connected.
“As soon as I saw Steve on the internet, I knew that this was the dude we needed to connect with,” Veloso recalls.
“The dream is becoming reality for us—we finally found the tools to be able to control our own destiny. We’re living our dreams now. We wake up and do Street Dreams as our full-time job; the passion project that turned into our careers.”
Since dreams are a conscious thing for these entrepreneurs—something they’re building versus something fleeting and intangible—Veloso finds himself hardly sleeping. They don’t need sleep to dream; if anything, they need time. Working with a bicoastal team, Veloso makes sure to maximize the day and ensure an efficient workflow despite the different time zones. “I’m a night owl,” he says. “I love staying up super late until the crack of dawn, and I think that’s also helped me with the East Coast/West Coast thing where…when I’m sending out an email at 3 in the morning, that’s of course 6 AM EST. I leave everything in people’s inboxes so that by the time I get to sleep, everyone’s working on what we’ve sent over.”
On average, Veloso gets a maximum of 4-6 hours of sleep per night. “They sleep, We dream” is one of SDM’s mottos. Why? “We have to be awake to make these things come to fruition in reality,” Veloso says. “It’s hard to sleep at times, because my dreams keep me up. Street Dreams is about putting your foot to the pavement and making your dreams happen every single day. Because whether you’re rich or poor, we all walk the same streets and we all dream.”
The name “Street Dreams” is a tribute to the Nas track of the same title, Veloso says,
which itself is inspired by the early 80’s hit, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” by the Eurhythmics. In SDM’s case, Sweet (and Street) Dreams are made of the community. Since the magazine’s inception, SDM has garnered over 269k Instagram followers and nearly 10.3 million posts with its hashtag. But those are just numbers. What that social engagement really represents is a unique collective founded upon shared interests and inspiration.
“I truly feel like we’re creating community amongst creatives, where it once felt like there was only competition,” says Maria Sutherland, SDM’s Head of Production.
“I’ve met young creatives, and when I say I work for Street Dreams, their eyes light up and they always have a story of someone from the team they’ve met and what project has inspired them.”
The irony of this community is that while it is rooted online, SDM has transcended the digital space to create a real-life tribe that brings people together from all over the world.
Boston-based photographer Bryan Fernandez has been following SDM for over three years. “You guys are the reason I got into photography,” he says. “The reason I continue to follow my dreams.”
Jamar Harrington, a Houston-based photographer, is also fueled by the magazine’s mission. “I follow Street Dreams because of the many different styles of photography,” he explains.
“It keeps me inspired. I love how Street Dreams discovers new photographers no matter what their following is. It opens your eyes to different things.”
Offline, people also show up for the cause. The first time the community manifested in a big way was in September, 2014. SDM was hosting a gallery event launch party for its 3rd issue at the boutique Reed Space—a landmark of street culture in
NYC’s Lower East Side neighborhood (that unfortunately closed down a few years ago). Known for its careful curation of streetwear and art, Reed Space was a fitting venue for the event.
Except the event never really happened. I remember that I had taken a taxi over to the LES from my apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, only to find huge crowds on the sidewalk and chaos in the air once I arrived. The City That Never Sleeps is always lively at nighttime, but this evening was particularly buzzing with energy. Over 600 people showed up for the party, but since the venue could only accommodate 150, the police showed up and shut things down. It was a disappointing outcome in the moment, but a promising sign for the future.
Most recently, to launch the 13th issue this past May, SDM hosted 3 events in 4 days, this time receiving thousands of RSVPs. “Street Dreams as a community has gotten stronger,” says Sutherland. “I couldn’t have dreamt of that.”
To date, SDM has held launch events in Chicago, Montreal, and Toronto, to name a few. “Wherever we land, we always have an ample amount of people that are ready to connect with us and show us love,” says Veloso. For example, SDM’s 7th issue launched in San Francisco in 2015. While it was unusually
warm for that time of the year, over 800 people showed up to the weekend’s photo walk event.
I was one of those people, sweating with a camera strap around my neck and exchanging IG handles with a neighbor. As we all strolled alongside the Pacific Ocean, with the backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge no less, we literally formed our own giant parade. Onlookers probably thought, ‘“wow, that’s a lot of tourists.” But, instead of feeling lost in a crowd, the way you would in Times Square on New Year’s
Eve, you felt like you were standing out. Not as an individual, but together as a group. For me, personally, that’s been the magic of this community: the simple comfort of feeling like you’re a part of something, like we’re all dreaming together.
WRITER: CAROLYN AMURAO