Chicago-based photographer Nina Johnson eats well, travels often, and speaks fluent emoji. During a day of exploration in Lincoln Park, we talked rooftops, deep dish, and her perfect day in the city—not complete without a visit to Hotel Lincoln.
How long have you lived in Chicago? What brought you here?
“I’ve been a city dweller for eight years now, but I’ve lived in the Chicagoland area my whole life. When I graduated high school, I moved downtown for university. I was drawn to the pace and the buzz of city life. It was so new and exciting. Eight years later, I can’t see myself living anywhere else.”
What does your ideal day in Chicago look like?
“The great thing about Chicago is that, in one day, you can experience the hustle and bustle of a big city, but also find quiet little corners to relax. My ideal day would start with Firecakes (best donuts in Chicago), followed by a walk along the lake (gotta work off that donut). Then, I would find a nice rooftop to relax on (J. Parker is one of my favorites), and wrap up the day with dinner at Dusek’s, a fabulous restaurant in my neighborhood.”
Hotel Lincoln’s Wall of Bad Art
What inspired you to start the #emojifantasy photo trend?
“I’m a designer for a visual storytelling app called Steller. You can use your photos and videos to create fun little stories right from your phone. One aspect of making a story is adding text to a photo page. So one Sunday morning, I was playing around with the app, making a story, and I thought to myself, ‘I wonder if I can add emojis to photo pages, too…’ and #emojifantasy was born! I spent an hour that morning hiding emojis in my photos and making my boyfriend try to find them. The project grew from there and continues to be a way for me to be playful with my photography.”
Inside Hotel Lincoln
Hotel Lincoln’s J. Parker Rooftop Lounge
What’s your favorite emoji and why?
“Wow, that’s a really hard question! I have so many favorites, and they’re constantly changing. Looking at my frequently used emoji, I use the faces a lot. I love how so many different emotions are illustrated. Some are hilarious, like the one with tears just streaming down its face, or the really distressed one, the one that looks super shocked and embarrassed at the same time, the one sticking its tongue out… I feel like the emoji designers had a lot of fun with those.”
Lincoln Park’s Green City Market
Elaine’s Coffee Call at Hotel Lincoln
Where would you send someone looking for the lesser-known, totally authentic Chicago experience –without the crowds?
The one place that comes to mind immediately is the Green Mill. It’s this great little jazz club in Uptown and is one of the most authentic establishments in the city. It’s been around for over a century. Al Capone had a secret passageway to get to it, and it just has a really classic vibe. They don’t allow talking during the performances, so you’re really able to enjoy the music without interruptions. And the cocktails are killer.”
Hotel Lincoln’s Perennial Virant
Best deep dish in Chicago…Give us the deets.
“Pizza is my favorite food. I would eat it every day if I could! But, to be honest, I’m not a huge deep dish girl. I’ll have a slice every once in a while, but thin crust is my jam. That being said, my boyfriend and I order Lou Malnati’s far too often… Secret’s out! He gets a deep dish sausage, and I get a thin crust spinach. Their crust is so buttery and delicious. That would definitely be my recommendation for a classic Chicago pizza experience.”