Detroit is famous for its architectural and musical history – and photographer Joe Gall captures the history and spirit of Detroit like only a select few can. Joe Gall, also known as “Camera Jesus,” provides an artistic look into Detroit’s most prominent landmarks, concerts, and social happenings. Joe’s unique ability to explore the city and capture incredible images of Detroit has allowed him to gain popularity on social media outlets like Instagram and Facebook.
Detroit Proud wanted to feature the man behind the lens and give our readers a chance to get to know one of Detroit’s most talented photographers. Detroit Proud caught up with Joe to talk about his work, Detroit, and the new and exciting ways he’s providing birds’ eye views of our city with Motor City Drone Co.
Tell our Detroit Proud Readers about yourself – and about how you got started in photography.
I’m a Detroit-inspired thrill-seeking photographer. Playing hide and seek as a kid, I was hiding in my parents’ closet and found their old film camera with a couple lenses. I thought it looked cool, so I dusted it off and started trying to figure out how it worked. It wasn’t long until I was burning through a ton of film – taking pictures of my friends playing in bands and riding BMX.
How did you get the nickname Camera Jesus?
The general depiction of Jesus Christ is a long-haired, bearded dude, and I fit the profile. Swap the cross for a camera…and bingo! The actual conception came about a couple years back, after I edited a TV spot for the Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus exhibit at the DIA. I created my logo from turning that photo into a vector and added a camera in my hands. Check it out!
You’ve photographed countless events, concerts, fashion, & print ads, etc. – are there one or two assignments that stand out as your favorite or the most memorable?
I broke down in an elevator with Cindy Crawford while photographing Kid Rock’s 40th birthday at Comerica Park. One of the Red Wings players had to pry the doors open with his bare hands before we could escape. I try to have fun at every gig.
How do you plan for your assignments differently versus when you’re shooting on your own time?
It’s basically the same – all of my free time is usually somehow photo or work-related. Even riding my bike is location scouting.
How has social media affected your work? As a photographer, what are your thoughts on Instagram?
Social media is a great outlet, if you’re smart about it. Instagram can be a great way to market yourself.
You’ve photographed some pretty big names – have there been any moments with bands or celebrities where you’ve been star-struck?
I’m not too big on politics, but photographing President Obama at U of M was exciting.
If you could create your dream shoot, what would it be like? Give me the who, what, where, & why!
My dream shoot would be a Rolling Stone cover with Jimi Hendrix performing a burning guitar solo atop Machu Picchu.
In your opinion, what makes Detroit such a unique place to photograph?
Photographing Detroit right now is important because it’s changing so fast. I’m documenting history and creating a positive representation. Detroit’s beautiful, and I want everyone to know it.
Your son is a consistent co-star in your photos – what’s your experience like as a Dad to be able to show him sides of Detroit not many kids get to see?
He begs to hangout at Belle Isle Beach and ride the Brush Park BMX track.
Your bike is another regular in your photos…do you find most of your locations to shoot organically while riding? Or do you set out to capture specific places?
There are endless amazing locations for shoots in the city. I usually come up on spots organically while riding or driving.
You show us a unique perspective of Detroit through your photos. To someone who has never been to Detroit, how would you describe the city?
Uniquely empty compared to other cities. All the big city stuff without the crowds or traffic!
You’ve recently partnered with the Motor City Drone Co. to snap some awesome shots – like an aerial of Comerica Park from the Eminem & Rihanna show. Tell us a little bit about how this came about!
Motor City Drone Company could see how hard I was working and had the great idea of hooking me up with a drone in exchange for social media shoutouts. I didn’t get much sleep the first few weeks because I had so many ideas to get out.
You’re part of the team at the Red Bull Content Pool, have been published in countless magazines, and earlier this year, even made the news with your photos of the #DetroitFlood. Which pick-up are you most proud of? Is there somewhere you’d like to see your pictures that hasn’t picked them up…yet?
My first page in Rolling Stone was an early life goal of mine. The ultimate publication is National Geographic. I’m an adventure-minded explorer that wants to document the world in the best way possible. I’d like to think the stars will eventually connect and I’d start shooting for them.
What are your favorite local pizza places?
I have Benito’s on speed dial, but I can’t pass by Sgt. Pepperoni’s without stopping in for a few slices. Hot peppers!
When you’re not working or riding, where are your favorite places to hang out in the city?
Brush Park and Belle Isle.
What’s next for Joe Gall?
National Geographic? Fine art? My prints are now available on museum-quality canvas. They make great Christmas gifts for the person that has everything.
For those who aren’t familiar with your photography, what is the best way for Detroit Proud readers to find your work?
Detroit Proud wants to thank Joe Gall for letting us highlight his work! Be sure to check out his site – he has many of the photos used in this feature (and more!) available for purchase. His shots are available on print or canvas…and make the perfect gift for your favorite Detroiter!
Want to check out more of Joe’s shots? CLICK HERE for an extended Detroit Proud photo gallery!