March 21, 2011

Joe and the Discovery Channel

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This is Joe Faris. He is a graduate of the Parsons New School for Design, the former Senior Designer for Schott NYC - the company that created the first leather motorcycle jacket in 1928,  a competitor on the 2009 season of Project Runway , and the current Senior Designer of Motor City Denim.

I had the pleasure of photographing him for The People of Detroit at the production facility for his brand while the Discovery Channel filmed us for an upcoming documentary the channel is doing on Detroit.

After the interview, the Discovery Channel asked me on camera to describe my impressions of him. I looked the producer in the eye, and I described him as,

"…a stand-up guy." 

Of course, I've never used the phrase "stand-up guy" in my previous 32 years of existence. But, point a camera at me and I apparently turn into Joe Pesci. Boy, can't wait for this documentary to air. I'm pre-embarrassed for myself.

That said, Joe is a stand-up guy. After surveying the fashion world, he decided to open his business in metro-Detroit. To produce his denimwear, he even collaborated with a company that manufactures covers for Detroit's car-building robots.

I asked him why, after traveling the world, living and working in New York, would he open up a fashion business in Detroit?

"Because I like it here"

I imagine Joe's sentiment would leave many non-Detroiters awash in incredulity. I, on the other hand, know exactly what he's saying.

A year ago, my travel as an adult was limited to brief, touristy visits to Seattle, Toronto, New York, and Chicago. Over the past year, work as a photographer has permitted me to visit London, England and to live in Shanghai, China for nearly a month.

I've also had the opportunity to revisit Chicago and New York, this time venturing afoot from the shiny set-piece tourist districts and living as residents of those cities live while staying with friends in Chicago's Avondale neighborhood and NYC's Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant communities.

The opportunity to travel to and temporarily reside in these places has led me to one conclusion:

I like Detroit too. This isn't to say I'm sentimentally oblivious to the city's problems. I'm just better accustomed to the problems of other places. Which has helped me put Detroit's problems in perspective.

Which isn't to say that one must physically travel the world to figure out how your hometown compares to places abroad. 

In the modern world, the intellectually-curious consumer of national and international podcasts, documentaries, books, movies, and music can get a pretty comprehensive assessment of the rest of the world.

Nonetheless, before I traveled, I never felt like I had an adequate retort for people who questioned my opinion of the city.

For example, when I'd tell certain kinds of people that I liked living in Detroit, they'd condescendingly ask in their best Mid-Atlantic affect "well, have you traveled extensively?"

Their underlying assumption was that I liked Detroit because I was too simple to know better; as if my only exposure to the outside world was via a hand-drawn parchment paper map where uncharted seas are designated by drawings of sea monsters and shit.

Before I had the chance to travel, my response was usually, "No, but I have extensively watched PBS."

But starting a response with a "no" carries so many negative implications.

Now that I've had the opportunity to travel and briefly reside in places as disparate as New York City and Shanghai, and with this being the first day of spring,  I feel like its high time I adopt a more positive response:

"Yes, you asshole."

[View the ongoing project and meet more of: The People of Detroit ]

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Anonymous said...

Great post. Would love to sit down and chat with you sometime soon, but you're impossible to get in touch with. lol Well, I don't think you're so much impossible to get in touch with, as you are impossible to get a response from. :)

The People of Detroit said...

Yea, man. You know I'mma hermit. Hit me up though, man. Let's do something

Unknown said...

Your work makes me really wish I could upgrade from the t2i to a higher grade, but it's just not in the budget. It's interesting how you have so many connections to influential people in general.

Unknown said...

Of course, the first exposure I had to you was your photos, but the more I read your entries, the more I appreciate your writing style. It's concise, but not stuck up or boring. And, being one who lets them slip - I especially appreciate a well placed profane.

I had to laugh at your self relfection to your response "a stang up guy". Being a photographer keeps you on one side of the camera, but being on the other side of one vs being in front of a globally recognized video camera would change things, I would imagine. Great work here -

Be cool,


Lisa said...

Ugh. I'm loving this blog. "Yes, asshole"-- can we make that a t-shirt? I've been living abroad for 10 months, and it's hard for people to believe that a homesick detroiter isn't some kind of walking oxymoron (or just plain moron). Please keep up the great reads! They remind me what I have to come home to. =)

Matt S. said...

It's Iron Man!