With social media platforms allowing us to connect with people across the globe, at the click of a button or swipe of a finger, it was through this search and find method that we stumbled across Sal Rodriguez aka @eljefe313 on Instagram. Through some backwards and forwards communication we are honoured to feature him on Take 5.
For sometime I've had a fascination with Detroit. Intrigued as to how it has gone through a major economic and demographic decline in recent decades, but it still has a heartbeat. Detroit the largest city in the state of Michigan, the home of the Ford Motor Company and the birthplace of Motown music, but due to economic plight and it's population falling by over a million, it's landscape plunged into urban decay. From the dishevelled ruins and desolate landscape came a playground for the urban art world. The many abandoned factories and residential buildings around the city, have turned Detroit into an urban explorers paradise.
One of those people is Sal Rodriguez, a man we found through the powers of social media and have since followed on his journey around the city. A man who has the cities blueprint etched into his brain, a photographer who is able to capture the inner beauty of a new age and new life of the buildings left for dead. Thanks to his exceptional ability behind the lens he is able to portray the beating heart of a city, a city whose resolve has lead to a new lease life, a creative lease of life, as a new wave of inhabitants pull it up from it's death bed. Now a recognised figure in the urban art world, Sal is the go to man for visiting artists and an associate for two of the leading galleries in Detroit. So with out further delay, it gives us the pleasure to introduce him to you, a talent we at GCASFM are proud to display within this column.
Born and raised in Detroit. I grew up with a passion for art in general. From grade school through High School, I was always involved in art, photography, video. After High School I still was not sure what I wanted to do so I started college, going into video production, then switched to graphic design and all the while photography was still a hobby for me. I ended up getting my Bachelors in Media and Communications and started doing some freelance graphic work for local businesses. Then I got an internship with the local NBC affiliate and my boss wanted to get some new and different content going on the website. He saw some "Urbexing" photos that I took and asked if I wanted to do a story on Detroit Architecture. That story landed me my own page on the site, where I created my own content.
Around 2010-11...I started going to art shows at what then was called 323 East Gallery, which is now Inner State Gallery and also the home of the famous 1xRun. Since I was into art I figured I would cover all the art openings they had, so I would go and shoot them. Then in 2012 owner Jesse Corey asked If I would be interested in doing some coverage of "The Detroit Beautification Project" which was a project getting artists from around the world to come and liven up the art scene in Detroit. It was small and isolated to certain areas but it did raise some eyebrows and pulses, but none the less the beginning of the current art boom in Detroit....in my opinion. So upon saying yes to Jesse I was on my way downtown to shoot my first artist in the streets, that artist happened to be Tristan Eaton. So within a week I was introduced to artists such as Tristan, Revok, Askew, Nekst, Sever, 123 Klan....and was even lucky enough to be invited out on a secret Trusto-Corp mission. Not bad for someone in there first week of shooting Graffiti and Street Artists, and the cool thing was I felt that I was able to be somewhat excepted by these artist. At the time a lot of these guys did not want to be bothered by anyone let alone a person with a camera. So in short I felt it was important to be able to become "the photographer" for these big projects or murals and develop a rapport with the artist that I meet so they would not only be comfortable with me but I could get more chances to get those exclusive shots. So I can say that my shooting has almost always been in part with the artist, and not just me coming off the street, and thats who I want to be...I want to be like the photographer Martha Cooper, but yet set myself apart with my own style of shooting.
"It's usually quite difficult to make a photograph of a static piece of visual art, also look like art. Sal does this though; he's able to effectively convey the emotion of his experience with his muse at the very moment of the shutter closing with ease and immediacy. It's the attention to light, shadow and ambiance that really separates a visceral experience from a traditional photo. This is Sal's party, welcome to it…pal."- Matt Eaton
Then in 2013 Matt Eaton and Anthony Curis asked me to start shooting at their gallery Library Street Collective where I still continue to be their house photographer. We just wrapped up coverage of How & Nosm's largest mural to date located here in Detroit. While we were shooting that I spent a week with Futura as he took up a residency here to create work for his upcoming solo show at Library Street.
To date I have been ultra fortunate to have worked with artists such as Shepard Fairey, Tristan Eaton, Futura, Cleon Peterson, Dabs Myla, Revok, Pose, Askew, Matt Gordon, Faile, Sam Friedman, Push, HENSE, Aryz, Logan Hicks, BASK, Nychos......the list goes on and is continuing to grow.
It's not everyday you get to meet these artists let alone work next to them, so I am extremely humbled and thankful for being given the chance to do so.
Images from Top-Bottom:
Pose - Taken in Detroit, after he finished his installation/mural located in "The Belt" alleyway Downtown Detroit.
Faile - Taken at the Brooklyn Museum, I went to visit them the week before their opening.
Futura - Taken during his stay in Detroit, we let him make a pop up studio out of a gutted, former massage parlour.
Shepard Fairey - Taken in Miami, during a break from working on a wall with Cleon Peterson.
Steve'ESPO' Powers - Taken at his Icy Signs shop in Brooklyn, just love this shot because he's on the phone and painting.
Below is the Detroit Trailer for the Rabbit Eye Movement movie 'Deepest Depths Of The Burrow', filmed by Austrian film maker Christian Fischer, featuring our friends The Weird Crew and Sal features briefly, watch out for the guy with the flash light!!