Tag Archives: Photography

A New Perspective with Detroit Artist James Gates

James Gates is no stranger to Detroit. In fact, he spends most of his time here, capturing familiar sights from different perspectives


He entered the GMRENCEN’s Your Photo Here contest, a contest where local photographers submitted their best shots of the GMRENCEN for the chance to have the photo featured inside the building. It’s where we were first introduced to his work. You can view Gates’ photo on Level 2 in Tower 200. In August 2019, he took over the GMRENCEN Instagram account showcasing Detroit through his lenses.


What motivates you to shoot?

I started photography for the stress relief. I work in IT, and after a particularly grueling day I like to walk around with my camera to clear my head. During the day, people are just going and going constantly. With photography, I can take my time to get the effect I want to get. It requires patience and I like that.


What’s a typical photography outing like?

I always start and end at the GM Wintergarden, right on Atwater. From there I take a long walk along the Riverfront. It’s my favorite place in Detroit. I don’t necessarily know what I’m going to shoot, but I feel more relaxed when I come back.


How long have you been photographing?

I got into photography in the fall of 2014, and 2015 was a learning year, practicing long exposure and other types of shots. It started out inconsistent, but then I got hooked.


What was it like winning the GMRENCEN’s Your Photo Here Contest and being featured in the building?

It’s still such an honor. I had only been into photography for about a year and a half when I took that shot. My friend loved it so much and encouraged me share it. A little while later, the Your Photo Here Contest began, so I submitted my shot. It was a strange coincidence.


That photo is one of the first ones I took, and it’s still there.



What have you learned since then?

I feel it’s important for me to keep up with the times and continue learning new camera settings. I’m just constantly learning from other Detroit photographers.


Always look for a unique angle because you don’t want to be like everybody else.


Do you ever change up your style?

I’m always learning new ways to do things, but I tend to stick to one type at a time. I choose a technique and work on mastering it before jumping to the next thing. Right now, I’m trying to work filters into my photography. I’ll be at that for a while.


What challenges do you face with your photography?

One challenge that affects me is that I’m legally blind. This doesn’t really hinder my work, but it can be frustrating. Sometimes when I’m reviewing my work after a photoshoot, I’ll notice blemishes in my shots that I couldn’t see out in the field. Although this isn’t a huge issue with architectural photography, it would make portrait and other photography more difficult.



What did you want people to take away from your Instagram takeover?

I was born and raised in Detroit, so I have 30 plus years of good memories here, especially of the GMRENCEN. I want people to know I love Detroit and I hope that shows in my photos.



What did you want to convey with your GMRENCEN August takeover?

I wanted to share some of the photos I’ve taken on my walks, with a focus on the GMRENCEN and the Riverfront. It captured the authentic Detroit, complete with Cullen Plaza tulips, Milliken State Park Lighthouse and city sunsets.


James Gates lives in Detroit and is a legally blind photographer. See his work on his Instagram at @james.m.gates or check out his online portfolio at jgatesphotography.com.

Detroit Artist: Jason Clemens

For Detroit photographer Jason Clemens, he just loves to be outside. If he’s got a camera in his hand, that’s a bonus.


Jason has a certain passion for the outdoors, especially for Michigan’s beautiful seasons. He even calls his photography “hunting with a camera” since he’s always searching for the perfect outdoor shot.


Seasons of Change



Jason began seriously taking photos after he was gifted a Canon in 2012. He’s since elevated his hobby to a passion project, capturing everything in nature that he could.


He loves shooting images of birds and animals and exploring the same place in different seasons. The seasons give the same locations a different perspective, he says. Find him out at sunrise or sunset, seeking out what others don’t see in nature.


In Detroit, he especially loves photographing the marina and Detroit River when he’s downtown. The skyline and cityscape has changed so much in recent years, evolving the Detroit Riverfront as it changes, and that’s what he enjoys conveying through his images.


Sharing Detroit



Jason started becoming a Detroit influencer when he created an Instagram account for his photography portfolio. Immediately it was a way to connect with other passionate artists and share what they and experience through their camera.


The hashtag #ShareDetroit is full of Jason’s images, and he regularly interacts with the users of that hashtag. His Instagram handle is also @Share_Detroit.


A Familial Connection


Jason plays catch with his son at Comerica Park.


Jason not only loves pursuing photography because it’s a way to take his mind off his full-time job, but because his father was also an active photographer, and loving telling stories through photos.


“My dad passed away before I turned three years old, but he still managed to instill so much of his personality and passions in me in that short time,” said Jason.


Photography is a beautiful connection between Jason and his dad, and one that is only growing as Jason gets older.


Follow along as Jason shares his favorite Detroit outdoors photos on the GMRENCEN’s Instagram over the next two weeks.


Jason Clemens lives in Farmington Hills. See more of his work on Instagram @Share_Detroit.

Artist Spotlight: MaRia Popi

Where in the world is MaRia Popi?


The answer lies on top of some of Detroit’s most famous skyscrapers.


“I love shooting Detroit from the rooftop of buildings. I have been on the rooftop of every skyscraper in the city. That’s what drives my photography. I’m a sky chaser,” MaRia said.


Starting at the Top



MaRia began shooting the 313 five years ago. Since then she has been to most downtown skyscrapers’ rooftops and inside most of the iconic buildings, however the Penobscot building reigns supreme in her opinion.


“I believe the Penobscot building has one of the best views in the heart of the city. It is surrounded by the beautiful architecture of Detroit and the view is different at night and day. That is what makes it so exciting for me!” said MaRia Popi.


She often returns to her favorite places to highlight the differences in the foreground and background, exploring different seasons and times of day. She knows no sunrise, sunset or cloud pattern is the same. Using long exposure techniques, especially at night, is her favorite style of photography.


In the Motor City



MaRia was born in Bulgaria and moved to Michigan in 2003. She always loved traveling and had a camera in hand while growing up. Her passion for photography and love of architecture and design led her to the Motor City, and now she’s proud to call it home.


“I consider myself an explorer who keeps learning. Art is a big part of my daily life. I grow as an artist while exploring other artists’ work – while using new photography techniques and working with creative people from different backgrounds,” she said.


Some of MaRia’s portrait photography work can be seen inside the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in the “Oh You Fancy!” exhibit currently on display.



Follow along as MaRia shares her love of rooftop photography on the GMRENCEN’s Instagram over the next two weeks. She is also a previous winter of the GMRENCEN’s Your Photo Here Contest, and you can see her art inside the GMRENCEN.


MaRia Popi lives in Livonia. See more of her work on her Instagram @_mariapopi_ or her online portfolio at mariapopi.com.

Artist Spotlight: James Gates

We’ve all been there – when your phone battery dies because you’ve been using it to take photos. That happened to Detroit photographer James Gates so often, that he decided to finally put down his iPhone and pick up a DSLR camera.


Washington, D.C.



James traveled to Washington D.C. in 2014 and brought his new camera along with him. He loved taking photos of the statues, historical buildings and moments that the area had to offer. He showed the trip images to a coworker, who is a professional photographer, after he returned from the trip and the coworker was quite impressed. This coworker recommended James start taking photos professionally, and James took that to heart – he’s loved it ever since.


His Perfect Shot



For the past four years James has spent his free time walking the Detroit Riverfront and downtown metropolis searching for the perfect shot.


He especially loves shooting around sunset, and the time just after sunset, affectionately called “the blue hour.” He loves everything about it – the light, how the city glows, capturing how the clouds streak the sky.


James has also been playing around with long exposures recently, capturing hundreds of photos and merging them into one photo in time. He likes these photos best, and works only a bit on his computer to enhance each photograph afterward.


An Escape



Although James would love to make photography his day to day work, he uses it as an escape more than anything.


“There’s something about exploring the city and always finding something new. It’s so relaxing to me, it’s a great way to decompress and have fun. There’s really nothing like capturing a great shot and seeing things in a way you’ve never seen them before,” James said.



James is also a previous winner of our Your Photo Here Contest, and you can find his artwork on Level 2, Tower 200, inside the GMRENCEN.


Follow the GMRENCEN on Instagram to see James highlight his favorite downtown locations.


James Gates lives in Detroit and is a legally blind photographer. See his work on his Instagram at @james.m.gates or check out his online portfolio at jgatesphotography.com.  

Artist Spotlight: Alanna St. Laurent

It’s a bird, it’s a plane…it’s a drone! If you happen to see a drone camera around downtown Detroit, there’s a good chance it belongs to local photographer Alanna St. Laurent.


The Detroit artist is always trying out innovative and new ways to take photographs, and drone photography has recently captured her passion.


Up in the Air



Alanna’s GMRENCEN Instagram takeover will focus on her drone photography, highlighting different parts of the Detroit skyline – a medium she’s started exploring since it was invented. She’s looking for different vantage points to find new detail in her images as her camera hovers hundreds of feet above street level.


She learned the trade from friends, but that’s not to say it’s an easy skill to pick up. Like with anything, there’s a learning curve when it comes to drone photography.


“It’s a whole different playing field up there. You can take pictures straight down from where the drone is, an entire 90 percent angle, or you can focus the camera up 30 degrees for the shot you want. It’s taken a bit of time but I’m enjoying exploring the skyline with the drone. There are so many possibilities with it,” Alanna said.


She particularly loves flying the drones near the tops of tall skyscrapers – especially Detroit towers that were built in the 1920s. With her drone, she can zoom in on technical, architectural and artistic features at the crown of each building – a scene that would be nigh impossible without a drone.


Professional Career



Alanna started taking photography classes when she was an advisor at the College for Creative Studies in 2007 and fell in love with the medium. That passion has never left her, and she regularly explores Detroit, and the country, searching for new ways to “see” a scene, skyline or setting.


She now sells print copies of her photographs on her website and features her images at rotating art fairs in and around Metro Detroit.


Alanna thinks of abandoned buildings as “the Wild West” because no building is ever the same, and she never knows what she’s going to find. She now leads photography workshops in and around Detroit. The forward-thinking photographer’s sessions are designed for newly burgeoning photographers as they learn the trade and focus with architectural and cityscape photography. The workshops also bring local photographers together to capture some of Detroit’s most photographic events.


She’s grown her industry reputation over the years and now is a full-time photographer, and leads her own business, which was always a goal of hers.


Follow Alanna over the next two weeks on our Instagram as she shows us Detroit from the sky.


Alanna St. Laurent lives in Ferndale. Follow her on Instagram at @alannastlaurentphoto or visit her online portfolio at alannastlaurent.com to see Detroit through her lens.

Artist Spotlight: Lou Peeples

When you think of Detroit, what comes to mind? Undoubtedly, it’s different for everyone – every person experiences the city differently.


Do you have happy memories celebrating the Detroit Tigers win at Comerica Park? Biting into a Lafayette Coney Island Coney dog? Or perhaps you think of watching the Thanksgiving Parade roll down Woodward Ave on Thanksgiving Day.


When Lou Peeples imagines Detroit, all he sees is “my city.” The city that he loves to photograph and tell stories about through his images. He explores his city through his camera lens, often in the early morning hours of the day, because no one else is awake at that time. There are no cars or people walking the city at 5 or 6 a.m., and he captures a city paused in time.


Half Artist, Half Tech Fan



A self-described “technology geek,” Lou loves photography because it satisfies his technology interests just as much as his artistic side.


“I really enjoy using different equipment and trying different lenses for certain shots. I’ve been playing with long exposures where the camera can capture a photo for up to 20 or 30 seconds. Taking those kinds of shots at night are some of my favorite to play around with.”


Along with enjoying advancing technical elements of his camera, he’s along learned to love editing in post. Finding ways to enhance certain elements of his photographs are better ways of telling their story.


Evolution as a Photographer



While he loves capturing the city devoid of people, cars and signs of everyday life, Lou also is expanding his portfolio by capturing “street photography” images. These photos are shot while he walks the city throughout the day, capturing people in a moment in time, a snippet of their life.


Lou also describes himself as an eclectic photographer, going to a certain area in the city and shooting whatever strikes him in the moment – inspiration can hit any time.


Lou Peeples lives in Grosse Pointe. Follow him on Instagram at @loupeeples_photography or see his online portfolio at Pointe Photography.

Artist Spotlight: Christopher Hollis

When Christopher Hollis was gifted his first professional camera in 2009, he didn’t know how much it would impact his life for years to come.


Eight years later, he now owns and operates his own photography business, VIII/VIII Photography, and is making a name for himself in the Detroit photography scene.


Up and Coming


Pictured: Christopher Hollis.

Although he was always more-than-adept with a handheld camera, Chris was gifted his first professional-grade camera when he moved to California in 2009. He took advantage of Northern California’s outdoor-centric lifestyle and spent time capturing the Bay Area’s vast array of mountains, waterways and greenery.


With a move back to Detroit, Chris still focuses on the landscapes and cityscapes that he’s prized since the beginning of his career. But his photography has matured as he has; Chris’ photos now focus on composition and framing, and he has a particular interest in symmetry within architecture.


“I love when people see a photo of something they know well or maybe see every day but then see something new in the photograph. The details, and uncovering those secrets, are what is so intriguing to me,” said Chris.


Capturing a Moment


Image by Christpher Hollis.

Chris especially loves capturing snapshots in time without the focus of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Spot him in the early morning hours around Eastern Market, taking photos of the well-known murals, with only his headphones and camera. He typically goes out with a vague outline of what he wants to capture, like the sunrise, or sunset, but doesn’t limit himself in the subject matter – inspiration often strikes him in the moment.


Instagram Takeover


Image by Christopher Hollis.

Chris has graciously been the first photographer taking over the GMRENCEN’s Instagram. Luckily, he’s extremely familiar with the building – as a native Detroiter he’s partial to the Detroit skyline, but he’s also worked inside the GMRENCEN for the last five years.


He’s decided to focus on the interior architecture and symmetry of the building throughout his takeover. Follow the GMRENCEN on Instagram for Chris’ take on the building’s intricate network of walkways and windows.


Chris Hollis lives in Detroit. Follow him on Instagram at @vii_vii_photography or Facebook at @VII/VII Photography to see Detroit through his lens.

Detroit Artist Spotlight: Suzann Braun

“Taking an image, freezing a moment, reveals how rich reality truly is.” – Anonymous


Detroit fan and photographer Suzann Braun strives to capture the balance between beautiful skyscraper views and the nitty-gritty underbelly of Detroit in her work. The GMRENCEN regularly features Braun’s work on social media, and she recently was one of ten winners in the GMRENCEN’s Your Photo Here Contest, so we decided to get to know her, and her craft, a bit better.


Her Start



Braun began taking photos on fun outings with family and friends, and that theme still guides her passion today.


“Growing up I was always the family photographer, the one with a camera,” Braun said. “Now I love to explore different cities through the lens of my camera, or even different neighborhoods of Detroit.”


She loves capturing photos outdoors, where a city meets natural outdoor elements. The balance and connection between urban life and Mother Nature can be seen throughout her photos. Michigan’s colorful changing seasons always provoke Braun to grab her camera and head outside.


“Before and After” Photos



The Detroit artist especially loves taking “before and after” photos of Detroit. A moment that stands out in her memory is photographing the Detroit Riverfront in the early 2010s, which at the time was cluttered with industrial plants and warehouses – nothing like the urban greenspace glittering with walkways and parks today.


“I love going through photos from years ago and being able to recreate them in today’s landscape. It’s amazing to have a photo from a certain moment in time, and then seeing the city’s progress now,” Braun said.





Braun works downtown, so she often spends her lunch break roaming the streets and Riverfront for anything that excites her. Detroit especially inspires her because of Detroit’s grit and artsy-aesthetic.


“Detroit is naturally beautiful, yet complex. It’s a photographer’s dream,” she said.


Suzann Braun lives in Warren. Follow her on Instagram or visit her online SmugMug gallery for more photos of Detroit and her travels.

Your Photo Here Contest: Meet the Photographers

Within the city of Detroit lives another city, the GMRENCEN; filled with shops, restaurants, a hotel and more. The building has defined the Detroit skyline since 1977 with its international, city and riverfront views. As one of the most photographed buildings in Detroit, we launched the Your Photo Here Contest to display the astonishing architecture of the GMRENCEN and its impact on the city surrounding it.


It is said that a photo is worth a thousand words, and these ten winning photographs, now on display inside the GMRENCEN, tells its own story from the perspective of a Detroit photographer. We would like to introduce you to the people behind the photos.


Meet Rick Lipski



A Detroit native, Rick Lipski had his first camera by the sixth grade and by the time he graduated from high school, his interest in photography was secured. Whether it’s looking at something close up and in detail or an unusual angle, his goal behind the lens is to try and look at things a little differently – to capture something that many may often “notice,” but don’t “see.” To discover something new is always exciting, but to rediscover something new in what has always been in front of us is truly beautiful and magical, and that is how he looks at Detroit.


Meet David Marcoux



David Marcoux got into photography about 30 years ago when he was a teenager. He never thought of photography as a hobby but as a tool to capture the hobbies he loves, like auto racing, astronomy, airshows, old architecture and sports. If he was going to travel to see an airshow or spend hours out in the cold taking photos of the city at night or an astronomical event like the eclipse, or a comet – he wants it to be worth it. So, he learned how to shoot pictures in all types of conditions.


Meet Maria Popi



Maria Popi’s passion for photography and architecture has let her explore Detroit, learn about its history, tour the city’s historical places and museums while giving her the opportunity to adopt the city as a new home. She loves capturing sunsets and sunrises along Detroit’s skyline.


Meet Christopher Hollis



Christopher Hollis was born and raised on the west side of Detroit and has lived here for most of his life. According to Hollis, “There’s no other place like it. The people, the cars, the city just feels alive. I’m proud to call myself a Detroiter.”  The GMRENCEN has always been one of his favorite main subjects because it’s so unique and has a certain allure. He says, “All roads seem to lead here.”


Meet Gary Washington



Detroit is where Gary Washington started his journey as a photographer. This is where he learned to adapt to different environments no matter what the circumstances. Washington says, “Detroit has weathered many storms over the years, but nothing keeps this city down. I am always amazed at the perseverance and resilience that drives Detroiters, it’s the same spirit that keeps my fire burning to the very end.”


Meet Suzann Braun



Suzann Braun was born and raised in Detroit. She has worked downtown for over 20 years and enjoys exploring and photographing the city. Suzann has a photo gallery of her work on Instagram under the account name “suzannisuzanni.”


Meet Lou Peeples



Lou Peeples grew up in the Detroit area, raised his family here and has seen it during the good times and bad. Over the years, he’s used his photography to capture the beauty of Detroit’s landscapes. Most of his photos are captured before sunrise, because things are quiet, giving him a more personal connection with the city. As old buildings are brought back to life and new buildings change the city’s skyline, he looks forward to capturing the city in a positive way and showing them on his website, Pointephotography.net.


Meet Mark McClelland



Mark McClelland has lived in the Detroit area since 2008. He believes that Detroit is a unique place that stands at a unique point in history and thinks it’s important to have a record of this era in the city’s history. McClelland strives to document the city in a way that acknowledges all those who call Detroit home and all aspects of the city, while realizing that no record of such a varied and vibrant place will ever be fully complete. This photo is placed here in memory of Philip McClelland.


Meet Donald Anson



Donald Anson is from Redford Township and has been taking photos for the last twenty years. He enjoys taking shots of cityscapes, landscapes and everything in between. This image was shot on a beautiful day in Detroit from a sailboat going down the Detroit River. The image was converted to black and white to give it a futuristic look of the Renaissance Center and the Detroit skyline.


Meet Evans Tasiopoulos



Evans Tasiopoulos was born in raised in Detroit. His creative vision is to document the growing city and show that Detroit is more than just a city of abandoned buildings and decay. Tasiopoulos says, “It is truly a city of life and grandeur.” Through his lens, he conveys his endearment for his community and the wonders that he encounters along the way. His philosophy is that a photograph is more than just a picture, but is a moment caught in time; that the image itself is a living breathing entity.


Make sure to visit the GMRENCEN to see the photographs and read the full biographies in person. The winning photographs from the Your Photo Here Contest are on display in Tower 200 and 400 on Level 1 of the GMRENCEN. Which is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

Detroit Artist: Nadir Ali

A lifelong Detroiter, photographer Nadir Ali knows Detroit. Regularly working with community partners such as the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy, Downtown Detroit Partnership and the Platform, Nadir really knows Detroit.


Detroit in 2022



As a community partner for several well-known Detroit organizations Nadir feels like a historian for the city.


“There are so many transformational projects happening right now in Detroit. There won’t be another opportunity to document the redevelopment of Michigan Central Train Station, the development of the Hudson site, the reimagining of West Riverfront Park. I want to capture these sites now so that when everything is completed in 2022, we’ll have a well-documented history of the ‘before.’”


As the city evolves, so does a photographer’s technology. Nadir actively explores drone photography in and around the city, capturing the city from the clouds. His Instagram handle @3andathird mostly features drone photography around the city, showing users the city like they’ve never seen it before. Now he is especially focused on lighting in his photographs – capturing similar still frames at sunrise, sunset, different times of the day or in unusual weather patterns. Nadir is excited to continue this exploration as Detroit watches it’s buildings grow before our very eyes.


Born and Raised



Having grown up in Detroit, the majority of Nadir’s life experiences take place inside the city – he even proposed to his wife inside the GMRENCEN – so he focuses on the positives taking place here.


“I love Detroit. I choose to focus on the positive things going on in the city like business development and community growth instead of negatives like ruin porn. My goal is for someone from Detroit to stop and say ‘Hey, that’s my city.’ And to make them proud,” said Nadir.


To accomplish this Nadir is capturing moments and editing photos daily. Never to miss a moment he always has a camera or some form of equipment to capture a scene when he’s out and about. Influencers like Big Sean and Pure Michigan have shared his work.


Follow the GMRENCEN on Instagram to see Detroit through Nadir’s lens when he takes over our account for the next two weeks.


Nadir Ali lives in Detroit. Follow him on Instagram at @3andathird or see his online 3andathird.com.