Photographer Joe Schmelzer might have taken an entirely different career path had it not been for Mohammad Ali.
While the bedrooms of his junior-high classmates were plastered with posters of Big Hair Bands and bigger-haired babes, not so Joe’s walls. Commanding the space above his twin beds hung only a framed black-and-white portrait of the history-making heavyweight — one of a limited edition signed by photographer Yousuf Karsh. Placed there by Joe’s father because (though "a solid investment") it absolutely did not go with the downstairs decor, the photo would impact Joe’s life more than anyone could have imagined: Under the shadow of The Greatest, Joe says, "Something just clicked."
Nearly two decades later, Joe is an editorial and commercial photographer specializing in hotel, food, environmental and celebrity portraits. Recognized for the natural window-light quality of his images — and a knack for making even the prickliest subjects feel at ease — Joe is a familiar presence in the travel, shelter and entertainment markets. His work has appeared in every major interiors-centric magazine, website and blog, and is regularly featured in the editorial pages of
Architectural Digest, Elle Decor, Vogue UK, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Joe also contributed the images (and lots of inspiration) to
The First Apartment Book: Cool Design for Small Spaces
(Clarkson Potter, 2012), a collaboration with interior-stylist-to-the-stars Kyle Schuneman and style writer Heather Summerville.
Joe’s ability to help clients achieve their own creative visions has made him a sought-after commercial photographer, as well, for high-profile brands including
Dorchester Hotel Collection, Sub-Zero/Wolf Appliances, O’ahu Visitors Bureau and Pottery Barn
. An added bonus: His capacity to be productive at any hour. By the time everyone stumbles in for an 8 a.m. shoot, Joe’s had three coffees, washed his car, bought jeans on eBay and marinated a brisket.
Holding a BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology and MFA from California Institute of the Arts, Joe strives in his work to both maintain the artistic perspectives and characteristics of traditional photography as well as incorporate innovative technology. This is reflected throughout all of his projects, professional and personal; reflected also is Joe’s desire to capture the extraordinary in seemingly mundane moments. Recent gallery exhibitions — displayed as puzzle-like, autobiographical narratives -- explore everything from rural roadhouses to random flatware to burnt-out beach bonfires. Also: masculine beauty and attraction, dogs and bacon. "Never enough pictures of bacon," explains Joe.
Originally from suburban Cleveland (yes, Shaker Heights), Joe, his boyfriend Nick, and their canine sidekick, Moose now make their home-office in Eagle Rock, a ridiculously popular section of Los Angeles. (Even though he’ll always root for the Indians over the Dodgers/Angels, L.A.’s power brokers recently named Joe an Ambassador of Good Will for his "exemplary efforts" to make the city a better place.) Never far from a vintage boutique, fair trade/organic coffee outlet or mumbling hipster, Joe oversees all aspects of photo/video projects through his independently owned company, Treasurbite Studio, Inc.
When not doing something photography-related, Joe can be found listening to indie Britpop band James, debating the virtues of each Clue ending, or CrossFitting himself into a human machine.