Today, we're proud to officially welcome Joe Greer, globally celebrated film photographer and highly ambitious distance runner, to Bandit as an Athlete & Creative Partner. Joe's passion for relentlessly pushing both his creative and physical boundaries, combined with his transformative time spent living with his wife Maddie in Brooklyn, has generated undeniable spiritual alignment with Bandit.
While art and sport are distinct practices, Joe uses the perspective that he’s gained in both to fuel each other in a way that enables him to uniquely experience and portray their respective beauty.
One of our main goals at Bandit has always been to create cross-cultural bridges between the sport we love and the worlds of art, culture, entertainment and other forms of empowering self expression. Given Joe’s pure embodiment of this bridge, we are excited to team up with with him as our newest Bandit Athlete and Creative Partner.
To kick things off, we chatted with Joe around his background, creative process, goals as a runner and more…
Welcome to the team, Joe. Let's start from the beginning... How’d you first hear about Bandit?
I could not be more excited to be here. I can't remember where exactly I was, or who it was—my best guess is [Bandit Head of Experiences] Tim Rossi, but I first found out about Bandit by seeing the hat in the wild. It was striking and stopped me in my tracks. I loved the way it looked and I'd never seen a running hat that made me feel the way this particular one had. I went online to purchase and it was sold out. You could say I was pretty devastated. I decided to buy some half-tights instead as I've been on this lifetime search for a pair that I actually like from a fit, feel, and design standpoint. After my first run in them, I was completely hooked on Bandit products. Then I fell in love with everything Bandit was doing on the creative and community side... Or maybe that was before I picked up the half-tights. Either way, I loved all that was happening with Bandit. From the products to the creative to the community building, it all resonated with me in a deep, deep way.
How does running play a role in your life as a photographer, or vice versa?
Running is one of the main reasons in the last three years I have not reached a creative drought. Especially during covid and the height of boredom, running allowed me to flush out ideas, to learn this new city I’m living in, to understand the lay of the land, how the light manifests throughout the day. Running is a beautiful outlet to work through creative ideas, to dream up new projects, to process my writing and past traumas that I had to revisit. Whenever I would got overwhelmed, running was there for me as a safe place of healing. In high school, I ran to get away of problems, today its a sanctum of healing.
If I’m burnt out, I go run. It's like pushing the reset button on the creative part of my brain. Almost without fail, I come back from runs feeling creatively refreshed.
On the flip side, when I race, being an artist and photographer has provided me a secret weapon. It's given me this very effective way of zoning out of the pain. I consciously zone into my street photography eyes and look critically at the surrounding strangers and spectators. I tap into the lights and the colors and the beautiful morning light rushing through the environment, all as if I'm carrying around my camera prepared to make a photo. I am perpetually seeing life through a frame. No matter what I'm looking at, it's through a frame. It's a fascinating act to study light and human emotion during the strenuous act of racing. The two come together in an indescribable way. Photography eyes in a racing body is a beautiful distraction.
Are there ever times you don't want to be seeing life through a frame? Does that way of vision become exhausting?
Never, ever, ever. My switch never goes off. Seeing life through a frame allows me to live most consciously in every moment of every day. It also allows me to avoid that creative drought I mentioned. Keeping the wheels turning as I'm seeing allows me to create new photographs I otherwise wouldn't be aware could exist. Like, I don't just see life through a frame as I'm on a landscape, or at a race, or in the studio. Photography is not a chore or a job, it's not transactional—it's therapeutic, it's life-giving, it's the way I choose to see the world.
You’re a self taught photographer, how did you approach the process of learning how to shoot and improving over time? Were there books you read or mentors you had?
The first photos that I made were on the iPhone 4 in 2011. Instagram had just come out—this was long before DM's and videos, and so many updates that have come since. I got a digital camera in 2014, but I kept gravitating towards my iPhone, I suppose because it allowed me to learn so much faster. I had all these editing apps and I just kept taking photos, editing, asking questions, figuring it out. It was trial and error and a lot of bad photos. I still take bad photos, but I always pause on them to understand the mistake I made. Understanding mistakes has been crucial for improvement. I would chase sunrise many mornings out of the month with my buddies to understand how the light changes and how that impacts the photo. We'd return, sit together, and discuss. Oh, look at the composition of that one! How the light is hitting this one! It was a raw and organic time that I look back on with fond memories.
In 2013 or 2014 I was exposed to Vivian Meyer, who has this incredible and tragic story. She shot in the 50s and 60s in Chicago, but never saw any of her own work. Vivian was a nanny who documented her life and died in 2000. There was this kid in Chicago writing a thesis, he found a chest of undeveloped film at a sale of the sorts, bought it, developed the film and discovered the genius that is Vivian Meyer. The documentary "Finding Vivian Meyer" was my introduction to street photography and it sent me into this new world that changed my life. It drove me to become hungry to learn and to grow.
What do you hope to bring to the creative side of running?
This parallels beautiful to running, but I'm excited to go deep into the process and not take a single shortcut when creating with Bandit. I'm a believer that shortcuts get you lost. Especially in this viral age we live in, putting the work in and creating something with an excruciating level of detail and care is something I want for this sport that I love and has done so much for me.
Film is a big thing for me. The restrictions of film enables a lot of creative freedom. It sounds backwards, but having constraints makes you more creative. Film forces me to find and choose the decisive moment. With digital photography proliferating the world and now the rise of AI creations, people are yearning for the analog, the tactile, the physical. It's the same with community—people want the in-person, the physical, the hugs, the high-fives, the most human possible experience, to celebrate this beautiful sport together.
The act of running is so physical. It takes every ounce of you, so many miles, so much sweat and hard work... but it gives you every benefit in return. It's the same thing with film. You get the scans, the contact sheet back. You’re holding the physical in your hands. You’re getting this body of work back that you poured yourself into and it's a piece of you. I hope to bring these two worlds together in a new way that makes people feel something they may have never felt before.
Our mission at Bandit is to Evolve Running. What aspect of the sport do you hope to help evolve and how?
Something that's been really exciting over the past two-and-a-half years, having an audience that leans mostly artistic, is being able to expose them to the beautiful lifestyle, benefits, and joy of running. Seeing friends get into the sport, whether it's for their health or to train for a new goal, it's gratifying beyond words to hear stories of how running has impacted them positively. I want to continue to be an inspiration to the photography world. Show them—you can have other hobbies and they can help you become even better.
It's a big reason why I’m coming on the team—to evolve the sport, whether that’s in providing the team with feedback on different garments, but also to push the creative boundaries. Photography is a lifetime pursuit for me. There's no retirement plan—I'll be doing it until I die. And I plan on using this time to innovate and create freshness in the world. Running has fallen victim to a lot of copy and paste culture and stock photography. I can't wait to finally bring my two loves together and dedicate my passion and energy to evolving running creatively.
What feeling or feelings do you hope to evoke in your audience when you put a photo out into the world? Or is it not about that?
It’s a little bit of both for me. The photos I make represent a moment in time that I enjoyed, that was challenging, that was difficult. So I'd say half of it is for me and I'm excited to look at the photographs as I get older and life passes on.
A big factor is that I don’t know photography without Instagram. I look forward to a day when it's not there, just to feel the difference, but I don’t hate Instagram. I met my wife, I found my calling, I've traveled the world, and met my closest friends through the app.
The fact is, as a society we’re constantly consuming massive amounts of visual media, whether it's images, reels, tiktoks, videos, you name it. It’s become second nature for us to now to scroll, double-tap, scroll, double-tap, repeat. How can I get someone to stop for just a little longer? How can I get somebody to feel something? I try to do this by evoking some sort of emotion—curiosity, love, movement, excitement, joy, frustration, anything from the full spectrum of human emotion. If you haven't already picked up on this, I'm a very emotional individual. It's not something I suppress, even though I was told to growing up in the South.
I'll share a carousel of work and the responses are all over the place. The photos can mean one thing to someone and something so entirely different to another. I love that and I love walking away with more questions than answers.
Your first marathon, NYC '21, you ran a 2:49. The next year you ran a 2:36 at CIM. I know you've set the bar even lower for 2023. What's motivating you now to achieve these huge goals in the sport of running?
Two words: my son. Knowing that my son will be making his big entrance in under 8 weeks has kindled a new fire under me. Being 34, I’m so thankful I took a decade off from running to focus on photography. I still have a lot of youth left in my legs and I know I can break past my own personal boundaries. I would say that I have, probably, a four-to-six year window of being competitive with myself and have times going down, not up. My son has been a big inspiration to me and he’s not even here yet. I can’t wait to push him around in a stroller, go on runs with him when he's older, and create a beautiful bond together.
What are you most excited about for the future of Bandit and running?
Definitely to help grow the community of Bandit and of runners as a whole. Running has changed my life for the better creatively and physically. Experiencing going after big goals has been a humbling experience and one that I know can impact others. I'm excited through Bandit to see running change lives. To encourage people to set goals, no matter what they are, that scare the hell out of them. I'm excited to push creative boundaries and take huge risks. I want to take everything I know and have experienced and inject it into the lifestream of Bandit and running. What hasn't been done before? Who hasn't experienced the joy of running? Where can we take this? What are the boundaries and how can we break them?
Welcome to the team, Joe.
Joe's first creative campaign with Bandit, Summer 2023, debuts this May.