24 April 2017

Detroit Through a Throwaway

Once the fourth largest city in the states by population, Detroit went from just under 2 million inhabitants in its prime, to the now dwindling 688,000. In the late ‘50s and into the ‘60s, the city with an endearing commitment to singing the praises of its auto industry was silenced by an unwillingness to diversify into other industries. Detroit became a victim of its own success and as technology advanced and auto jobs moved elsewhere, the city had no backup industry to step into the oil-stained shoes that now laid empty.

Although the gentrification wheels have started their turning process in Detroit, it’s a city with juxtaposition and contrast hidden in every last nook and cranny. Endless streets are lined with run-down, abandoned houses and desolate high-rise building give a sense of a utopian ghost town. Yet, you enter the Eastern Market area where the city’s art scene is developing to find building after building consumed by murals and a neighbourhood reimagined in technicolour. It’s of course the motherland of Motown but also gave birth to the contemporary Techno scene before it was adopted by a new step mum by the name of Europe. Whatever you find in Detroit, it’s sure to churn out the complete opposite in some way or another right before your waiting eyes.

With two full days, two disposable cameras and the 28°C heat, I felt like Will Smith in I Am Legend, wandering a city in which any sign of life came as a welcomed surprise (maybe a slight dramatisation). The vacancy of the city is something that's tricky to get your head around and digest, never mind begin to try and capture in a photograph. With growing up in the countryside, I'm more than accustomed to a lack of people but there's something about a vast city oozing a sense of abandonment that's downright bizarre. At the end of the day, I'm a writer, not a photographer, so there is the odd edge of a finger, a blurry finish that I have zero explanation for and plenty of overexposure that I simply can't control on a Kodak Funsaver. Hopefully you get an idea of the eeriness that I felt enveloped Detroit – head over to the photography section to see my images of Detroit shot on 35mm.