January 2011: I am preparing for my first real visit to Detroit, the city of my birth. I am a Californian, where I have been since age one when my parents packed me into a car to seek fame and fortune in LA. It is strange to be defined by something unknown but when asked if I am a "native" Californian, I answer, "No, I was born in Detroit." It seems time to investigate what that means. So I have come "home" on my birthday to photograph Detroit.
This blog is part of an accompanying journal about the project.
Monday, January 10, 2011
Preparation & Discovery
With only a few shreds of paper, what is left of my parents during the Detroit years is revealing already a new perspective, the city's story woven especially into that of my father whose bachelor life ended during his nine years in Detroit before marriage, my birth and that of my brother who was born just weeks before we left the city for LA.
That story becomes more entangled with each new document or photo. It punctures family myths such as the fact that my brother was just six weeks old - as he and I had always thought - when we drove away from Detroit, now contradicted by evidence showing us leaving almost a month later. Not a great difference but significant in terms of those small details that had built the foundation of our own personal tales.
Part of this is resulting from boxes opened, disintegrating albums picked through as I prepare scans to accompany the Kickstarter funding proposal I had hoped to have posted before I leave for Detroit this coming Monday. The prep is taking far longer than imagined although with the positive outcome that it is draws me into deeper exploration. The words focus me. The images send me on another path.
And as I finalize what to see and do this first trip, my story too is filling in. Adding landmarks. Finding facts. With every call, I learn more about the city. Perhaps there is an analogy to what characterizes Detroit today, especially by those of us who do not know it and who visit/return without preconceptions: it takes these small individual pieces of data, not always connected, each needing to be discovered, understood and then, experienced, to define a city, almost as these personal ephemera - clippings, photos, my father's pilot's log from the City Airport - are expanding the definition of me.