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.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Over the Wing, 21 January

On board, waiting to fly home to Los Angeles. My section of the plane is silent so far for I have boarded early in order to get my cameras more safely stowed away

My view: over the wing. As I gaze out in the night, the dark wing obstructing the light and activity of a busy airport, I realize I haven't been on a plane since I started seriously photographing the 747 Wing House, still in construction in the hills of Malibu.

There I walk on the wings, now the roof, and think about how this strange behemoth, an aged Boeing 747, no longer able to serve its initial function, has been deconstructed and repurposed into an iconic symbol of something new, a home. Seen in this new light, it becomes something novel, something contributory to design, to culture. Without the vision on the part of the homeowner, my friend, and the architect, a leader in environmental and repurposing theory, this airplane might have become a few hundred/thousand tin cans.

It took vision and continuing commitment. It took engineers who had to think in a new way, to solve the problems of today - how do we attach an aluminium airplane wing to a structure so that it doesn't quite literally fly away in strong winds? So that it doesn't leak in torrential rain? Other than the building of a log cabin perhaps or the contemporary construction of off-grid structures, most homes require this type of interactive teamwork and a continual stream of invention.

So too Detroit, the home of many.

My "blank slate" is starting to pick up some chalky scribbles. No longer am I that native daughter with no preconception. For the welcoming citizens of Detroit are scratching out for me a design of this city, using their words, their deeds, their memories, their hopes and their mutual love and exasperation. It is there for me to see.

How will Detroit be repurposed, for isn't this what Detroit needs? Vision. Preservation. Encouragement. Investment and commitment.

Sunday, the 23rd, someone walked into a Police precinct house in Detroit and shot four police offiicers. The someone died. The officers survived. Yes, this could have happened in any city today with the violence that is eroding our cities. But violence of this sort so often arrives with questions unanswered. Detroit has enough frustration and anger and disappointment to lay the groundwork for such horror. If those who are there to help and those who will hopefully join in can figure out Detroit, perhaps we can figure out too what we would so like to ascribe only to Detroit but, in truth, is happening all around us.

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