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.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Thinking of Detroit
The family myth: Nearly 64 years ago, when the moving van from Detroit delivered our stuff to Los Angeles, my father realized that someone had inadvertently packed the snow shovel. He broke it over his knee.
I am thinking of this as I prepare for this month's first real visit back to Detroit, the city of my birth, to celebrate my 65th birthday there and start a photographic project in this place by which I am defined but of which I know little. Is this to be a quirky memory or a premonition, even of so little as the fact that it is presently 45 degrees at 6am near the Southern California beach where I live; the household heat is set to 70 degrees and I have on four layers of clothing?
I was born on Sunday, January 20, 1946 at Harper Hospital in the city of Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan where my father was working and where my mother moved to marry him. I was brought home to my parents' newly purchased house on Pinehurst Avenue. We moved to California in 1947.
Some of the above I have just recently learned: The name of the hospital in which I was born; the fact that Detroit is in Wayne County; and that my family home was in the "Northwest," south of 7 Mile Road. Except for a cross-country family drive while a teen where I sulked in the back seat of the car and one quick work-related visit some 20+ years ago when I again sat in the back seat and sketched the family home, I have not been to Detroit since infancy.
I am a Californian, raised within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean where I have remained, listening at night to the waves pounding the beach and experiencing light filtered through the marine layer. It is where I have spent most of my life since July of l947 when I, at one, and my brother just six weeks were packed into a car by our parents to seek fame and fortune in LA where my father, a former "madman" in fashion advertising yet holding a UAW card, planned to start photo labs catering to the film and advertising industry.
It seems strange to be defined by something of which one has no knowledge but the fact of my birthplace has done just that over these years. When asked if I am a "native" Californian, I answer, "No, I was born in Detroit." It is time to investigate what that means.
So I am coming "home" to Detroit. To Michigan. Starting on my 65th birthday, I plan to photograph the city and surrounding areas in a series of seasonal visits with a planned project completion in early July of 2012, mimicking the time period of my Detroit habitation, exactly 65 years earlier.
This blog will be part of an accompanying journal about the project.