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.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

For years in the music industry, I traveled at the very least once a month.  With the DETROIT:DEFINITION project and several others including a few new book projects, I am doing the same, some decades later and not as efficiently.  So, it seemed time to post the recent update from October 2016.

Since January 2011, I have made 12 visits to Detroit with a 13th one upcoming in just a few weeks for the opening at MOCAD of THE ARCHITECTURAL IMAGINATION, the creative project that was presented last year as the theme of the US Pavilion at the prestigious Venice Biennale/Architecture. The exhibit presented new ideas for Detroit and a photograph of mine was selected to be one of twenty printed on postcards given out to the world to represent a current visual perspective of the city.  Those postcards will also be prominently displayed and available at MOCAD.

Born in Detroit but leaving for the California beach at the age of one, I remain fascinated - while freezing - by the winter landscape and there is a part of Detroit that shows itself best then.  In addition to the MOCAD opening, I look forward to exploring further in the winter of Detroit.

My Fall2016 update:  http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=013a28d9f024038bd399086bb&id=398bff9e89&e=[UNIQID]

Since the update, my second French exposition of the in-progress Detroit project was held in Paris during Paris Photo Week and the US election.  Detroit was very much in the news then and now for it represents a microcosm of what is happening around our country.

The sixth anniversary of the beginning of the DETROIT:DEFINITION project fell on my birthday this past week, Inauguration Day.  I started on this date in January 2011 with my own birth home in the Northwest.  It was a significant beginning for my now "family by house," graciously took me in and introduced me to a Detroit that was often in the news when touching on the devastation BUT in realty introduced me to a community, the entire block and many others like them, who had held it together for their families and others and are now key players and examples of the strength that has brought this city back.  How lucky I was ... and am today.  It is within the neighborhoods of Detroit and its residents and business there that the city's power resides.

Below: Scenes from the Avenue of Fashion/Livernois: April Anderson's Good Cakes & Bakes, Eric Vaughn of Eric's I've Been Framed and  Michael Owen mural.

As a photographic project, the actual photography is winding down.  One wants to go on and my relationship with Detroit definitely will, but in terms of my own work, fine art with a touch of documentary, there has to be an end.  Setting a limit on a specific period of change in a city that is so rapidly evolving forces one to interpret exactly that: time that becomes its own chapter in the history of the movement that is Detroit.

Throughout, however, capturing Detroit has been a challenge and a learning curve; requiring understanding of its beautiful buildings, 20th century industrial position and historic accomplishments. It required face to face interaction, even from my own less "on-the-street" approach, to meet and friend so many gracious residents from a highly diverse social, economic and  multi-racial/cultural strata.  It takes time and realization that the city will define me even as I worked to define my birth city for myself. 

Our new American administration is addicted to undercutting the good work and reality of cities such as Detroit and its residents, stating that our country is a disaster.  Notwithstanding, Detroit has actively demonstrated exactly the opposite: a too often maligned place that instead, with only a bit of exploration, represents the best of our county: thoughtful activism and resistance, perseverance and positive change.  Detroit is filled with citizens, public services and business willing to listen to each other and work together.  Even in the past few divisive years of the US, a Republican governor and a progressive Democratic mayor have worked successfully together in accomplishing much for the city's revival.  Active long-time residents along with newcomers have created forward-looking  and successful programs for city growth including issues of sustainability, diversity; social and business-advancement and job opportunity.

I am more than lucky and grateful to be so often in Detroit at a time when so much of this progress is happening and results are already evident.  Detroit is now a blueprint for America itself.

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