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.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Reading Others, Thinking about Cities

There is no doubt that one part of the raison d'etre for this blog represents for me a place where I can wander around my photographic subject, test out ideas, reserve notes electronically for me, as well as the reader. 

Do I market the blog?  Not as much as I would like but then, there is always the question of what is a blog for?  I know that my Sara Jane Boyers Aloud Blog is very much an outlet for me to ruminate over what it is I do as a photographer, as a writer.

This DETROIT: DEFINITION Blogspot and the FINDING CHINATOWN Blogspot as well are more about specific projects.   I can refer some of you to them to better explain the work.  I use them myself as I edit, formulate my direction, note information and test out ideas.  For me, a repository.  For the reader, a peek into my process.

Thus for DETROIT: DEFINITION, today's subject is cities, the past, and the future.  Two articles posted this week, one specifically about Detroit, the other about cities in general are ones to hold with material to contemplate.

The first:   "Jim's" Sweet Juniper blog article The Fauxtopias of Detroit's Suburbs   http://www.sweet-juniper.com/2012/04/fauxtopias-of-detroits-suburbs.html

The blogger writes thoughtfully and poetically about the history and social meanings of its collection: from Henry Ford's Greenfield historic park to the suburban ones encircling Detroit.  Within this: a revealing perspective of the locale and history of Detroit's Michigan Theatre, a extant (an ironic word) example of Joni Mitchell's  Big Yellow Taxi: "they paved paradise and put up a parking lot..." 

The second:  Salon's Will that Starbucks last?  Gentrification has remade some cities and left others behind. Alan Ehrenhalt tells us what changes to expect next    http://www.salon.com/2012/04/26/will_that_starbucks_last/?source=newsletter

THE PRESENT: Today's News: Honing in on Detroit:

1. In the midst of  above, today the Detroit Free Press reports on a new arts project designed to re-introduce/re-invigorate metro Detroit: Detroit's first ContemporaryArt Festival to be held this Fall.  Thinking I might be  there.

Contemporary art festival will illuminate Detroit.  
From the article:  "A century ago Detroit had its own Electric Park, a lit-up amusement park at the foot of the Belle Isle Bridge.   The adventuresome spirit of that long-ago place of wonder returns to Detroit on a grand scale Oct. 5-6 with the inaugural Dlectricity, an ambitious contemporary art festival that promises to light up Midtown with some 30 works of site-specific installations of light, video projections and sound created by a mix of international, regional and local artists."


2. From Karen Dybis, terrific Detroit writer: 

This spring’s April showers bring … development in Detroit? It seems that way


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

DETROIT: DEFINTION - 1st Time Exhibited

For the very first time, two photographs from my ongoing DETROIT: DEFINITION project are up in exhibition, in a group show curated by noted art writer/curator Shana Nys Dambrot.

Details:  LOOKING GLASS at the Analog Salon, Culver City.

The opening was this past Friday night and the show runs through June.  Got some wonderful compliments and curiosity about my work and about Detroit. 

Shana's comment on the show and upon my photos:

"For LOOKING GLASS I’ve assembled a dozen photographers whose work is in various ways made in a collaboration between the imagination and the world -- to explore ways that the camera is an expressive, fantastical, imaginative and pliable medium as well as form of document that contains evidence of external reality.

Everyone knows that a painter, for example, starts with a blank canvas and piles of pigment and that whether they makes landscape, portrait, or abstract images based in whole, in part, or not at all on external phenomenon, that the thing they make is entirely created from “nothing” or, put another way, from pure “imagination” -- whereas photography by definition involves negotiating with the external world not of your making. So how does a photographer achieve the same kind of emotional depth and psychological complexity, even approaching altered states of consciousness and perception, mediated through a “machine” -- that is the question.

.....For Sara Jane Boyers, her pictures of Detroit conflate present-day documentation with personal deep-buried memory."

Innovation: DESIRE PATHS/ The 313 BLOG/ Innovation Funding.

It is a given that innovation arises from the challenge and Detroit is certainly both challenging and innovative, much of the latter coming from its youth.

Thus, the Huffington Post/Detroit reports on the "desire path" plan created by Wayne State University urban studies student, Kyle Bartell, who has observed the "social trails," of the city, where the public may cut across a vacant space to reach a destination.

Taking one of these, with the private property owner's permission, Kyle and associates has created a more formal path, along with benches, to create a space for the public.   There are more to come.

Bench installation screenshot taken from C2 (Cass & Canfield) FB page, It's description:
"C2 Park ( Cass & Canfiled) is a project currently in the planning process of converting a parcel of land into a meaningful public space. Urban parks focuses on improving parks as community and economic assets to neighborhoods." Kyle Bartell

Inspired by and investigating the Kyle Bartell story from Huffington Post has led me to another student story from Detroit: the 313 Detroit Blog of Wayne State law student, James Brady.     http://313detroitblog.blogspot.com

Filled with terrific drawings of Detroit's noted buildings (James took his undergraduate degree in architecture) and informative links, this is one to keep up with. 
James' post on Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr.'s WE ALMOST LOST DETROIT     http://vimeo.com/39505582

FUNDING DETROIT INNOVATION:  From MODEL D: Creative constructive innovation depends definitely upon ideas but also their ability to get funded.  Some worthy suggestions, solution concepts and a call for feedback. 

Call for Ideas: Innovative ways to fund small-scale community projects

From Model D: "Our city is only as strong as the current pipeline of projects we nurture. If we cannot find a sustainable way to fund this future, we might be stuck propping up a past that is growing obsolete."

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Detroit: Torino Partnership

Intriguing news about the international exchange between two great cities of automotive/industrial lineage and how their successes, failures and innovative programs/explorations are helping each other.

The German Marshall Fund of the United States "
"Re-Imagining Detroit: The Detroit-Torino Partnership is a 3-year initiative designed to expose leaders from the city of Detroit to the lessons learned from Torino, Italy’s economic rebirth and industrial renaissance over the past three decades."

What Turin, Italy, Has That Detroit Needs