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, September 16, 2014

I am so sorry to have read last week of the passing of Gerald Wilson, 96 years old and a terrific jazz composer, bandleader. Among his many beautiful melodies is his Detroit Suite, written in memory of his formative years in Detroit (a graduate of Cass Tech), and from which I was so graciously granted the right to use snippets for my short early video on my DETROIT: DEFINITION project. 

The music of the Gerald Wilson orchestra has for years been recorded and distributed by Mack Avenue Records -  http://www.mackavenue.com/ - a company home-grown in Detroit and its founder, Gretchen Valade, is the major force behind the terrific Detroit jazz festival that takes place downtown over Labor Day Weekend.  I attended in September of 2011 and the streets were filled with people and great sounds.



Wonderful obits on Gerald Wilson below, some with music:

from the Detroit Free Press: 
http://www.freep.com/article/20140909/NEWS08/309090140/Gerald-Wilson-dies-Jazz-musicianhttp://www.freep.com/article/20140909/NEWS08/309090140/Gerald-Wilson-dies-Jazz-musician

from Mack Avenue Records: http://www.mackavenue.com/news/article/beloved_multi_instrumentalist_gerald_wilson_passes_away


from the Los Angeles Times where Gerald Wilson lived, played, composed and inspired many other musicians for years until his death: http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-gerald-wilson-20140909-story.html#page=1http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-gerald-wilson-20140909-story.html#page=1

from npr with snippets of his musc: http://www.npr.org/2014/09/11/347594917/jazz-arranger-gerald-wilson-dies-at-96http://www.npr.org/2014/09/11/347594917/jazz-arranger-gerald-wilson-dies-at-96

Here is my 2012 slide show of images from the DETROIT: DEFINITION project with soundtrack from the Detroit Suite, going back to my post about this in 2012  http://detroitdefinition.blogspot.com/2012/03/detroit-in-slides-first-three-visits


video



It is dismaying to see that the last time I posted to this blog was more than a year and one-half ago.  It is not that Detroit and my project have not been on my mind nor that I did not keep up with not only news but friends there, but that other exhibition deadlines - and a bit of life - took precedence and, like a manuscript put away to percolate for some months, sometimes years, DETROIT: DEFINITION needed some seasoning that only walking away for a while could give it.

Today, planning to return to Detroit on a late flight tonight, my focus on the project is still not fixed but far more developed than before, as is Detroit.  Time has helped me refine what it is I am looking for: a sense of past history, a sense of today and best, a sense of the future.  This is for Detroit but it is also for me for while it is true that most photographic artists put themselves into their work, the experience of Detroit has become a personal exploration as well.  As the city changes, it is also changing me.

I have always felt that capturing Detroit, a heretofore unknown city to which I am linked almost entirely and only by the fact of my birth, would be a challenge for me.  What I've found so far: that I am not only exploring through the construct of my father's footsteps on the streets of Detroit; I am actually walking in them, entering into buildings he entered for nine years of his life, traversing the city in which he lived.  A little eerie but I do feel comfortable here in a city where supposedly the comfort level is pretty low.

As part of that transformation: while my other projects concentrate solely on the visual story, Detroit demands more and my literary and my visual perspectives - offtimes at odds between the precision of the words and the abstraction of the view - have no choice but to join together here.  I suppose I knew this since I created this blog during my first trip in 2011 and wrote each night of that trip.  It is clearer now and even though not published here, there is also writing that accompanied my most recent visit, three weeks in the summer of 2013 and definitely much to write in this near future.

This short upcoming trip - another longer one is planned for mid-October - is a bit different for it is an exciting new venture/conference created by ....

"A broad coalition of partners — Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, corporate leaders, major foundations, economic development groups and others — have joined to create a powerful event that can help shape the future of Detroit. It's called The Detroit Homecoming." :

... inviting back those who lived and worked in Detroit over the years.  The conference: an intense two-day tour of the city and introduction to many of the individuals and businesses working for change, all in the hope that the invitees will return more, invest in, help renew what Detroit was and make it even better.

Lots of attendees from all over  - entrepreneurs, businesspeople, CEO's, filmmakers, and me. ... dressing in "corporate casual" ...

For this I've prepared a long overdue "update" to my original little magazine blurb about Detroit "reporting" on my very first visit there in January 2011.  As always happens, creating the little booklet, composing the "intro," and selecting sample images has forced me to focus and wish I had done this earlier.  I stay unfortunately true to habit, always needing a deadline/event to get stuff done :( .   That said, returning to my raw files to see what I missed the first pass through the experiences has uncovered several strong evocative images I missed when too close to the shoot.


All for the good.

I look forward to these next few days...

Below: an image I missed in the first pass but love now: from early early am (1:30am) at the so wonderful artist loft in which I stayed in Summer 2013.  The auto lights from the meat factory outside my window turned on whenever trucks arrived and would illuminate the loft at all all hours, and I would awake, grab the tripod and shoot.  Romantic light and so emblematic of the diversity of subject matter, just within and out my window in Detroit's Eastern Market.