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, October 23, 2015

Back, Back Again, Going Again...

From the look of the blog, it would seem I have not been thinking of Detroit since I posted before my March 2015 trip there, visit #7.

To the contrary, Detroit has been totally on my mind since then for I had been offered an amazing opportunity to exhibit this in-progress project in Europe in the fall in Lille in France's northwest in connection with a major festival: Lille3000/Renaissance, an examination of five international cities in the midst of positive change.  DETROIT:DEFINITION at the Maison de la Photographie in Lille opened on 24 September and is about to close this coming weekend.  I was privileged to share this large and wonderful exhibition space with Guillaume Rivière, a well-known French photojournalist who photographed Detroit also this past March for the French magazine, IDEAT.

With a slew of new images from seven visits to France (now eight!) and a greater focus on what I wanted to capture in Detroit, the exhibition - almost 50 prints of mine!-  was terrrific, the opening beautifully planned and filled with so many French and others totally fascinated by what is happening in Detroit, a symbol for so many of how a city first decimated by the loss of a major industry - like Lille as it happens with the loss of their major textile industry - can gather itself together and restart its soul.

And while my French could use some work, I found myself giving interviews in French, writing and translating and/or working with translators on my exhibition essays all about this city founded by the French in 1701 by General Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac.  The exercise certainly sharpened and slowed down what I had to say and focused me better on this longterm project, bringing me a personal, eye-opening perspective on a grand American city that has been a poster child for centuries now: of America's strength in people and industry for the first half of the 20th century; for the decline of that American dream in the second half and, now well into the 21st, an international model of revival and community collaboration, not yet finished but certainly on its way.

My exhibition catalog with French and English text is available for online viewing at issuu.com.

At the vernissage (opening), a softly played video with the music of Sixto Rodriguez (aka "Rodriguez") set the theme for the exhibition which was, ultimately, about the people of this substantive city I am learning so much about.  Installation shots follow.

My great thanks to the Maison de la Photographie and the city of Lille for this opportunity.  I believe I will soon have some further good news about exhibiting in France.

Soon to follow: reports and visuals from my last two visits to Detroit and where the city feels now but for the moment, here is my exhibition.  I look forward to soon bringing it back to the States.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Returning...and catching up...

As I prepare to return to Detroit this next week, I realize the blog has been ignored lately and it seems normal for I often post more when I am actually in Detroit, capturing current observations. 

This past six months, especially late 2014 and early winter 2015 became busy - an exhibition of work from my REVISIT.RENEW.NEW series at the SarahLeePROJECTS booth at PhotoLA and the multitude of art fairs that happen in Southern California in January and February.

At PhotoLA, I did bring three additional large prints from the DETROIT:DEFINITION project as well, all from my photography shoot in November of Wayne State's new Multidisciplinary Biomedical Research Building between Woodward and Cass, a terrific example of repurposing and expansion.  The block had been formerly inhabited by the Daigleish Cadillac Building, originally designed by Albert Kahn in 1927 to house the Walter J. Bemb Buick-Pontiac dealership. 

The architects, Harley Ellis Devereaux Corp., designed an inspiring building full of glass and light while saving the original showroom facade on Cass.  Outside of the new addition, the reflective glass mirrors a fast-changing neighborhood and soon, the M1-Rail will appear in these windows as well.

In the interior, the third floor retained the original roof of what was originally the indoor auto storage area, complete with driving ramp; the latter now replaced by those gorgeous multi-paned south-facing three story windows and open lobby.

 I am returning to Detroit the week of 16 March and look forward to seeing the construction progress for the building is set to open soon.

And in fact, development and re-development as well as a search for Detroit's architectural wonders seemed to be the theme of this past November exploration as I caught snaps of an amazing church, toured a Minuro Yamasaki building, and grabbed some outside snaps at Mies van der Rohe's Lafayette Park.

I had a chance as well to capture some images from the return of the Livernois Avenue of Fashion - great shops, restaurant - the 1917 American Bistro ! - and well worth exploring.
I wandered north of 7 Mile but I hear that just south it is coming back as well.

A sample of my work from previous visits as well as these past two in Fall of 2014 is incorporated into my newest "Scouting Update," a continually revised booklet sampling some of the work from these Detroit visits.  It can be seen online - DETROIT:DEFINTION/SCOUTING UPDATE20110-02014 - at issuu.com

One goes to art fairs to show, to buy, to covet and to find inspiration - and this year, to exhibit as mentioned at PhotoLA -  and during this winter's moment in Los Angeles last January/February, I wandered from opening to opening (Art ContemporaryLA), a book fair (Printed Matter LA Book Fair), a major photographer's talk (Simon Norfolk), listening to Bach's St. Matthews Passion sung by the Master Chorale at Disney Hall and then off to the Paramount Ranch/Art LA fair in the Malibu Mountains, an old movie ranch where I rode as a child with my father through the western town sets.

All of it is helping me narrow my focus about Detroit as I see how other artists - we all do learn from and are inspired by others - take their own personal stories, their own curiosity and form it into narratives for others.  The DETROIT:DEFINITION project, originating originally with my own curiosity to see the city of my birth,  is captivating me, changing me and allowing discovery not only of this evolving city but of myself as well and society as well.

I look forward to being there again.

Here are recent articles and books I have been reading recently on the city:
When You've Had Detroit  by Rollo Romig
A Detroit Anthology, Ed. Anna Clark.  (So far I've read Marsha Music's beautiful essay, "The Kidnapped Children of Detroit")
thanks for the view, mr. mies: lafayette park detroit

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Forging Ahead

With resolution of the bankruptcy filings on the November day I flew into Detroit for my second visit of 2014, among the many concerns of Detroit that are now being positively addressed and resolved, the arts are going ahead.

Just announced: the grand Detroit Institute of Arts has reached its pledge amount promised as part of the "Grand Bargain" that was achieved in Detroit's bankruptcy negotiations.   This is a stunning result exceeding earlier expectations and it should be noted that donations to achieve this funding goal - which aids as well the pension and investment partners in the Bargain - were not only from those within Michigan but also without, demonstrating the seriousness taken in terms of preserving this elegant American institution.


Below: A snap of a portion of the magnificent DIA hall painted by Diego Rivera and financed, surprisingly since it is so anti-corporate and pro-labor, by one of the icons of the auto industry, Edsel Ford.