Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Urban Blight

A long time ago, a saxophone player I knew asked me to take some photographs in and around the city of Detroit, where we both lived.

He had just recorded a bunch of his music and planned to release it as a CD. Maybe, he thought, I could provide some cover art.

And so, following his instructions to the letter, I took pictures of the most blighted areas I could find. Not that it took a lot of searching. Detroit at that time was probably at its nadir, in terms of neglect, urban decay, national image and reputation. (Or maybe not. A subsequent administration probably forced these things even lower, but by then I'd relocated to a distant city.)

My friend's idea was to contrast images of the worst of Motown with images of the worst of South Africa – of Soweto and other townships. At this time, South Africa's apartheid regime was, at last, being forced from power. Nelson Mandela was about to get out of prison.

And so I drove brazenly into the most afflicted parts of Detroit that I could find. Looking back, it was probably a risky endeavor, but I didn't stop to think about that. Rather, it seemed like a challenge, or an adventure – although I did choose to do most of my shooting early on Saturday mornings. I had a notion that even the criminals had to sleep, and that Saturday mornings might be one of the safer times I could venture into some really crappy areas with an expensive camera, and take a lot of pictures.

Here are a few of the images I collected over two expeditions.

As it turned out, my sax playing friend did not use the pictures I took. I don't remember the reason. It wasn't personal.

On another occasion, I spent an afternoon in the little club my friend ran, taking photos. The picture below is from that shoot. It might have made a pretty good album cover.

1 comment:

  1. the scourge of urban run-down area of ​​the city. Some parts of the city, as the age of obsolete buildings and the type of changes in demand.