As a native Detroiter, I feel tremendous sadness that the city of my birth and this once great American metropolis has become synonomous with America’s industrial decay and the symbol of the country’s fall from glory. I only lived a year here, on the city’s west side on Glastonbury near River Rouge Park, before my family moved. Perhaps it was best they left when thousands of families, almost all white, were fleeing to the suburbs. This flight followed decades of redlining and segregation that had stiffled opportunities for the city’s African-Americans, coming to a hot boil in the 1967 riots that left 43 people dead and 2,000 buildings destroyed.
What befell Detroit was far greater than what the city alone controlled. Federal policies promoting interstate construction, the petro-based economy that allowed for suburban development, the lack of opportunities for disadvantaged and non-white residents, and trade policy and treaties like NAFTA each took their toll. The automobile makers who once made the city rich inevitably restructured, and the debate rages if organized labor or the Big Three really brought the Motor City to its knees. Today, the city is infamous as a symbol of capitalist ruin, where nearly four in 10 residents live in poverty, according the the U.S. Census, and Detroit tops the FBI’s list, as of 2014, for murder and violent crime rates for large cities. So, if you are looking for a happy story, or a story on plucky urban farmers and tough urban pioneers who are making a go in this truly American city, this is not the place. That is someone else’s story, not mine. I visited in April 2015 and again in September 2015, and what I saw profoundly impacted me. For a great photo essay, see Andrew Moore’s series.
Please see my second Detroit photo essay, from pictures taken in April 2015, entirely with my GoPro camera. These photos were taken during my September 2015 trip.