The magazine of the photo-essay
May 2017 back issue
Detroit: Unbroken Down
by Dave Jordano
“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
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Detroit is my hometown, but I’ve been gone for over three decades.  As a child growing up, my father, who worked all his life for General Motors, used to joke and say that we had motor oil in our veins.   Even after all these years of absence I still believe there is some small truth to what he said. These photographs are my reaction to all the negative press that Detroit has had to endure over the past several years. I wanted to see for myself what everyone was talking about, and like everyone else I was initially drawn to the same subjects that other photographers were interested in; the crumbling factory interiors, the empty lots and burned out houses that consume a third of the city, and the massive abandoned commercial infrastructure.  It took me a week of shooting this kind of subject matter to make me realize that I was contributing nothing to a subject that most everyone already knew much about, especially those who had been living there for years. To counter this, I began looking at the various neighborhoods within the city and the people who live within them.  This human condition, while troubled, struggling, and coping with the harsh reality of living in a post-industrial city that has fallen on
the hardest of times, does thrive, and demonstrates that Detroit is not the city of death and decay that everyone was reporting in the media, but one that shows signs of human activity and movement. However, not withstanding the recent press about Detroit’s efforts to rebound from its recent bankruptcy, which is in all ways promising, my focus continues to rest on the current conditions that affect many of those who have fallen through the cracks, forgotten and marginalized poor people whose lives will only minimally be improved by the recent redevelopment of the city. But whatever that outcome may be, I’ve found that most Detroiter’s wear their pride for the city they live in much like an honored badge of courage, defying all odds, openly admitting that if you can survive here, you can survive just about anywhere. My hope is that this work will convey in many ways that Detroit is a city made up of many small communities, all building a way of life through perseverance, hope, and sheer determination.   A city clinging to the vanished ideals of an urban oasis that once hailed itself as one of the most beautiful and prosperous cities in America, at one time a model city for all others to follow, but one which has now fallen from grace.   This personal project is not about what’s been destroyed, but more importantly about what’s been left behind and those who are left to cope with it.
Glemie, well known raccoon hunter, playing the Blues. Detroit 2011.
Woman sleeping in a parking lot, Detroit 2010.
Calvin with one of his three Pitbulls, Detroit 2011.
Deshawn displaying his Detroit tattoo, Detroit 2010.
Best friends David & Juwan, Detroit 2011.
Claire in her mother's dining room, Detroit 2015.
Cornell was living in an abandoned nursing home for veterans after recently being released from prison, Detroit 2013.
Police cadet riot training being performed in an abandoned strip mall parking lot, Detroit 2011.
Hakeem in his room of quotes, Detroit 2012.
Marshall and Jeannette living in an abandoned house on Goldengate Street, Detroit 2012.
Semira sleeping in Kat's house, Detroit 2012.
Lynn on his front porch, Heidelberg Street, Detroit MI 2010.
Dayvon and Christian going door to door selling Pitbull puppies, Detroit MI 2011.
Fireman resting on a roof after extinguising an arson fire, Detroit 2012.
Bey-Bey stands in front of a memorial car dedicated to his deceased mother, Detroit 2012.
Tissheama with her children building a garden in her yard, Detroit 2013.
A volunteer community bicycle collective that helps kids out in the neighborhood, Detroit 2013.
Makeshift BMX course on the grounds of the abandoned Brewster-Douglas Projects, Detroit 2013.
Diane, who was homeless, lies sleeping at a friend’s house, Detroit 2013.
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