Sarah Granholm Creative | Detroit, United States
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Detroit, United States

About This Project

Broken doors welcome you into an uninhabitable neighbourhood of Detroit. It sits nearby the mansions packed into suburbs such as Bloomfield Hills and Ann Arbor, rich with restaurants, shops and events- a far cry from the crumbling former homes in the inner city.

Detroit was once a thriving city sharing success from the Motown music gems and a flourishing car industry with the rest of the world. The city has been one of the wealthiest in America, attracting many inhabitants to prosper with the city’s growth. On the contrary, peeking crime rates, racial tensions, riots and a “white flight” where white residents left their lives in the city, affecting taxes and the job market. Economic instability and the biggest urban bankruptcy known to date in American history awaited in 2013. Detroit and its people were left before the challenge to find a way back.

Visiting Detroit in the beginning of 2016, got me thinking of the aftermath. On the one hand, investors seize new opportunities, construction sites cover many areas of the city. To an extent, Detroit is very much alive. Sport events, concerts, restaurants, shopping centers, bars and all that contributes to the liveliness of a city can be found in Detroit. The arts community is evident. Chaos could be assumed to encourage creative input and a motivation to contribute towards change can be awakened. With needs leading to opportunities, artists have taken initiative to lift up the city by decorating its walls with colorful street art. In these senses, Detroit is not dead.

But still, 8 mile road is argues to be separating low and high income households. From driving along streets with the one house bigger and more luxurious than the other, to driving across the “miles” and getting a sense of the Detroit that was left behind.

I step into the abandoned houses. Fragments of people’s lives lay on the floor, the American dream shaken up and scattered all around. Hand written letters, clothes, broken glass and an odor far from anyone’s approval. Then the absurd contrast of the astonishing mansions and high rises with fine architecture and maintenance not far away, where the party never stopped. The black and white in the photos attempts to capture the most overwhelming feeling of visiting a time that has been. The preservations of the remained pieces is like being inside a ghostly museum. The black and white also represents the contrasts of the city, abandoned (what used to be) homes juxtaposing houses being rebuilt. The houses captured symbolise the upswing and downfall of Detroit in themselves. And the walls that used to embrace families, clearly distinguish the difference between a house and a home. In these houses, the spirit is gone, but it is to be found in the people that believe in the city and its way transiting forward. These photographs show one side of Detroit, but it is not a full portrait of the diverse contrast of the city. However, it attempts to capture the part of Detroit that left me with the most questions.

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Documentary, Photo essay, Photography, Travel