One should avoid picturing a land which can never be reached, and arousing hopes never to be fulfilled, for the indulgence only makes existence harder.
– Haniel Long, Notes for a New Mythology
Accounts from my journal, written while I photographed Detroit for three weeks during the end of summer 2016
September 11, 2016, Sunday
Yesterday was another day off, either the first or second of this trip. The weather was windy and wet, my destinations such as the refineries and Capuchin farm were distant, I debated the risks of bicycling, and finally, reluctantly, decided to remain home and do: house work. (I biked only to the liquor store for a pint of Stout.)
Yesterday I did not attend or photograph the following:
A street fair in Midtown (AKA Cass Corridor)
An auction in Indian Village which would have provided entrance to homes
An exhibit of antique cars at Greenfield Village
A Greening of Detroit Farm
The Earthworks Farm of the Capuchin Franciscan Monastery
Did any of this significantly affect my project? What would I have photographed if I’d persisted? Would volunteers be working in the garden and farm? Would the street fair have been fun and exuberant? Would I have been drenched or driven back by strong winds?
I will never know. This is one of the minor mysteries of my project—the places, people, events, issues, things that I missed.
The days before my last in Detroit close in. What might surprise me today, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, what remains of this trip—and for the rest of my life? And which of these surprises will be important?
Here are a few surprises thus far on this journey, some or all I told Karen about yesterday as we sat on the front porch eating fish, stir fry veggies, and Basmati rice, while watching the sun descend:
Bike accident (she noticed the bright red glaring gash on my knee)
Visit with Latoyia, the principal at Noble School (and with this a discussion of whether the blue shirt Karen lent me that I wore to the visit resembled a prisoner’s shirt)
Johnny inviting me to photograph him—and his horse, both in costume
The ghost bike (she’d asked to see recent photos, they included the bike, I did not tell her about my fears concerning bicycling)
Gloria’s aunt dying and Gloria going to Arkansas for the funeral (how Gloria is such a reliable neighbor)
And possibly a few others.
Are any of these significant?
I forgot to tell her about Kitty inviting me to give a forum about our Palestine-Israel process at my Quaker meeting in Cambridge Massachusetts. That the process represents a major surprise for our community, a form of unity around one limited aspect of that explosive situation.
Billy L wrote, in response to my short description of my Detroit project:
Sounds very “safe” skip. I understand your motivation on the ” radical” end by allowing folks who are not close to the Motor City happenings a look at what is going on but what about the entities on the other side of the line? The perspective of negativity experienced by the working poor? I hope you are successful with your assignment and wish you the best.
Safe? Which aspect of my project did he refer to? The entire project? Safe? I must consider this.
As a general description of my Detroit project I’d written:
As most people now realize, Detroit has become an icon of the failed post-industrial city in the United States—suffering poverty, racism, corporate dominance, and corruption. However, as always, there is another side: resurgence through urban agriculture, grass-roots politics, arts activism, and the high-tech auto industry. With my photography I strive to expose the seeds of the new Detroit miracle.
To be continued
Other than that, Icarus, how was the flight?
– W. Eugene Smith (about his Pittsburgh Project)
Detroit Street Watchers—”I’m doing what people think is crazy,” said Walter Gildersleeve (the founder). “I go through these abandoned houses, I go in the back of these yards.”