Posts Tagged ‘Detroit Michigan’




Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit

(I am planning another 3 week trip to Detroit in November. Please stay tuned.)


April 5, 2014, Saturday, Detroit, Karen’s home, dining room table

Cool, mid 30s, overcast, mild westerly wind.


Another big day for photography as I wind down this 3 week spring Detroit sojourn [April 4, 2014]. 4 themes actually [more later on these]. The 1st was the scheduled visit to Alan Kaniarz’s fundamentals of design class at the College for Creative Studies (CCS), a school I’ve been drawn to since visiting Detroit in 2010. I’ve pictured myself teaching photography there. He’d invited me to visit, I’d sought permission from the administration, and finally, because the big administrator never responded to the small administrator in the form of Marcus, Marcus said OK.


Students were building a piece of wood and metal that seemed to have no purpose other than providing experience fitting pieces together, drilling holes, creating threads, etc. Of course I may have missed the larger context. Women alongside men, blacks alongside whites, tall with short, fat with lean, etc. A good mixture. The equipment was superb, all a woodworker might desire. I thought again of my son-in-law, Phil, and of myself when younger when I had plans to create my own basement shop. And further back, to high school when I took all the shop courses available including metal, wood, electric, and engineering drawing, not so much to prepare for later engineering studies which I followed but because I loved tools and making things.



How much of my background will show in the photos? Big-small question.


Alan has excellent rapport with students, joking with them. But he seemed a little lax about distractions. I noticed 2, maybe 3, women peering into their mobile devices while he lectured about lighting. One quickly hid her screen when I approached and pointed my camera at her. Some texted, some looked at female models, I doubt they were doing further research on topics of the day. Had I been Alan I might have required them to stow their phones, as I did with my students at the Jenin Freedom Theater. Which they appreciated.


The lecture about lighting was to prepare them for their next assignment: design a lighting fixture. So he demonstrated all the sources of light from a facsimile of the first Edison bulb with carbon filament to a string of LEDs controlled remotely so it could change colors and flash. Here revealed, in the span of some 150 years, an array of lighting.



I thought he might ask me to launch the topic of photographic lighting, magnesium powder to strobe, but he didn’t. How well would I have done this without preparation? (Maybe this was my dream last night?)

That finished, it was lunchtime and I’d not checked my morning’s email. So after exploring the photographic section, meeting no one, seeing students at work, observing the well equipped but perhaps not so often used film darkrooms, and the fine photos made by students, thinking of myself here teaching, I took lunch in the cafeteria (fish sandwich and fries, followed by a large chocolate chip cookie and Americano coffee which I learned is not standard American style coffee but espresso with hot water, a potent concoction which I will try again) and dove into the swift internet stream of CCS.

Rapid does not begin to describe the speed of this free, open Internet connection—67 mb/s download and 64 upload. The speed pushed my Internet speed tester into the red zone. Is CCS to be my new office? Maybe next visit I’ll upgrade my housing to live in Midtown around the corner from CCS.





College for Creative Studies Facebook


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Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit


April 4, 2014, Friday, Detroit

Cool, upper 30s, overcast, foggy, mild easterly wind—rain forecast, again.

After a bit of imagined bad news out of the way [a waking nightmarish fantasy about lost love] I can get to the better news, how life is in Detroit for me photographically. Lifting me out of the 4 day no photo doldrums I’d been in, yesterday afternoon [April 3, 2014], thanks to Mike who laid out numerous possibilities for examples of Detroit Up for me to photograph, I met and extensively photographed and interviewed Alan Kaniarz in his shop in the Russell Industrial Center on Detroit’s near East Side.


Alan Kaniarz

60 years old, with a long white mustache and matching goatee, tall and thin, wearing a dark leather long-billed cap and a paisley shirt, he toured me thru his shop. (I thought my son-in-law Phil would admire such a shop and pursuit and must remember to tell him about Alan.) Alan is multi-talented: wood, metal, glass. He invents, constructs, and repairs wood furniture and cabinetry. He collects and repairs antique lamps. He renews old picture frames and other wooden antiques. He commented that being so multifaceted helps him over the tough economic times he, Detroit, and the nation have recently faced. He also teaches at the College for Creative Studies and invited me to photograph him later if the administration gives us permission.




I told him I was searching for the seeds of a new Detroit miracle and asked, are you one? Without hesitation, he answered, yes. And explained that he employs students from the college, and has recently purchased a derelict building that he will rehab into relatively reasonably priced apartments for students. He is part of an association that includes Mike, possibly fosters clever social entrepreneurship, and goes by some initials that I did not record.

After my long session with Alan, at least 90 minutes, I explored the old factory complex, designed in 1915 by Albert Kahn. He’d explained that its first use was as a carriage-making factory, the entire complex, then with the rise of the automobile, it converted to making car bodies, not Fisher, but something equivalent. After other iterations, it now houses more than 140 tenants, mostly artists and craftspeople. I discovered 2 cars cut in half and affixed to walls. I discovered faces made of scrap metal. I discovered a set of words that resonated with me. (I hope to use them somehow, maybe transcribed as a footer or added to a display.) I discovered long hallways, mostly empty. I did not penetrate any studios so what’s behind the doors and walls remains a mystery to me.



The art of others in the building.


Alan gave me more leads including the CEO of Quicken who apparently invests in a socially wise manner. And Whole Foods, committing to the city, a true outpost in the realm of food. (For lunch yesterday from Whole Foods I gobbled down a chocolate chip scone, with milk, heated. I—and I presume many others—cannot survive without my daily consumption of spiffy food. Good bread in particular. And chocolate chip anything. Also peanut butter without sugar, chunky style.)

As usual finding the place presented problems. But the roaming brought me into new zones where I might return to pursue my sub theme of industrial landscape.



Reminding me that I temporarily live in Detroit in a relatively tough neighborhood, out my window yesterday early evening I noticed a heavy woman walking on the opposite sidewalk, apparently tracked by someone in a car. The driver pulled into a driveway to block her, left the car, and walked hurriedly to her. Is this a case of domestic violence unfolding before my eyes? I mused. He confronted her, held her. Because of the distance I couldn’t quite make out the tone. I picked up my phone and thought I might immediately phone 911 to report the incident as it unfolded—let the cops handle the situation. Then a succeeding and perhaps much wiser thought occurred: monitor the situation, outside where he can see me, with phone in hand. Deliberately banging my door, I stood conspicuously on the porch, phone in hand, and observed. He seemed to notice me. From confrontation the mood seemed to change to reconciliation. Another woman cracked open the rear door of the car and shouted something to the couple. He held her, this time maybe lovingly, and escorted her back to the car. No violence that I detected. And they drove off. All three were African-Americans.

What was the true story? Would he harm her later? Should I have intervened more forcibly, either by phoning the cops or walking into the scene? How much risk would that entail? To me and to the woman? Should I have brought my camera, as another form of intervention, not necessarily to use it, but to be ready to use it?



Alan’s workshop and business, A.K. Services

Russell Industrial Center

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Excerpts from my journal during a 3 week sojourn in Detroit Michigan, late winter 2014, searching for the seeds of the New Miracle of Detroit

Hart Plaza

Hart Plaza

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.

―Ernest Hemingway


March 29, 2014, Saturday, Detroit

Cooler, high 30s, overcast, still

Yesterday [March 28, 2014] mainly a 16 mile group bike ride organized by Farmada with the North American Bicycle Week, one of the week’s 5 or so group rides. The westerly wind was strong, tiny water droplets periodically fell on us, the temperature was not too cold, in the 50s. Possibly this curtailed participation because only about 50 at most rode, all but a few young, most seemingly from Detroit or nearby, I might have been the only one from a distance. An array of bikes, some fancy, some plain, mine the only folding. One young Black man asked me, what do they call that type of bike? Suggesting the paucity of folding bikes in Detroit on bike rides.

Our route began at Hart Plaza, progressed to the river, along the river walk, up “the cut” (an old rail line made into a linear park, S would love this) and then circuitously thru an old cemetery where many brewery magnates are buried, across a bridge to Belle Isle Park, to the statue (organizers shortened the route because of the strong winds on the island, blowing down the river), a break for photos and snacks (I peed in the fountain—scandalous!), and reverse the route, stopping at Andrew’s for lunch.


Dequindre Cut, once a rail line


Belle Isle Park

There, eating Cajun fried fish with fries and coleslaw, I sat with a Black man, the one I thought had been with a very attractive young Black woman. I sat with him partly expecting she would join us—she never did. This guy, missing a number of upper front teeth, spoke incessantly about the many rides he’d made in North Carolina up and down mountains, his strategies for winning races, all the while gesticulating wildly with his hands and arms. When I told him about Mt. Washington (in the White Mountains), he exclaimed, jubilantly, I want to climb that mountain! Later I realized this was not the Black man I thought, with the handsome partner, but more a loner. I positively identified the 2 when I examined my video footage.



I made numerous photos, most of them lame, and about 5 video clips, some perhaps useable. I suspect 2 guys I spotted with single lens reflex cameras, able to turn around and photo people from the front rather than the back as I mostly did, produced better results. One guy, dark black, used a Nikon D700, full frame camera. As we rode, we discussed the relative advantages of the D600 which I usually use (not on this bike ride) and the D700. He told me, I no longer worry about high ISO, at 3200 there is no noise. I felt, zooming around Detroit by bike, I’d made a photo buddy. I only wish we could join together later and compare photos—maybe online later [never happened that I found, except for the stupendous one below].


Courtesy of Farmada Free Ride


Indian Village


Leaving the restaurant early, believing the ride effectively over, I pedaled as much as possible along the river back downtown to retrieve my car. I’d parked it in a lot with other cars opposite the Motor City Casino, near the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) headquarters. I worried. Ah, happily, it was still there and intact.

I have to wonder about Detroit as Motor City. Maybe Detroit has lost its earlier distinction and now, with the times, found or is discovering a new one: Detroit as Bicycle City.


At Eastern Market where I expected more bike week activities I found only a group of men huddled beneath large blue blankets conversing. Asking where the bike week activities are, they told me many had been canceled because presenters had cut out, numbers were definitely down, they suspected because of the weather. I thought, what a bunch of wimps.

So I wandered the Market alone, not looking for bike events, but searching for a fine cup of coffee and something sweet. I found precisely what I needed in the large Gratiot Central Market amidst its myriad meat, poultry and fish—a heavily sugared cruller and a large cup of cheap black coffee. After depositing 2 quarters in the hands of “my brother” waiting by the main door for likely benefactors, I sat outside because there was no seating inside. I sat opposite a series of graffiti on a hardware store that might be abandoned. Poor sign.




Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race. 

—H. G. Wells




The Wind Blew With Us/Against Us (video)

Farmada Freeride

North American Bicycle Week

Bike Detroit

Detroit Women Bike

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