Iconic Detroit machinery reengineered, repurposed, and culturally reborn. Donks, also known as hi-riders, are modified American made cars (typically from General Motors) built during the seventies and eighties. Donks have gained popularity among middle-class blacks as symbols of economic prosperity. Originating in the south, they are now very much a part of the Detroit culture. Donk gatherings are common on Belle Isle Park.
Algernon has lived in this house for the past 42 years. After raising four children he now lives alone as a widower and only occupies the first floor of the house. Upkeep has been minimal at best, but the house still maintains elements of its original grandeur. Structures such as this begin to take on a life of their own, gracing themselves with symbolic undertones, such as longevity, memory, and perseverance.
DeShawn, like many Detroiter's, in spite of the cities negative image will admit they're proud of their city when you ask them. The letter "D" of his tattoo is not only the Old English Letter used to symbolize Detroit, but also the Logo for the Detroit Tigers baseball team.
Brad will scrap this abandoned factory site for the next year, digging in the ground and taking from it about 1000 pounds of recyclable metal a day. He will make about $110 for a days work. He’s been unable to find employment, but took it upon himself to find a way to earn some money and to do something positive about his situation.
Ejaz manages a small parking lot at the corner of Griswold and Clifford. He has long fantasized of becoming a fashion model, and yes, his favorite color is orange-red.
Kat (Kathina) took over an abandoned city corner lot next to her house and transformed it into a neighborhood park complete with lighting, benches, flower and vegetable gardens, and sculpture. Her initiative was the first visible improvement on the street in over 30 years. The pile of concrete she is sitting on will be used for the creation of a fishpond. She also takes in homeless people who need shelter and when her house becomes to crowded she uses the abandoned building in the background to place people in, providing them with basic needs like clothing, blankets, and food. All of her efforts are supported through generous donations from friends and her faith.
Mark is unemployed and collects SSI disability from the state because of his crippled knees. He collects bottles and cans for return deposit to make extra spending cash and on this particular morning he found two cans of unopened cranberry sauce which was an extra bonus to his day.
After years of being heavily polluted due to industrial waste, Detroit has made steady progress in cleaning up the Detroit River to the point that it is safe again for fishing and swimming. Beavers, which have been absent for more than 50 years have recently been spotted along the shoreline.
More than any other building in Detroit, the abandoned Michigan Central Railroad Depot has come to symbolize the economic decline of the city. Ironically, it is also one of the more popular destinations for foreign and stateside tourists to come and visit, contributing needed revenue for the city generated from tourism.
The Brush Park Historic District sits adjacent to the recently completed Comerica Park and Ford Field stadiums. Built as part of a downtown revitalization plan that included the stadiums and surrounding areas, this small historic neighborhood fell victim to the financial meltdown and real estate crash of 2008. Projects that were in mid-completion still sit today unfinished.
Glemie, a retired truck driver and fifty-year resident of Detroit, is an accomplished blues singer, but he's also known for his small game hunting skills. Every fall he hunts an average of 150 raccoons, which he skins, dresses, and sells as food to clients. This extra income supplements his meager retirement benefits. Born in southern Arkansas and the son of a sharecropper, Glemie was often required to pick 100 pounds of cotton a day as a child and raccoon was often the staple family meal of the day.
Daniel works as a part-time parking lot attendant flagging down cars. Homeless and living in an abandoned building with other men, he is devoutly religious and prefers wearing women's clothing to men's. Free of drugs and alcohol, he says that he acts crazy so that people who might potentially harm him will leave him alone.
Ben is a solo competitor who competes in various club activities. They hold local competitions to see how high a car will hop. Ben's car hopped 68 inches but lost to a competitor whose car hopped off the charts at 92 inches, or to put it in real terms, nearly vertical. Measurements are taken at the highest point the center of the front rim will travel off the ground.
Kat and Rick are avid graffiti writers and often come to this spot to take in the views of the city. This 3,500,000 square foot abandoned factory is the symbolic home to every graffiti artist and urban explorer in the city. The British street artist Banksy painted a piece on one of the walls, only to have the entire section of brick wall removed by a group of local artists who called themselves preservationists. Potentially worth tens of thousands of dollars, the present owner of the property filed a lawsuit, but the artists still have possession of the art and refuse to give it up.
Belle Isle Park, situated on the Detroit River, is the largest island park in the United States. Over 100,000 people will convene here on major holiday weekends.
Earl has owned and lived in this house for 22 years. It was the only house still standing on the entire city block. It's likely that he will be displaced to make way for Mayor Dave Bing's master plan to resize the city into 7 smaller neighborhoods.
Lynn is the brother of Tyree Guyton, founder of the famed Heidelberg Project, Detroit's most well-known and visited social arts project that addresses urban blight issues plaguing the city. Go here for more information. www.heidelberg.org
A local mother took over this abandoned lot to give kids on the street a place to play and enjoy themselves. The little boy on the far right wasn't allowed to go swimming so he stood stoic for 15 minutes giving everyone the stare down. It was and wasn't funny, if you know what I mean.
Angela is one of a growing number of young, urban agra-farmers who have moved back into the city and taken over abandoned city lots to farm on. Detroit has been designated a food desert meaning that there's not one national chain grocery store within the city limits. Residents instead have to rely on their own initiative if they want to have fresh produce that is readily available, and literally hundreds of community gardens have sprung up all over the city to counter the shortage.
This small enclave of homes is located in a neighborhood affectionately known as "Little Venice". Narrow canals back-up to residents homes to create an atmosphere that is more akin to a small fishing village than a large metropolitan city. Somewhat isolated and sitting on the furthest southeast corner of the city, the residents here covet their privacy and anonymity.
This neighborhood, which borders Detroit and Hamtramck, is home to a large population of Bangladeshi. Their national sport is cricket, which is played out in serious fashion in this empty overgrown lot.
Calvin sells pop and penny candy from his garage to neighborhood children after school and on weekends. With three children of his own, it's his way of keeping watch over them and the neighborhood.
This picture was taken on a holiday weekend, but the flag is displayed more as a memorial to Cynthia's son-in-law who was killed in the Iraq war.
Homelessness plagues many urban cities. There are many shelters in Detroit where victims can go in order to seek out help, but many can't or will not go for various reasons. Sometimes mental illness is the reason, or a lack of trust or anti-social behavior prevents homeless people from reaching out. Sometimes it becomes a way of life so ingrained in your being that nothing you do will ever change your preference for living on the street.
Jay operates an exotic dance business from his house. His clients make appointments for private lap dances that take place in his back den. As a decorated military veteran who received two purple hearts while performing secret special ops missions fighting the drug cartels in Colombia and Nicaragua during the Reagan administration, he claims to have been shot four times and stabbed twice. The first time he was shot was when he was 11 years old. A sniper fired a bullet through his bedroom window that struck him in the neck, paralyzing the left side of his face.
Abandoned homes are favorite dens for drug dealers. Its been known that when residents are frustrated by a lack of police intervention, someone in the neighborhood will take it upon themselves to set the house on fire in order to rid the dealers from the area. On the flip side, if police do apprehend and arrest a dealer, they will often send someone back to set the house on fire in retaliation for being arrested. It's a catch-22 scenario that is all to common.
More residents in Detroit buy Pit bulls than any other breed of dog. Because of their reputation as being aggressive and instilling fear, they make excellent guard dogs and deter would be robbers. Detroit has a lucrative underground dog breeding community and these Male pit bull puppies will sell for one hundred dollars each, and females for for two hundred dollars.
In an abandoned city lot, this makeshift shelter provides a place for social gatherings and gambling.
The Ivanhoe Cafe which recently celebrated its 101st anniversary, is one of the last remaining businesses in this old Polish neighborhood just off Chene and Warren Ave., and is a Detroit icon. It's not really a yacht club, but more a local tavern with a few small rooms with tables for dining. The "Yacht Club" distinction originated when several men who were frequent patrons had their picture taken while wearing a captains sea hat. The men pictured on the wall have nothing to do with boating, they're just goofing off for the camera.