“Detroit is a city with a past that has to survive the present in order to reach the future.
In 2009 I went to Detroit to photograph foreclosed homes and their owners. The work from this trip resulted in a book and a short documentary that included interviews with locals.
I recently returned to Detroit to find that in the past six years an additional 10,000 homes have been torn down. In the 1960s, Detroit’s population peaked at 1.8 million. Today, that number is less than 700,000. The city which is the size of Manhattan, Paris, and a couple other cities combined and could hold a million people more is, instead, filled with empty houses and stores.
In spite of the widespread “urban revitalization” process underway that seems to only affect the central downtown, Detroit is still in disarray, a partial ghost town with the worst school system in the United States.
It’s hard to believe that forty years ago this was a major American city, a shining example of the American Middle Class, and a prosperous epicenter of industry and creativity: automobile manufacturing and Motown, the legendary record company.
Today Detroit is still a very special city. The beauty in this apocalyptic place that not only breeds violence but also poor education and poverty inspires me. It’s a great city that suffers and yet has kept its soul. Detroit inhabitants, in their own ways, don’t give up. ‘Still runnin’ against the wind,” as Bob Seger sang it.
No matter how down at the heel some of the people are, they’re still vibrant and alive, and tough because to survive this city you need to be tough. I instantly felt an affinity with the women and men I photographed in Detroit; a black Muslim selling newspapers, an ex-junkie, a church goer, a prostitute, a blues singer who had seen better days… The work I have been doing there is an ode to the city and its people. I’d go back again anytime.”
– Bruce Gilden
This photo essay is now available as a ‘Magnum Distro’. A full photographic story in an envelope. Eight 8×10” hand-stamped prints and a printed page detailing the story and captions. Limited Edition of 100.
Detroit: Against the Wind was originally commissioned by Leica UK and shot on the Leica S-System and M-System.