For reasons that are probably visceral, I find abandonment and decay to be a more evocative canvas than growth and prosperity. This has in the past manifested itself in a fondness for working in ghost towns – normally final frontier towns from the American gold rush.
But in the summer of 2015, my work in this field evolved into a wider study of arguably the most abandoned city in America – Detroit. It is an exceptional picture book story of decay and journey’s end with the population having halved in the last 20 years.
The window for capturing profound imagery in this stoic city is now closing as many of the iconic building on the 1950s are either closed off or being knocked down. The iconic Michigan railway station is fenced off as indeed is the Public Records library and meanwhile many of the vast car plants have been flattened. Detroit has bottomed economically and there are even signs of green shoots – it is harder now to find the backdrops in the city that offer the necessary combination of historical ruin and contemporary illegal occupation – such as graffiti and street gangs.
The Fisher Body Plant which dated back to 1921, hosted 500,000 square feet of foot space and since its closure in 1984, almost all of the wall space adorns graffiti or street art – some good, some not so good. The building has good light and access is safe.
My instinct was that this had all the traits of a “gangster’s paradise” and ideally I needed real gang members to provide narrative and content. I also wanted glamour – just as Detroit was glamorous to many in the late 1950. Gia Genevieve is highly acclaimed as a throwback model – Monroe one minute, Mansfield the next and I was delighted that she wanted to be involved. She is theatrical and beautiful as one.
This image begs questions – it does not answer them. I have long been prompted by the work of Gerard Rancinan – and Throwback Thursday probably hints at this. It is visual double take to the extent that there are so many deliberately conflicting features.
Both Gia and Terrell – the gang leader, were a joy to work with. The less people know about how I actually found the gang, probably the better.
- Large: 56 x 75” or 142 x 190cm
- Standard: 37 x 50” or 94 x 127cm
- Large: Edition of 12
- Standard: Edition of 12