Detroit has lost half of its population since 1960. Fully 25% of residential properties are now without a house. To give a sense of how large Detroit is in area consider that San Francisco, Boston and Manhattan could fit within its 139 square mile land area and still have space left over. Since 1950 the percentage of Black residents has increased from 16% to about 80%. It has become a massive, sparsely populated urban metropolis in which most residents who could move to better properties have done so. The geography of desire therefore intrigues me. The question of what is it like to live in the poorer Detroit neighborhoods became a major focus of my walks. Residents in these places move about with a kind of gracious surrender dressed in plain dark colored clothing very deliberately making life work with the resources they find.
Most everything in the neighborhoods I explored are darkly mottled. The homes for instance are decaying if they are not burned-out or scavenged shells. The cars are usually dark with the occasional red, chrome-wheeled cruiser along major thoroughfares. Every time I enter those landscapes I go through a process of acclimation. My intentions are to become part of the landscape but I know I am an outsider. I wonder about identity. Clothing in these places is functional and of an ilk. If I dressed in this way I would become invisible or at least not an anomaly... like a kind of camouflage. I also have wondered what an immersive, unobtrusive means of embodiment might be. "A fly on the wall" perhaps. So I gathered all of my photos together and chose one to become my identity, my camouflage.
Occasionally, unexpectedly I walked by a home that appeared as an oasis amid the debris that in some neighborhoods covered every horizontal surface. I never saw the caretakers of those homes but their maintenance was clearly evident: neatly trimmed lawns and flower gardens, lush amid the garbage and dilapidation; painted shutters; Catholic iconography enshrined by miniature brick walls; and always light from the windows rather than the dark. How might this alter my sense of identity? My own face is identity, so I think flowers make a unique mask.