It's been about a year since we launched Motor City Seen (the Metro Times Flickr group featured on our website) and, since then, we've watched it grow into something bigger than we imagined. The idea is for you to show us and our online readers how you see our city and the outlying communities. All you need is a camera and a computer for uploading. (The group grew significantly throughout the year; a few dozen amateur and professional photographers contribute regularly, and there are about 900 considerably worthy and insightful images to gaze upon.)
So in honor of Motor City Seen, we are, for this issue, sharing with a wider audience a few of the best and latest of those photos along with comments from the photographers themselves. Here, eight Motor City Seen photogs contribute (including MT editor W. Kim Heron), and the collection is a textural map of Detroit through their eyes. We hope you dig it. In the weeks to come we'll be bringing you more from Motor City Seen in the print edition.
W. Kim Heron: "The annual Detroit parade of the Caribbean Cultural & Carnival Committee is one of Detroit's great events that deserves to be better known. Somehow, last summer's parade had slipped my mind until I happened to hear it in the distance as it clattered down Woodward with the strains of calypso, soca, reggae, etc. Lucky me. This was the first year parading through the heart of downtown, and the effect — street life framed by skyscrapers — was stunning. (Watch myccco.com for updates on this year's event. Don't forget your camera.)"
Ken Cadel: If it looks like this photo was taken during February's snowstorm, it was. And if the photo's tranquil quality has you thinking it was shot at some ungodly hour, it was. Ken Cadel and his camera were at Costco in Commerce Township at 2 a.m., capturing, as Cadel put it, "the way a snowstorm and mixed light sources can turn what, by day, looks like any common, mundane parking lot into something interesting for the eye."
Konrad Maziarz: Standing on the top floor of the parking garage across the street from the continually crumbling Lafayette Building on Jan. 30, Hamtramck-based photographer Maziarz knew he had captured something, but kept going back and forth with the postproduction work to tweak it to his liking. "I had it down to this one, and a black-and-white version of the same photo," he says. "I asked another photographer friend of mine which one he preferred, and he was just as stumped as I was, but I could not resist showing the perfect lighting from the sunset that day. It shows the beauty of the destruction while still showing the endurance of the city with the existing Penobscot in the background. As one building fades away into the sunset another is standing there to take its place. This has always been the spirit of this city."
Christian Spencer: Last summer — June 15, 2009 to be exact — Toronto indie-pop lovelies Metric performed at Detroit's legendary St. Andrew's Hall. Spencer and his girlfriend had been shooting occasionally for various Detroit blogs, but neither had a photo pass for the show. They made it work anyhow. "The show was great," Spencer recalls. "Emily Haines put a lot of energy into the show." Though Spencer cannot recall the song she was singing at the time, out of the 200 or so shots he took that night, this was a favorite. "The light works and so does her expression of involvement. She looks completely engulfed in the music."
Eric Kloock (aka eDOT): Having explored and photographed several of the derelict gems here in southeastern Michigan, Kloock shot "Chemical Imbalance" at the historic and abandoned (scheduled for demolition) old Cass Tech High School. He used a postproduction process known as "selective color" to draw our attention to the wood-grained cabinets, which contrast beautifully against the ashen feel of the photo's other subjects. Says Kloock: "My intent in processing was to create a 'post-explosion' look." Mission achieved.
RJon Dboer: Shot last October outside the Rosa Park Transit Center in downtown Detroit, Dboer's "Smoke Signals" represents the artist's fascination with the steam that rises from Detroit's streets. "This setup really caught my eye," Doboer says. "I was drawn to the various arrangements of construction cones; I tried to enhance the contrasts of the warm colors of the cones with more subdued colors from the building." Dboer took multiple photos of this scene and was finally satisfied when he caught a car driving into the frame. "I think it adds a nice sense of movement and also adds to the sort of cinematic look I was going for with how I processed the shot. This picture was about capturing a part of everyday life in Detroit."
Robin A. Collins: These two submissions from photographer Robin A. Collins capture the two most crucial elements of hip-hop: the DJ and the emcee. First up was Detroit artist-emcee-producer Tashif "Sheefy McFly" Turner, who Collins photographed in fall 2009 at an abandoned police station in midtown Detroit. Rather than settle on one photo, Collins realized that these three photos were stronger as a group than as individual photos, because he captured three very different personalities. DJ Steve Dronez was caught around the same time, but indoors, at the DJ's studio in Warren. Collins was instantly satisfied with the shot and didn't do much to the raw file, as the original, Collins felt, "captured Dronez in his zone."
Rod Arroyo: This manipulated rendition of Belle Isle was shot by photographer Rod Arroyo on the south fishing pier (the one closest to Canada) last summer. Arroyo layered it with a photograph of the side of a grain elevator to achieve textural effect. He says, "The elevator siding photo was originally 'barn red,' and I modified it to have a brown tint. If you look closely, you can see the elements of the grain elevator siding in the sky in the form of subtle vertical bands."
The surreal sunflower photo was taken at the Royal Oak Farmers Market early one Saturday morning. It's an image that's actually made by merging three photos (one under, one over, and one perfectly exposed shot) — referred to as High Dynamic Range (HDR) processing. "The processing effect and the beautiful flowers reflect the bounty of summer in a vibrant way, and it reminds me of the value that local farmers add to our economy," Arroyo says.
Also, look for What the Flick?, which will be found (occasionally) near the back of the paper, where we'll feature more from our Flickr page.Travis R. Wright is arts and culture editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]