Looking for Jesus in Detroit


We had a chance to talk with MacArthur genius grant-winning photojournalist Camilo Jose Vergara yesterday. An inquisitive churchgoer and intrepid photographer, Vergara has been shooting urban settings for more than 25 years. He’s long been obsessed with recording inner-city religious rituals in America. Interrogating pastors and interviewing worshippers, he’s fond of joking that he goes door to door bothering Jehovah’s Witnesses.

He called from New York, saying he’s planning to visit Detroit again in a few weeks, as he has for decades, to photograph the city’s storefront churches and religious art. But he also had a question.

“In other cities,” Vergara says, “you find scenes of crucifixion, but you also see images of the resurrection. It’s usually about two-to-one, for every two crucifixions, you’ll find an image of the resurrection. But in Detroit, I have only seen images of the crucifixion.”

Many Detroit photographs of Jesus on the cross have been featured in Vergara’s book, How the Other Half Worships. And yet, as Resurrection Sunday looms on the Christian calendar, Vergara expressed hopes that, on this visit, he could find an image of the resurrection in inner-city Detroit.

“It would be great if your readers could offer help. Detroit has many symbols of resurrection, like the Renaissance Center, but to find an image of Jesus resurrected would be very inspiring, especially after hearing the census figures.”

What say, readers? Can you help Vergara find Jesus reborn in Detroit? Let us know. Send your tips to mjackman@metrotimes.com.

To see more of José Vergara’s work, visit his Invincible Cities Web site at invinciblecities.camden.rutgers.edu.

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