by Tyler Martin
If you had to portray your day-to-day life in Detroit with 27 photos, which images would make the cut? In 2012, the DIA joined forces with forty-five community organizations and asked citizens that exact question. The result is a beautiful photographic journey narrated by author Bradford Frost that winds through Detroit from a city native’s perspective.
Tasked with finding meaning in the daily fabric of their lives, participants eagerly set out, equipped with nothing but a disposable camera and a notion of the Detroit they wanted to share with the world, and snapped their lives in 27 photos.
Often, it feels as if Detroit is a city that is cast in grim HDR “ruin porn” shot by professionals and budding enthusiasts who wish to show the vampiric, haunting beauty in piles of destruction and rubble. Reveal Your Detroit does not hide from the city’s abandoned buildings and lots, but it doesn’t dramatize them either. It shows them as they are; places where people and business once prospered.
True, it does show abandonment, but the book’s focus is on life. Day-to-day life. So we get a visual trek through Detroit with images that can feel gritty and nostalgic; retro and modern; natural and industrial.
It is an intimate look at the city; a view that is driven by people recognizing their own creative power through collaboration with other community groups, all in an effort to paint an accurate portrait of Detroit. The 200 images in Reveal Your Detroit are saturated with city life; eye-popping graffiti, striking historic landmarks, skeletons of industry, and famous businesses that help define the city.
The strength of the book lies in the fact that none of the images are taken by professional photographers. It is a book that gives residents the power to frame how outsiders see the city and gives them agency in showing what they love about it, exploring its nooks and crannies, and also its famous landmarks from pleasantly bizarre angles. The images are familiar to Detroiters, yet perhaps foreign to those accustomed with the media hyped destructoporn (which has its own tag on the Huffington Post. This book is a must-have coffee table book for anyone with a love for Detroit. It’s also for anyone interested in taking a closer look.