For the next three weeks, we have a “Guest Blogger,” my spouse, Bill Popik. He and Jim Martin–our friend, photography guru and sometime-photo trip guide—have embarked on a cross-country trip to photograph parts of the northern United States. This is Bill’s first installment.
Saturday morning we shot Niagara Falls. Despite both the American and Canadian sides Niagara’s two towns being gaudy tourist traps, the beauty of the Falls didn’t disappoint. With the constantly changing light patterns caused by the rising sun and the shifting mists due to the falls’ self-generated winds, we took lots of pictures.
After that we headed west on Canadian roads, bound for Detroit. Much of that city is either abandoned or razed. This is exactly what we came for. We wanted to see a heavily hit rust belt city. The choice was either Detroit or Flint. The decision was made by the fact that Jim found a photo tour in which we could shoot inside abandoned buildings.
Our tour began early Sunday morning. Our guide, Jessie, was an aircraft mechanic who lost his job years ago and went in a few new directions. He is incredibly optimistic about Detroit, believing that the city has already hit the bottom and is rebounding; to him, there are a myriad of possibilities and a limitless upside. He has an entrepreneurial spirit and is making a living inside the worlds of photography and real estate. Real estate is incredibly cheap in Detroit, especially if you’re interested in buying a vacant lot or an abandoned house. Jessie has done both.
Our photo tour showed some of the darker side of Detroit. We photographed three abandoned buildings. Though they look like they had been abandoned 50 years ago, each was shuttered around 2010, leaving them vulnerable to the “scrapers” who are primarily interested in stealing and selling anything of value, primarily metal. Copper is referred to a “Detroit gold.”
We photographed :
1: A school that was once in a middle class neighborhood (attended by Lily Tomlin!). When it was closed, the intent of the board of education was to keep the school in operable condition. However, once the scrapers took over, the school was unusable within a year.
2.: A church, originally Catholic and later Baptist. Notice that the harp of the grand piano has been removed for scrap
3: The Fisher Body plant of General Motors. This six story, 300,000 square foot building is now owned by the City of Detroit, and can be bought for $500,000. The work of graffiti artists is everywhere.
Next we head north to the “UP,” the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Once there, we’ll turn west toward Duluth.
Text and photos by William C. Popik, M.D.