danny wilcox frazier – detroit

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Danny Wilcox Frazier

A Detroit Requiem

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Detroit…the word alone incites many emotions within America’s conscience.  Detroit was the epicenter for economic equality in the U.S., the home front for the ideal of well paying jobs for the masses and a political force behind a strong middle class. Henry Ford made Detroit a boom town.  Five decades after he started, the boom began to bust. Many reasons are at the heart of Detroit’s decline: postwar industrial policies, urban planning, the 1967 race riots, UAW and auto industry management, Detroit’s political cronyism, Clinton era trade deals, and quit possibly the mobility of the automobile itself. It was the 1950’s when Detroit began the long decay that has brought the city to its present state, a time when Detroit, and America, was at its peak.

Today, Detroit is America’s poorest large city. To avoid being the nation’s perpetual murder capital, the police began cooking stats. In 2008, they claimed 306 homicides – until local reporter Charlie LeDuff discovered there were actually 375.  He also reported that in more than 70 percent of murders, the killer got away with it.  Detroit’s East Side is now the poorest, most violent quarter of America’s poorest, most violent big city. The illiteracy, child poverty, and unemployment rates hover around 50 percent. The shooting death of seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones by police on Detroit’s East Side brought national attention to this quarter.  But as the spotlight faded, the killings continued.

Detroit seemed off everyone’s radar until the collapse of the Dow and bankruptcy of GM.  As the nation and world looked for answers, Detroit came back in style.  Instead of Motown, this go around Detroit is exporting its misery. Reality TV, television dramas, the movies – all selling Detroit’s murder and despair.  The night Aiyana was accidentally shot by police, a film crew from A&E’s true-crime series The First 48 was along for the show.

Detroit is a city that still has much greatness to offer. That was not the story Charlie and I were assigned to cover for Mother Jones magazine. With 103 kids and teens murdered in Detroit between January of 2009 and July of 2010, Charlie and I were sent to cover the failure of political and civil leaders in Detroit, the failure of industry in Detroit, the failure of the federal government in Detroit, the failure of America in Detroit.

While I was in Detroit, 17-year-old Chaise Sherrors was shot and killed while giving a haircut on a porch.  We met his mother, Britta McNeal.  Britta was broken, often lost in memory while her eyes filled and sometimes tears flowed.  From her porch, she stared across the street that ran in front of her humble one-story on the East Side. She stared at a half-burnt skeleton of a house, gutted inside and out, and a constant reminder of her misery.  Britta’s grandson played in broken glass and garbage that littered the driveway of the abandoned house next door.  Gang graffiti added the only touch of color to the black and gray left behind by a fire.  Britta showed us the urn containing the remains of her 14-year-old son, De’Erion.  He too was shot on Detroit’s East Side, killed a year before his older brother.  After Chaise’s funeral, Britta will have two urns to decorate her mantel.

“I know society looks at a person like me and wants me to go away,” Britta said. “‘Go ahead, walk in the Detroit River and disappear.’ But I can’t. I’m alive. I need help. But when you call for help, it seems like no one’s there.”

Charlie LeDuff’s accompanying article in Mother Jones

 

Bio

Danny Wilcox Frazier focuses on issues of marginalized communities in the U.S. and abroad. He is a contributing photographer to Mother Jones magazine. His work has also been published by: The New York Times Magazine, TIME, Newsweek, Fortune, Forbes, Sports Illustrated, Der Spiegel, and Frontline (PBS). In 2006, Frazier was awarded the Center for Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography. His book, Driftless: Photographs from Iowa, was published by Duke University Press and CDS in 2007.  Frazier then directed a documentary that confronts issues highlighted by these photographs, premiering the film in New York in 2009.  The film was nominated for an Emmy in 2010 and won a Webby for Frazier and MediaStorm that year.  In 2009, Frazier received grants from The Aftermath Project and Humanities Iowa, an affiliate of the NEH.  He was named a finalist for the W. Eugene Smith grant in 2007 and 2008.  At present, Frazier is working on his next book, Lost Nation, a look at economic and geographic isolation across America.

 

Related links

Frazier’s essay of abandoned Detroit homes

Redux Portfolio

Driftless

 

127 Responses to “danny wilcox frazier – detroit”


  • Hey Danny,

    Great to see a fellow Iowan do so well in the photo world, and to see more of your work beyond your wonderful book. This set has the same thoughtfulness and unexpected treasures as Driftless, but in a completely different setting. That had to be a challenge, and I respect that.

    Wonderful images with a complete story. Love it.

    Next time your around Des Moines, let me buy you a beer.

  • Danny! :))

    absolutely thrilled to see your essay here…..no time to write (running to teach)…will write a comment in a few hours…

    for now, simply this:

    a kind of requieum from PHilip Levine
    =========================================

    Detroit, Tomorrow

    Newspaper says the boy killed by someone,
    don’t say who. I know the mother, waking,
    gets up as usual, washes her face
    in cold water, and starts the coffee pot.

    She stands by the window up there on floor
    sixteen wondering why the street’s so calm
    with no cars going or coming, and then
    she looks at the wall clock and sees the time.

    Now she’s too awake to go back to bed,
    she’s too awake not to remember him,
    her one son, or to forget exactly
    how long yesterday was, each moment dragged

    into the next by the force of her will
    until she thought this simply cannot be.
    She sits at the scarred, white kitchen table,
    the two black windows staring back at her,

    wondering how she’ll go back to work today.
    The windows don’t see anything: they’re black,
    eyeless, they give back only what’s given;
    sometimes, like now, even less than what’s given,

    yet she stares into their two black faces
    moving her head from side to side, like this,
    just like I’m doing now. Try it awhile,
    go ahead, it’s not going to kill you.

    Now say something, it doesn’t matter what
    you say because all the words are useless:
    “I’m sorry for your loss.” “This too will pass.”
    “He was who he was.” She won’t hear you out

    because she can only hear the torn words
    she uses to pray to die. This afternoon
    you and I will see her just before four
    alight nimbly from the bus, her lunch box

    of one sandwich, a thermos of coffee,
    a navel orange secured under her arm,
    and we’ll look away. Under your breath make
    her one promise and keep it forever:

    in the little store-front church down the block,
    the one with the front windows newspapered,
    you won’t come on Saturday or Sunday
    to kneel down and pray for life eternal.
    –Philip Levine

  • Beautiful,Excellent,Touchy.

  • Some heavy stuff to chew on and digest.. I did know something about Detroit, but not that it was that bad. Thank you for your work!

    Absolutely love ‘Driftless’..

  • That’s fucked up. How can the richest country in world let shit like this happen?

    The story is a real education. Well done.

  • DANNY,

    A very powerful and disturbing essay…. you have captured the sense of drift, emptiness, absurd violence and despair that you find in many inner city ghettos… Detroit looks like a particularly bad example but there are unfortunately many bad examples in many cities across the US… I have always wondered how we collectively can let this happen…. how many of us can live a normal life sometimes just blocks away from the really “bad” area…. I have never really spent time in Detroit… just happened to meet many boxers coming from the KRONK gym there… followed one in particular who was from Cincinnati and was coming back often…. boxers from Detroit are good…. among the very best…. it often correlates unfortunately with the level of violence in the streets…. Even if the essay is rather depressing, I like that you have one picturesthat offers some “limited” hope in the middle of this gloomy environment…Picture 19 of the college girls hows that some are still trying to live their lives in the middle of all this, get an education… You have to hope that they will find way of living their lives normally….

    Again congratulations on your publication here and I also very much liked your essay on Mediastorm…

    Eric

  • Great story told in pictures Danny. Some images , to me, don’t add more to this piece, but hey what do I know. Your work screams authorship, the visual voice we all desire.

  • “Detroit turned out to be heaven, but it also turned out to be hell.”–Marvin Gaye


    The dead are every-

    where, crowding the narrow streets
    that jut out from the wide boulevard
    on which we take our morning walk.
    They stand in the cold shadows
    of men and women come to sell
    themselves to anyone, they stride
    along beside me and stop when I
    stop to admire the bright garlands
    or the little pyramids of fruit,
    they reach a hand out to give
    money or to take change, they say
    “Good morning” or “Thank you,” they
    turn with me and retrace my steps
    back to the bare little room I’ve
    come to call home. Patiently,
    they stand beside me staring out
    over the soiled roofs of the world
    until the light fades and we are
    all one or no one. They ask for
    so little, a prayer now and then,
    a toast to their health which is
    our health, a few lies no one reads
    incised on a dull plaque between
    a pharmacy and a sports store,
    the least little daily miracle.”
    -Levine

    …….

    First of all Danny, I want to say how thrilled and happy I am that you have shared your essay with us here at Burn. From the moment I learned that Frank had chosen Driftless for the Documentary Studies/Honickman First Book Prize in Photography, I have been a fan…..Driftless is one of my favorite books of journalism, both a lyrical and spiritual truth-encountering celebration of not only the living and the dying but more importantly, the spiritual bravery of the people that how and haul the land….a few times, I have shared the brilliant Multimedia piece you did with Media storm with readers here….indeed, it is a thrill to see you here….

    How does one even begin to carve out a story, the story, of the waste and woe and wanton loss that Detroit and its citizens have had to bear….how to begin to speak about the ordeal of a mother who most bury her two boys long before they’ve even had a chance to undestand what it means to wrestle this entangled life…how to begin to tell the story of Detroit, a city torn not only by poverty and flight and horrendous violence, but also cliche and forlorn denial….how to speak, truthfully, and viscerally, of what each of Detroit’s citizens, each family, especially in the East Side, carry, like bags of cinder and rattling bones, with them every day….how to begin to point toward all that has been lost and yet how poweful, how loving, how BELIEVING so many of those neighborhood’s citizens are….for they have no choice but to believe, otherwise they shall loose everything, disappeared by the detroit river and the city rubble aflame…

    It is a brave and honest essay, not the least of which has to do with your refusal to paint a story with easy and obvious imagery. I cherish that you refuse to shy away what the real physical toll is of death aforethought by gun….that you have refused to shy away from the consequence of what steel, lead and gunpowder do the flesh, bone and body of a human being: they eviscerate it to detritus….that gaping wound is but a small cut compared with the spiritual and emotional wound of these parents….and the lives being snuffed out…and yet there is belief….

    I love that your photographs work both as document (the morgue, the xray pictures, the abandoned house (of which I prefer this presentation, one image filled like a series of police mugshots on a single page, like some drunken, sadden american version of the Bechers, as opposed to the Mother Jones linear/singular presentation) and as spiritual dream-song….that you work the edges of both documentary precision and lyrical evocation…because it is impossible to fathom, let alone document, through literal artifact, but must contain that collision…the banding and bowing of hope and loss, of specificity and abstraction….a dreamsong, an elegy, a eulogy: liturgy……

    Moreover, I love that you provide, also, pictures with optimistic bravery (i love the opening portrait, the portrait of the girls, the proud, beautiful father and his baby in Lake) juxtaposed with both death and with dream (the evocative, emotional, abstract photographs)….you carve the shadows and the shadings of this nightmarish place…and yet, Detroit is not a nightmare, it is home, a city, a place where people, defying all odds, continue…because hell is just a cliche…but we owe it to people to see them not as cliche but as vital, conflicted, struggling human beings…

    and ultimately, as with Driftless, that is what I love so much about this work…its lyrical poetry, its visual intelligence, its narrative experiments and its deeply, humble humanity….this is story is not about death (thought that too of course) but about the lives, of these people…the encounter and heroic struggle to live amid all the dying….the children dying….

    As i’ve written before, to me, it takes the full vocabulary of visual/photographic language in order to begin to wrestle with the passing of things, the suffering of things and the celebrating of things…doubleexposures, toycameras, leicas, flash, loss, chemical suture…all that, in order to grapple with the same complexity that appears on the street….

    the final swollen, swaddled mattress….what breaks my heart is not the mattress left like a beached, white whale….but the small white thumb-print beside it, what appears like a child’s white sneaker…a child who’d run away, a child who’d been abanoned. a child who’d been carried up and away from that soiled place….

    all that small details carry….

    the human heart, the weight of a sparrow’s…

    the weight of one person’s life, the weight of the world….

    heartbreaking, honest, caring and committed work….

    a photographed filled with an outsized heart of awareness…

    thank you for sharing

    bob

  • DANNY:

    In 2008 I reviewed Driftless for Source magazine in the UK. They only gave the book a short review space, but it deserved more, much more. Driftless sits proudly on my book shelf (right now it is next to Bruce Gilden’s A Beautiful Catasrophe). I’ve just hunted in the documents folder and found the review, which says: “A book such as Driftless is rare these days: it rejects of-the-moment photographic trends, and is both personal and political in equal measures. Frazier is clearly a photographer who ploughs his own furrow.”

    Your work in Detroit reveals that you are ploughing that furrow straight and deep in a tractor that can only move forward.

    Bob Black says it all with regards to how moving this work is.

    All I can add is very well done.

    Justin P

  • Jamie Maxtone-Graham

    If there was EVER a series which, in its form, related its content so brilliantly and seemingly effortlessly and with such devastating effect, this is it. Speechless.

  • Wow! A sad sort of a place to be, seems to me. Powerful, moving work.

    Driftless at MediaStorm is also a photographic and journalistic tour de force.

    I’m quite in awe, frankly.

    Paul Treacy.

  • Danny,
    Just wanted to add my voice to the chorus… have been a fun of your work ever since I came across Driftless… happy to see that you keep on pursuing you personal vision…

  • STRONG photographs..
    love your reflection shots…
    and your access…..
    photographed with respect
    and compassion….
    oh yeah…
    the great US of A….
    ***

  • where can one see your film?
    **

  • Brilliant. Haunting, harrowing in places, and beautiful. One of the best I’ve seen here. Koudelka, Salgado… this belongs with the greats.

  • This is one of the best essays I’ve seen on Burn. I was increasingly drawn in from start to finish, even clicking several times on the last photograph ready for more.

    It is haunting and harrowing, and it works in so many ways: access, shock, beauty, technique… This proves that hard work over time win the day.

    I agree with Bob Black’s comment about images with “optimistic bravery.” Honestly, I’d like to see more of them, and I think this already great essay would be even better. As Bob says, people live there. It’s fair to say people are happy there and good things happen for them as well. Maybe one reason there’s a market for photographs of pure misery is because when we see essays like that, we can write off whole communities as lost. Do audiences pay (with their attention) for permission to wash their hands of the problems of others? But we fight for, and with, people we believe in — in their remaining dignity and hope.

  • Justin Partyka:

    How interesting that you would mention your copy of Driftless being next to Gilden’s “Beautiful Catastrophe”. It is one of my favourite photobooks; the way Gilden’s stungun approach to street photography captures individual’s unengeged, introspective moods always makes me think of Proust’s line that “our social personality is written in the mind’s of others” – Gilden photographs the moment before the social engagement is made, before the portrayed puts on their public face, and shows us the aloneness of individuals totally immersed in society. An interesting co-incidence is that Gilden also essayed Detroit’s crumbling neighbourhoods in ‘Foreclosure'; maybe ‘A Detriot Requiem’ will eventually sit on your shelf next to it.

    It also leads to another association, much more pertinent to ‘A Detroit Requiem’, and that is Ariella Azoulay’s ‘The Civic Contract of Photography’. Azoulay explores the political dynamics of photograph, photographed, and viewer within the Israeli/Palestinian conflict:

    http://www.amcainternational.org/Irmgard%20final%20edits.pdf

    She stresses imagery of Palestine as being “on the verge of catastrophe”, and that our viewership extends further than Sontag’s “notion of ethical responsibility regarding the pain of others”. Rather than empathize with the pain and suffering, and giving witness, Azoulay considers the images as giving a civic voice to those unable to do so. Remarkably similar to Larry Towell’s “Train of Thought”, both in context and subject matter.

    In regard to Frazier’s essay, I saw many parallels with Detroit’s East Side and Palestine’s displaced: the lack of protection by the authorities; attacks on innocent civilians; the general breakdown of social rules and structure. Even the air-bombing of refugee camps are equalled in the annual “Devil’s Night”. In many ways the East Side is North America’s Palestine, and Frazier’s essay gives voice to those unable to do so.

    I’ve seen on Burn many comments which seemingly indicate a tiredness and a filled capacity to view yet again imagery of the downtrodden and disenfranchised. Perhaps there is a finite capacity for viewing pain and suffering, but if the witness to history approach is replaced with an ear and eye for those whose voices are unable to question authority with regard to inalienable Rights of citizenry, then maybe our energies and capacities will be enlarged.

  • Somber essay Danny, looks like (is) a war zone. The quotation “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good” (Samuel Johnson) springs to mind and one has to wonder what sort of society abandons its citizens in such a way a you depict. It is truly staggering that a city in the USA could be left to disintegrate – although New Orleans suffered a similar fate. Powerful, thought-provoking work, Danny. Congratulations do not seem enough.

    Mike.

  • marvelous work

  • I am overwhelmed – both by the power of your essay and your talent. It also makes me wonder what is happening to America, this place that made the 1956 Chevrolet and the 1959 Corvette.

    I am wrestling a bit with the autopsy image. But it is part of life.

  • Amazing work – and a frightening glimpse at whats likely to come…

    “Buy Local it keeps the money in the community and the jobs at home” the radio repeats. I worked for a ford dealer and nearly every part of a “domestic car” is made in other countries. transmissions from Mexico or Germany, engines from Canada…and many “foreign” models are made in Ohio or Illinois. The economy is gone. using an old metaphor for money – bread – dough can’t expand to infinity, at some point it must stabilize otherwise, it will deflate to a crunchy wafer. and it’s an absolutely awful shame on this country to point out the problems of the world when we at home have all the same problems. Our own communities are as scary and helpless as those countries visited by the brave missionaries who want to bring some comfort to the people in those lands. Obviously the system isn’t working and people here are ill represented in communities like Detroit. and the entertainment industry is making money off of it, because people like to gawk from the safety of their couch.

    Sure Detroit made some of the icons of the auto industry, and at what cost? These industries were no luxury work place… Today, everyone wants the best without paying for it and they also want to make a buck without putting in the work. Sometimes the work is hard, sometimes it isn’t. Education is no longer the answer either. Most everyone wants to point a finger as to why this has happened… I like to point at unions. I have suffered their politics and games enough to know they’ve been powerful for too long, they were once a great thing that improved many work places, but today they’ve gone too far I feel. But what can be done? can anything? is the problem too big? do we have the ability to fix this anymore? or do we need to start anew and wipe clean the slate we’ve been using so far?
    Revolt! but who would? who could.

  • Dear Danny,

    Amazing… especailly i love the beginning.

    Thank you very much.

  • Jason, good post; obviously thoughtful.

    Danny’s photographs are a good example of how a photograph can deliver information and at the same time transcend the message and become an object in its own right. When this happens you catch yourself thinking “wow, great photograph!” and then realise that the great photograph (in terms of lighting, composition etc.) depicts horror or despair. It’s quite unsettling but reinforces the power of the message.

  • 21 grams is what some pseudo-scientists claim is the weight of our soul. I´m not going to prove here if their claims are true or false…All I know is your essay has captured the full weight of every poor soul enduring hell in Detroit.
    Bob Black,
    thanks for Philip Levine´s words, amazing and never read anything so despairing and true in my whole life.
    Paul

  • JEFF HLADUN:

    I realise that my comment made me sound so organised that I must alphabetize my book case, Frank, Frazier, Gilden…. I can tell you that is certainly not the case. It is pure chance Danny’s book was next to Bruce Gilden’s. I would be a pleasure to have a book of Danny’s Detroit work on the shelf too, if one is planned.

    There was a very good three part feature about Detroit on the Places journal website:

    http://places.designobserver.com/entry.html?entry=13778

    Justin P

  • Jason

    “Amazing work – and a frightening glimpse at whats likely to come…”

    U nailed it.

  • DANNY…

    this is certainly one of the very finest essays i have had the privilege of publishing here on Burn….for sure one to measure against…..when i first saw your work, which was to become Driftless several years ago when i juried POY, i knew you would become someone special….i was not wrong…you have set the bar high for all of us…thank you..

    cheers, david

  • Yeah, fantastic work. Visited Detroit on a shoot in the mid-nineties for a shoot and was driven around most of the city looking for locations. Was blown away by the devastation. This is “America”?

    I will venture a small critique which is that I think the sequencing is awkward in places (for me at least). I would prefer to see a few of the stories which have related images “drawn” out a bit by placing those images in a sequence with each other vs randomly placed throughout the essay, ie the funeral pics, morgue, church, or the baby in squalor pics. Though of course this may not be the affect you are after. Certainly others work by their randomness/contrast in relation to each other. But when you have more than one of a subject placing them apart feels a bit like padding the essay when in actuality if they were next to each other it might build that subject stronger. There are also a couple of images which I feel maybe don’t belong and bring the others down a bit – the fashion shoot, self portrait with car, and Holga pit bull (too cliche). But these are minor points. I esp like the opening image, and the fire next door. Stunning. Best of luck with furthering the project.

    Charles

  • DANNY – brilliant!
    Thank you so much for nailing the absurdity and aimlessness of violence and decline.
    Is this really where everything is drifting to?
    Leaves me with a lot to think about…
    Congratulations – and take care!
    Dominik.

  • Yea, Detroit’s a mess. Those inner city black folk sure are fucked up. Black and white. Black and white flash. Essay hits all the expected notes. Very dramatic. Well done.

    Question is, why don’t you tell us something we don’t already know?

  • may be citizens already knew it.
    I didn’t. in 2006, my son spent 4 weeks nearby Detroit at a friend from school. certainly a different area, the father of the friend was some high-level at Ford, no crisis in view, etc.
    however, if I had seen this essay before, I’m not sure if I had let him go. :)
    it goes deep.

  • I was thinking of this essay by Bruce Gilden, but I know I’ve seen others and have unquestionably read a lot about Detroit’s degeneration. My point is that it’s ground well-trodden and I’d like to see someone with Danny’s unquestionable talent take on something new, shine some light into more dimly illuminated areas. What’s happening in Detroit is happening all over the midwest. I think it’s emotionally convenient on some level for us to compartmentalize it as urban blight and the tribulations of poor black folk, but the same socioeconomic factors are causing the same societal breakdowns across a much larger, mostly invisible, swathe of the population.

  • MW as you obviously don’t believe what you just wrote I wonder why you wrote it?

  • What don’t I believe? Detroit’s been done? And inner city violence? That Danny’s an exceptional talent? That there’s similar societal disintegration elsewhere that’s not being adequately covered? That many people find it emotionally convenient to compartmentalize these problems in ways that provide some safe emotional distance?

    Perhaps the latter two are arguable, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in their general validity.

    I wrote it because I’m interested in the topic and am curious what others may think.

  • MW:

    ok, i’ll bite…

    but first, let me ask you a simple question. How familiar were you with Danny’s work prior to “A Detroit REquiem” being published in BURN?…This is important and though I generally don’t like the rhetorical device of answering a question (your) with a question as rebuttal, I think it is an important one. Danny’s work can be defined, primarily, with a vested, long-term involvement with detailing, describing, investigating the very communities that you now require from this essay. Driftless is a good place to begin, but if you familiarize yourself with his work, you’ll see that Detroit is not only a part of his life’s work’s narrative/practice, but more importantly, is a key piece in the overall work that he has been and continues to do: much the way Richard’s Dorchester work anticipatates and makes way for Cocaine True, the same way Below the Line anticipates Blue Room…there are greater interestes and a defining practice at work here Michael that you seem to either acknowledge or understand. This is NOT an example of a photographer going to the mean streets of E.Detroit (like so many young photograpehrs I know personally do, from Toronto, New York, chicago) as a way of making their photographic/journalistic chops…even a friend (now a young magnum member) did this (and i’ve chatted with him about this over a beer or two) walked that predictable line…that is NOT the case here…

    to begin with, this essay, while clearly defined by the ‘predictable’ emotional exhaustion of work about Detroit (death, destruction, decay, demise, etc), Danny’s imagery and narrative combination works for something not so easily predictable. To begin with, there is positivity here, there is power and bravery here beyond the urban blight….look at the pictures from the church, the magnficient opening portrait and the wonderful portrait of the highschool girls…there is sly humor here to (i need not point that out) and there is an abiding sense here that amid the destruction, there is life…amid the mortuary and the cadavers, there is life, prayer….and i am guessing that there is much more to this Detroit work (and the entirety of the work danny is now engaged with) than simply “Those inner city black folk sure are fucked up..”

    and for christ sake, where where is danny’s work even suggesting that ‘Those inner city black folk sure are fucked up’…that is about as insulting a comment i’ve read here in a while, to both the photographer, the readers and to the people here….

    the economic, the social, the political, the criminal elements and pressures that have shorn that city and the people’s lives are extraordinary and these conditions, the conditions of poverty and unemployement and tax-loss and social/governmental support along with influences wide and far have all contributed to make this city (and others) a condition of impoverished and profoundly difficult living……this is not an essay about ‘Those inner city black folk’….this is a story about the difficulty and the loss of what people endure in that city…

    more importantly, when one criticizes work, i think it is essential that work be seen isolated, definied by it’s own vernacular and it’s own aspiration…this is not THE essay of detroit (there are none_), but one essay that attempts to wrestle with the conditions that a particular group endures and struggles with….on top of that, we must look toward the work…where, Michael, do you see ‘visual cliches’ in these images…where are the narrative cliches?….where is the impersonal image?….when was the last time YOU saw a photograph and read a description of a morgue filled with the dead because they’re family couldn’t bury them…

    SHOW ME…

    that morgue is filled with black folk and hispanic folk and white folk and asian folk, because they’re all dying there in record numbers…and again, i’ve not seen a picture from the inside of a morgue stuffed with body bags because the bodies couldn’t be claimed…

    you tell me that isn’t new, a new image, a new report….

    i tell you this, as a person who has experience urban violence in my life against my family, and having just dealt with urban violence in the last few weeks with a member of my family, i can tell you that no one person can write, or photograph, the consequences or the defining circumstances by which this is weighted….

    and nowhere in this essay to i read danny indicating that is a problem peculiar to detroit, to the predominantly black east side…not every picture in this, btw, is about the east side…homework, please…

    we must engage with the work itself and judge it by it’s own brilliance AND it’s limitations: does the work, within it’s gravitational field of story, attempt as well as it can to reveal, evoke, describe, part with, shed light upon a moment, a life, a circumstance…

    it is OUR responsibility as readers AND as photographers to seek out the entirety of story in order to expose…to understand…to come to terms…maybe even to help…it is not the photographer’s responsibility to give us definitive work of a place, but only that they work as hard as they can to marry their vision to the world in which they have chosen to emmerse….

    danny has done that and continues to do that brilliantly…

    no single book has been written about Juarez…and yet…..

    i’ll ask you….would you criticize Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue because it….um….ok, a question isn’t necessary….

    i am CERTAIN that part of Danny’s work on Detroit and the entire mid-west contains work that you crazy to see…

    look around the web….

    b

  • “that morgue is filled with black folk and hispanic folk and white folk and asian folk, because they’re all dying there in record numbers…and again, i’ve not seen a picture from the inside of a morgue stuffed with body bags because the bodies couldn’t be claimed…

    i mean when was the last time you so the inside of a morgue stuffed with bodybags (and not from natural disaster/war) in a n.american city BECAUSE THE FAMILY COULD NOT AFFORD TO CLAIM THE BODIES…this is NEW…

    pauper graves are not new…but that image and that caption alone is such a significant journalistic report that we shouldn’t be cavlier about this project..

    there, scrape all the other pictures and all the other captions away, and tell me that fact isn’t new to you….

    just as amid all that suffering…when was the last time, in the context of an essay on urban gun violence and economic desolation you got a photograph as beautiful and joyeous as the opening one with the man in the zoot suit….or the picture of the man *(father?) with the child wading in the lake…

    those images, also, are enough to answer you questions…

    are they not…

    when was the last time you saw a photograph of detroit of a man with a baby girl by the lake in a documentary piece about the economic collapse…

    that IS a photographer who is not going for cliche…

    but is going for the humanity of a place, of the people living and suffering through the horror around…

  • mw, you write: “take on something new”.. like what? Everything’s been done, you could write “take on something new” under almost every essay, every story.. are you sure that what Danny Wilcox Frazier has done is not ‘new’?

    What I see in Bruce Gilden’s essay is not the same I see in the essay here, two different apporaches, two different stories, common ground is the city they come out from. What I knew about Detroit (living over here in Europe) was what Bruce Gilden is telling, I had no idea about the more detailed picture of the story until I saw Danny Wilcox Frazier’s essay.

  • Yea, I’ve seen driftless more than once. I don’t really disagree with anything you say about the work Bob, but I don’t disagree with anything I’ve said either. Seems to me both perspectives can be true, or at least arguably valid. I didn’t say anything about clichés. Just well trod ground.

    where is danny’s work even suggesting that ‘Those inner city black folk sure are fucked up’

    Picture of high school graduates, stat that only 1 in 3 graduate, for close to explicit example. The whole thing strikes me as implicit along those lines. It can certainly be taken that way whether that’s the intent or not. I can guarantee you that a lot of people, a lot of inner city black folk in particular, would see it that way. Arguable? sure. Insulting? Perhaps, but that’s not my intention and I don’t think anyone should be insulted.

    Has Juarez reached the saturation point yet? Probably. I don’t get why anyone who hasn’t been working the beat for years would get into it now. There are all too many Jaurezes and Detroits out there, thousands of little laboratories of our future, to borrow a phrase. I want to know about them. Not endlessly revisit the known just to turn up little odds and ends that haven’t been covered before. Both as a producer and a consumer. Is that really so wrong? Why not do something new?

    BTW, I just passed the halfway point of 2666. I hate to comment on such a massive work before finishing it, but I’ll break my little rule somewhat and say I’m very optimistic that it’s a great book in the timeless sense of the term.

  • Good point about the body bags, Bob.

    Still, and this goes to Eva’s point as well, Detroit has been so thoroughly covered that it’s come to the point where quality journalists can only hope to find dark little corners hidden amid the general horror. What does this kind of thing tell us? We already get the shock and horror that stuff like this can happen in an American city. I fear that the constant focus on Detroit minimizes the staggering depth of these problems. Detroit is familiar. It’s comforting in its way. Easy to compartmentalize.

    My desire to see photographers with that kind of talent show me something I don’t know is in no way a knock on the work that’s been produced, much less the photographer. It’s just a suggestion. If not a challenge.

  • MW, yes, Bob has a god point about the body bags, I found that photograph most disturbing – and shocking that it could be taken in a city in the U.S.A. You seem to be blasé for effect: don’t you find the fact that a city in your country has such problems? You should be.

    This essay contains some great photographs. Danny must have worked hard to get such access and what he has photographed for us must have taken a toll. He didn’t just photograph, he met at least some of the families caught up in this insanity. Not easy.

    All the Detroit and Juarez photographs taken are also historical records of this time, our present, soon to be past. They will inform future generations and yes, some will be forgotten but, hopefully, the best will survive.

    If I wanted anything to be added to this essay – and this is in no-way a criticism – it would be to see the “Other Detroit” the part that is not on fire, where people are not living in fear. Does it exist? If it does what is its demographic, its ethnicity? Perhaps Danny is already working on this.

    Mike.

  • MW; “My point is that it’s ground well-trodden” and you are talking about shooting meth amphetamine labs etc? Hasn’t meth, crack, heroin etc been done to death too?

  • This essay is (to me0 one of tyhe strongest I’ve seen on Burn. If it’s intention was to hit you in the gut with sledgehammer force then it has certainly succeded.

  • Sorry; meant to be, “(to me) one of the”

  • I find myself in agreement with both Bob and mw — is this possible? Danny’s photos are wrenching, stunning, even possibly definitive. But, like Michael, I do long for something counterintuitive, something not already in my mind’s eye when I think about urban decay in Detroit. I also wish to see something in color.

  • MW :)

    mike, i agree on the importance of document…for Danny’s kind of work (journalistic documentary) it is important that one approach with a vision to the future, but i think that comes out in a wider body of work, not a singular essay…for a singular essay, the key (for photographer and reader) is to understand the ‘intention’ (if articulated by the author) and it’s relationship/goal as document…i think that any work on detroit (or any city for that matter) and the economic and sociological implosion must cross racial and demographic boundaries….and for sure, i too want to see work about cities (detroit, in this case) that is not merely about the misery of drugs/gun violence/gangs/economic-architectural collapse…people still live, work, honor, thrive there…and we MUST see that…but i think we must not confuse the need for wide/deep coverage on an issue with the issue of a singular essay….i’d love to see a follow up story with the man standing in the lake…or this great guy in the first pic…or one of those folk in the church….but maybe that must also be done by others…

    Preston :)….i too want that…(color)…and i think Danny has worked in some counter-intuitive stuff: the xray (as visual narrative), 15 (the model shoot, in which she looks like a prostitute: says alot of our, i am MY expectations, as i thought she was a prostitute), the humor of 16, the joy of those graduating teens and the absolute brilliance of #1 (the use of flash on the branches)…etc….now, of course, i’d also love to see a stroy of pure joy, in color, for this same city (any city)….and that will come…that’s why i love that shot of the Man with the girl in the lake….urban decay and yet this picture is so beautiful, so strong…a strong black male beside a young girl (how often does the media depict young african americans as thugz or pimps or rappers or dead) as a statement that this city is more than just young black male killing other black males…look at his expression…the child’s expression (his daughter, neice, sister?)….that picture is counter intuitive given the theme…and that is Why i think this is a story/essay that is smarter than most on this topic….

    more hope, more pictures we dont expect…yea…but that is why each of us must be the photograhers we are….

    and that might just add up to something too :)

  • MW..

    do not have too much time right now, so i will get back to you with more thoughts…..just got home from the longest short trip on the planet and gotta now fix all kinds of things…..but in any case did read quickly one of your comments….you always always seem a bit hung up on only one aspect of a fine essay being just a fine essay…and you were exactly the same with the Mexico piece…you always want to be “told” something or see something you did not already “know”…INFORMATION seems to be your general mantra…correct me if i am wrong please……yes, sure we all intellectually know Detroit is a mess…we have indeed been told a thousand times before…your are quite correct, yet to what do you literally refer in terms of an essay that has been “here” in Detroit as Danny? besides Gilden foreclosure piece which we discussed here with Gilden… you keep referring to “Detroit has been covered”…”coverage”..my least favorite word often used in connection with photography…..whatever is “covered” is for sure something photographically in which i have zero interest…in any case, where have you FELT it like this essay before?? maybe there is one…just tell me where to look please…i miss a lot of stuff….

    cheers, david

  • Danny’s greater talent is that of a narrator and the ability to piece together the silent moments of contemplation and fear.
    As for the subject well stuff like affects huge swathes of the world’s population. Detroit is something that Americans seem to use as a metaphor.

  • ………and that just makes the narrator more accessible to the American public

  • I suppose it’s a case of answering “It’s been done many times before” with “Yea; but not by me” :-)

  • …….despite all this most of the world’s population get home safe and have a good night’s sleep

  • Maybe a story has been told before; but there are many ways of telling a story. Danny’s story gives you more of a “feeling” for the situation, rather than an “in your face” literal photo-journalistic piece. Like the difference between journalism and poetry; they could both tell the same story but in totally different ways. Cheers :-)

  • Yes David, that’s probably not a bad insight about information. I get the different types – language based and visual – mixed up when I start doing art crit. And experiential as well. So to answer your question, language-wise I’ve read a lot about Detroit, as well as speculation regarding its causes. Visual wise, Gilden is all I can name, I know I’ve seen other pics, but yes, I think it’s safe to say nothing approaching the quality of Danny’s essay (please note that nowhere so far have I said anything negative about the quality of the essay). Experientially though, yes, I have felt it like this essay. So I can entertain the idea that I am a freak and that normal people, or even other freaks with less knowledge of these specifics, need to see this. I can see that. But still, and I think it will always come back to this, I’d like to see someone with this kind of talent show me something I don’t know. Is that really such a bad thing? Can’t you relate, even a little? Had Danny focused on Saint Louis instead of Detroit, would the quality of his photos be any worse? Or Louisville? Akron? Pretty much anywhere that hasn’t been a popular subject? The church photo would be essentially the same. As would the baby in the doorway. And the closed factory. And the gunshot victim. But it’s the inevitably different scenes that could be enlightening. How do these regional variations relate to the big picture? What have we been missing? What aren’t we seeing? Right under our noses?

    Where are the uncomfortable truths?

  • Just about every story that is ever told has been told before and will be told again. It is how the story is told, how the nuance is put on it and whether or not it brings some new revelations and understanding to the viewer.

    Yes, I knew about Detroit. I knew things had gone to hell there and that it had become the murder capital of the nation, but this essay caused me to feel it in a way that I never had before.

    Plus – the photographer is just truly masterful.

    That opening shot – flash on the leaves in front of him – who the hell would take such a picture?

    I sure wouldn’t – in part because you almost have to put a gun to my head to get me to put on flash, but he did and he made it sing, “Requiem.”

  • MW…

    laughing..i did not say you were a freak, and i did say that you were not wrong about information…i guess i am just not expecting “information” per se in a photo essay…if i want information, i am going to BBC or something…a photo essay that reaches even half a million people is not really information media anyway…so, i think we just have different expectations…i see the work we do, even as documentary photographers, as being in the category of “think pieces” rather than “news/info” blasts…as Bill just said, it is about nuance and how it makes you “feel” rather than giving new “facts”…as he says, all stories have been told…what you expect Michael is not wrong, it is just different from what i expect from either a photographer, writer, film maker etc……i think if you went back and looked at all of the most classic essays from Frank, Smith, Duncan, Davidson, etc etc etc, you would probably feel all of them lacked enough information..i could easily blast any of them for not much information….and for me it has nothing to do with the literary vs. the visual..not at all…the very best writers often do not give much “information” either…they just make you feel it…tweaking my “feel it” button is always something “new” for me even if the subject matter is something i already “know”

    cheers, david

  • Hey David. I don’t fit neatly in the information box, but yea, I can see that it’s a tendency. I’ll have to keep an eye out for it. Be on guard. I’ve always been a believer in the general principle of fighting one’s tendencies.

    Concern about story is another big one. I like a good story. It doesn’t have to be a story one can verbalize. I’m sure we could put up a good argument that the best photos are ones that tell a compelling story that in no adequate way could possibly be verbalized. Like the best work of Cartier-Bresson. But a lot of photos, particularly journalism related photos, are open to verbal explication. The picture of the factory in this essay is a good example. The automobile industry’s relentless downsizing is universally acknowledged as an important catalyst for Detroit’s downfall. It’s an integral part of the story. If you are doing journalism, of course you have to have a picture of an abandoned factory. I don’t dispute that.

    But I’ve found that I do question the church photos. What is their purpose in the story? What do they communicate? They strike me as a checklist item. Doing a story about inner city black folk? Church? Check. If photojournalism were an Olympic sport, something along the lines of figure skating, there’d no doubt be an inner city black church competition. And Danny would score a ten, or damn near, his photos are that good technically, but still, from a story perspective, what the hell are those church photos doing? Does the standard black church photo convey something that is true? Or is it just showing us something we expect to see? And even if it’s true, isn’t there some different way to tell that story? Are these church photos cliché’s? Ultimately I don’t know, but I can say without reservation that I don’t trust them. If you’ve got to show me churches, can’t you at least include one that’s not exactly what I’d expect. I know they exist.

    So again, I come back to the same wish to be shown something I haven’t seen. But that’s not entirely accurate. As Bob and David so eloquently point out, this essay has shown me things I haven’t seen. The work with the unclaimed body bags and x-rays is outstanding. So I guess my advice is to take a very long, a very cold, a very hard look at the parts of the essay that don’t surprise us, the parts that fit so perfectly our expectations, and ask yourself if those are really true, and if so, how to communicate what’s really going on in a way that hasn’t been done over and over already? You’ve accomplished that with most of the essay. Why not go for the whole enchilada?

  • MW…

    tell me, exactly what part of documentary photography DO you appreciate? it seems like it would be awful to never just be able to sit back, relax, and let a fine essay just BE….

  • Thing is, I can do both at the same time. I can enjoy a great artistic effort for what it is on one viewing and consider it critically on another. I can’t tell you what part of documentary photography I don’t appreciate, other than when it documents questionable truths. If I go out this far a limb in comments, you can be sure I’ve watched the essay many, many times and looked at it from several different angles. Maybe I’m misguided, lordy knows that’s always a possibility, but I want to think it’s important to try to help people become better, even help the profession become better. I honestly don’t get what good it could possibly do Danny or anybody else to get nothing but laudatory comments if any aspect of the work could possibly be better? Couldn’t that encourage complacency? He’s really fucking good. Why not encourage him to be even better?

  • “Why not encourage him to be even better?”…

    whose ‘better’?…your ‘better’ Michael?….David’s ‘better’?….Burn’s audience’s ‘better’?….the Profession’s standards of ‘better’?….

    that is a remarkably presumption comment to make about another’s work, though I know you aren’t writing that from a view of condescension…..

    besides do you really think that a blog’s comments encourage complacency in a photographer who has struggled and worked hard to tell the stories about people that (very often) much of the journalistic photoworld has bypassed ….i don’t know about you Michael, but I think that’s overvaluing the comments….if danny were to become ‘complacent’ that would happen because of his own photographic life and not as a result of accolades….let alone comments here…

    and while YES, it is important for viewers and for photographers to be honest and critical of one another’s work as a form of dialogue, this doesn’t mean that all critique is helpful ….i’m not suggesting your critique isn’t helpful to danny or others, but that it does seem remarkably odd at times….i say that as both a photographer and a writer and one who has written photographic critique for publication….

    if i may be so bold, i think your legitimate concern (as also articulated by Preston) is for a body of work (danny’s or the community has a whole) that describes the fullness of Detroit (or urban blight) and the lives lived….but again, i think you’re critique too wide….one must look at the essay for what it does/wishes to accomplish….

    by the way, laudatory comments make each of us smile for a moment, maybe even reinforce a sense of accomplishment, but in truth they do NOT make us as photographers work harder or reach deeper…..that must and always comes from one’s own critical self-examination…and with good dialogue…

    i think, as usually, the points you’ve brought up are important aspects to consider (for this work and for journalistic work to begin with), but again, i think it is as important to remember than many many photographers/viewers here come to ‘learn’ about what constitutes good/compelling/informed/authorial work as to enjoy the photography…be challenged by the photography….

    i dont write, personally. laudatory words as a way to congratulate or praise for its own sake,…i try to write as a way to articulate the strength of work, as a framework by which others can consider….it’s partly the photographer in me, and partly the teacher….

    ironically, tonight i’m off to meet some young photographers to look at their new work….which will, i’m sure, mean critical discussion, not just praise….but it’s situational….

    partly of doing a good critique too is how you talk to the photographer/writer….talking about black folk being screw up (even though in jest) and irony doesn’t always bode well….it’s not about humor but about pretension….

    ironically, i’ve never thought it my role here, as a photographer published or as a writer, to make another photographer be even better….but about chatting…

    now, can we discuss your walk-about slideshows?? ;))….i’m willing not to be so nice for once :)))))

  • Good points Bob. Guess I get caught up in the workshop mentality sometimes when it’s not appropriate. But of course there’s no one easy answer or explanation. Selfishness is no doubt involved. I gain by the thought I put into these things, as much in response to the back and forth with people like yourselves as to whatever I initially think of the work at hand. But it’s not all selfishness or misdirected workshop leftovers. I do care about the profession and sometimes I think it’s good for its aspiring practitioners, particularly the very talented ones, to get a more old fashioned J-school critique. What don’t I appreciate about documentary photography? I don’t appreciate dishonesty. Or better to frame it positively: I appreciate its ability to tell the truth. Not the whole truth. Certainly not the literal truth, but truth nevertheless. Unfortunately, photography also has great power to communicate truths that are not true. I saw this nightly when I worked as a photo editor at an agency during a presidential election. Every night dozens of spectacular photographs came across the wire that had the candidates looking like epic heroes against dramatic backgrounds — just as the PR people had calculated. Those were not honest photographs. The essays I’ve been most critical of here fall into the same category, though not so neatly. Work that frames a story just as the PR department would have it. It’s corny I guess, but I feel it something of a duty to the profession to challenge that kind of thing. That’s not the case with this essay, but it relates. No, this essay falls into the category of being really, really good but could still be better. And yes Bob, it also inhabits the category of potentially clichéd stories about inner city blacks, as I alluded to in my original, ill-thought out quip and more substantively in the critique of the church photos. But perhaps I should just keep that kind of thing to myself.

    Regarding your question of better, I just mean better than it is, not better in relation to anyone else. Do I fancy myself as better? No Bob, I don’t. I haven’t published any documentary photography even remotely approaching the quality of this work. That’s a fact. But I don’t see what it matters? Either the critique has some validity or it doesn’t. Whether I’m a total ass or not is an entirely different question.

  • MW, you say earlier that this is ground well-trodden and that you have seen Gilden’s work and others – but later say that you can only remember this essay and Gildens’. You say that you “don’t appreciate dishonesty. Or better to frame it positively: I appreciate its ability to tell the truth. Not the whole truth. Certainly not the literal truth, but truth nevertheless. Unfortunately, photography also has great power to communicate truths that are not true”. Your comments seem to be all over the place and are becoming ever-distanced from Danny’s essay. This is not propaganda.
    I can’t see how this essay can be considered in the context of untruths. Of course it does not tell the whole story of Detroit but is seems to capture the unease and despair of living in the area covered by Danny.

  • BOB…MIKE R…

    perfect….thanks

  • I don’t see any reason why this essay cannot be viewed as a novel ,fiction! So called dishonest photos can fit into a storyline, I really don’t see anything wrong with taking a exert out of lets say Chicago the essay retains it’s it integrity of intent. After all each frame here has been removed from it’s original context and placed within a new narrative.

  • I don’t see any reason why this essay cannot be viewed as a novel ,fiction! So called dishonest photos can fit into a storyline, I really don’t see anything wrong with taking a exert out of lets say Chicago and placing it within the Detroit essay as long at it stays within the framework intent. After all each frame here has been removed from it’s original context and placed within a new narrative.

  • This is what happens when one writes on two computers uses too many screens and posts a draft

  • Imants, like MW, you seem to be writing for effect, almost to shock. I understand your reasoning but I’m sure that the family of Chaise Sherrors: shot and killed, or the families of the unclaimed dead in Wayne County morgue, unable to claim the bodies due to poverty would.

    The whole point of essays of this genre, in my opinion, is to show the Human Condition; my fellow man / woman.

    I could be there. I could be the victim. I could be the murderer. We are all capable of great – heroic acts. We are all capable, under circumstance, of utmost barbarity. Poverty is a curse and a waste.

  • Imants, just read your next post. Welcome to the Internet: a moments thought captured forever! Imants, The Demon of Detroit (laughing).

    Mike.

  • MW…

    you said in reference to this essay and in reference to honesty and integrity:

    “I saw this nightly when I worked as a photo editor at an agency during a presidential election. Every night dozens of spectacular photographs came across the wire that had the candidates looking like epic heroes against dramatic backgrounds — just as the PR people had calculated. Those were not honest photographs. The essays I’ve been most critical of here fall into the same category, though not so neatly. Work that frames a story just as the PR department would have it.”

    now to the best of my recollection you have been most critical lately of these three essayists…Dominic Bracco “Life and Death” , Michelle Frankfurter “Destino”, and Danny Wilcox Frazier here with “Detroit”…right so far? with pretty much the same or similar wishes for all three…not complete, need to show more, perhaps telling you what you already know…am i close?

    now it seems to me the readers of Burn can either be critics, which is surely some of the fun of hanging out here, or become better photographers by seeing some of work here as either inspirational or at least thought provoking and relevant to an upcoming project of your own…aren’t those the two options here? Michael, i would be willing to bet that all three aforementioned photographers feel their work is not complete, needs to show more, and their work is probably not considered by any them to be a tome of empirical knowledge…again, this is a guess…which in no way imo has anything at all to do with their power…has nothing to do with their specialness and pure visual literacy…this kind of work is hard to come by…perfection? of course not…but quests well defined…i toast them now, and await books from each..

    my point is i suppose that if being a critic is going to be your primary function, then i think you might want to eliminate the one size fits all critique pattern…and the things i just mentioned are things we all know already as do the artists , so you are falling into your very own trap of being critique redundant…to use your words, tell us something we do not already know…

    worse, you have essentially accused the artists above of somehow not being honest (read your own statement) and paralleling your critique of these above mentioned essays in there referencing some photo agency job you had and photos of election night candidates and not so slightly inferring that those of us here are somehow presenting work “just as a PR department would have it”..or , who else exactly are you talking about? this would be upsetting critique if it just were not so damned silly…

    Michael, i think what you might want to do is: (a) get out there and shoot…put your money where your mouth is as my grandfather would say or (b) make your critique so good that you do not need to shoot…become a really fine critic which is indeed a totally respected art in and of itself…

    while i absolutely 100% defend your right to say what you want to say here, you have set yourself up as the resident devils advocate…a good house position and i suggest you keep it BUT where you are now is in an untenable position…you have no work that matches what we show here, and no thought provoking critique either…you are in “workshop mode” as you say, yet nobody needs this critique more than thee…so you are dishing out that which you need to have dished to you….nobody is ever beyond reproach..nobody…and there are no ivory towers…certainly not in my life…

    now, maybe i read you all wrong…but, i went back and read your comment several times…it was convoluted , but without reading too much between the lines, i think most of us would interpret about the same way…although interpretation is never what you want when doing critique….

    having said all of the above, i do always look forward to your comments…however, my overall recommendation for both of us is that we should at some point stop having the same conversation…make sense??

    cheers, david

  • Imants, like MW, you seem to be writing for effect, almost to shock…….. That’s something you just made up
    .
    .
    I spent a lot of time reading studying history etc and used both original documents and novels as means of understanding. It’s all no different to say looking at the Middle east conflict and jumping from Iran to Kuwait within one sentence to get a point across.
    Maybe you just don’t see the point in fiction

  • To sate a few accessible works Rembrandt’s “Night Watch, Picasso’s “Guernica”, Goya’s work, Guan Wei’s “A mysterious Land”……………http://www.pastemagazine.com/action/article/7645/feature/culture/dummies_in_the_attic

  • OK, well, I wanted to get out of this, but clearly have to clear up a few things.

    Mike R. writes: Your comments seem to be… becoming ever-distanced from Danny’s essay. This is not propaganda.

    Yes, at that point I had moved on to thinking about David’s question concerning my appreciation of documentary photography. Had you read what I actually wrote, you would have caught the part where I explicitly said that dishonesty wasn’t the case with Danny’s essay. You seem to be too caught up in pseudo-psychological speculation as to my dastardly motives to consider my actual points.

    David writes: now to the best of my recollection you have been most critical lately of these three essayists…Dominic Bracco “Life and Death” , Michelle Frankfurter “Destino”, and Danny Wilcox Frazier here with “Detroit”…right so far?

    Ummm, no. I liked all of those essays and was just attempting to offer constructive criticism. The ones I didn’t like because of PR/Propaganda concerns were the Afghan thing that I felt was like an army recruiting commercial, the piece on Kashmir that was unabashedly one sided and the first Mexican murder spree essay that showed the Mexican cops and armed forces as heroes in the war on drugs. Big, big difference. Destino, in particular, was one of my favorites. And if you go back and cut out just the good things I’ve said about Danny’s work, you’d see that I was practically gushing.

    As for your advice, David, well thanks, I respect it and mostly try to live by it. I’ve no desire to be known primarily as a critic. Most of my critiques are either meant to be helpful or are some aspect of me fighting with my own demons. For example, I shoot a lot in various black communities and am constantly confronted with these very same issues. I don’t always know what’s right. But to your other point, I do shoot a lot and I do apply the same critiques, harsher actually, to my own work. And of course it’s possible I’m kidding myself, but I do feel that much of my work is roughly as good as what you show here. Not as good as the best, frankly not close technically, but interesting artistically and intellectually. But regardless, it’s that thought provoking element and how those insights relate to my own work that make burn relevant for me.

    Sad though, I’d like to be able to publicly work out my thoughts on honesty and truth as it relates to photos of black churches, particularly in Danny’s essay. Imants, I agree with what you say about fiction and truth. My point is something else. And it’s a fine one, especially for blog comments. I’m sorry I can’t manage to communicate it without stepping on so many toes. I’m curious what Danny thinks? What is the purpose of those church photos in the story? What is he trying to say with them? Is that an effective approach? I don’t doubt that those photos are true on their own merit. But how true are they in the overall context of the story? How do stereotypical inner city black churches relate to body bags stacked up in the morgue? Are those not fair questions?

  • I was referring to seeing things as pure fiction like a novel………..not about truth

  • I was referring to seeing things as pure fiction like a novel………..not about truth

    I have no idea what you’re saying…how are things that are pure fiction like a novel not about truth? That makes no sense whatsoever.

  • It ain’t reaL it’s made up

  • It ain’t reaL it’s made up

    um yea, your point?

  • Don’t mean to be contentious or obscure, just don’t see any contradiction between fiction and truth. Could easily argue that good fiction is more true than straight facts. It certainly can be. I thought that’s what you were saying a few comments back. Maybe I misread you?

  • Nope I was just stating that an essay me y be viewed as fiction and photos can be sourced from anywhere.

  • Okay, well, I agree.

  • MW…

    ok, well now a bit more clear, but we were both evidently referring to different essays where i felt your critique was getting a bit cookie cutter predictable…..and i could only remember the more recent…and please do not worry about stepping on toes per se …but, for heavens sake Michael, you drop a bomb regarding honesty and integrity and then come back saying “gee, what did i do?…sorry if i stepped on toes”….just expect a rejoinder that’s all…no problem

    however, if you make a statement questioning integrity and honesty, you had better be able to back it up…even in the other Mexico piece and in the Kashmir piece i do not see how POINT OF VIEW is being somehow twisted into being dishonest…those were your words Michael…i did not make that part up…everyone read them….

    on your other criticism, i am not quite sure why you are so hung up on the church pictures by Danny…are black churches just too much of a cliche for you? how exactly would you have played the churches on every corner of this community and others like it?

    i think, but not totally sure, that what you are trying to say is something like this… you are dropping in some hints that like in Mexico where you are not just another gringo and have spent so much time there and somehow know just a bit more than all the other gringos ( i know the type well), and now you are also not just another white boy who has spent some time in the hood and are making a call about what is and what is not cliche for black people?? or for the digestion of white people who are viewing pictures of black people??

    Danny will not respond to you for sure. Nor will i answer for Danny. But as just another white boy who has spent many days and years photographing in black communities , but with NO INSIGHTS and only humble appreciation for acceptance to photograph, my impression is that the church is so so central to the lives of folks in these communities that it might be a bit strange if one did not see church…when i saw the church pictures in this essay it did not strike me as anything different than any of the other pictures….i have been with drug dealers and prostitutes out on the streets late at night in a world where there was no salvation and yet with the same folks going to church with “my mama” the very next day before going back out on the street and then back home to take care of family…just part of inner city life and perhaps contradictory for those who have not really lived it….so is this cliche or just the way it is??? mostly , why the seemingly angry rant about it? seems off key…

    cheers, david

  • IMANTS…

    fiction is of course the only real way to tell the whole truth…i am actually waiting for a photographer who would do fiction in what would otherwise seem like a journalistic “truth” essay…and just label it fiction as in the bookstore…

  • Not sure if I have seen anyone bit there may be ………..probably not the easiest task unless you are used to writing/compiling children’s’ stories. All my stuff is fictitious but not in a journalistic “truth” essay genre

  • Probably most people here are familiar with “The Wire”… one of the finest attempts to talk about the Truth through fiction.

  • Hopefully this will be my last word on this. I just re-read everything and other than the original quip that about common depictions of inner city black folk, I don’t see that I’ve said anything out of line. The part about dishonesty was in response to David’s question about my thoughts on documentary photography in general, not specific to this essay, which I stated explicitly.

    And what’s wrong with asking questions about story elements? I’m curious about the thought processes behind the decision to shoot, and later include the pictures of the church. I’ve just asked questions, not passed any judgment. Anger? Where do you see anger?

    I don’t mind getting feedback, it’s just frustrating when the feedback is largely unrelated to what I wrote. I’m pretty sure I never said that any of those three pieces were dishonest, I know I didn’t in this thread. I said they were propaganda. That’s not the same thing. Go back and read the bit about dishonesty. It only refers to your question about documentary photography in general, not any particular essay. And it’s frustrating when the feedback gets personal, like psychological speculation. I ask questions about the church photos for effect? I fancy myself a magic gringo or honorary ghetto dweller? Might there be a simpler explanation? Isn’t it possible that I might just have a sincere interest in these issues and a curiosity about the artistic process as it relates to decision making in these areas?

    And, to be redundant one last time, is there really no way you can read my comments about these three essays as helpful and constructive? Or at least intended to be that way? Cause honestly, that was my intent.

  • MICHAEL…

    please now…you wrote:

    “I saw this nightly when I worked as a photo editor at an agency during a presidential election. Every night dozens of spectacular photographs came across the wire that had the candidates looking like epic heroes against dramatic backgrounds — just as the PR people had calculated. Those were not honest photographs. The essays I’ve been most critical of here fall into the same category, though not so neatly. Work that frames a story just as the PR department would have it.”

    “THOSE WERE NOT HONEST PHOTOGRAPHS. THE ESSAYS I’VE BEEN MOST CRITICAL OF HERE FALL INTO THE SAME CATEGORY”

    Michael, is that not exactly what you just said you did not say?

    i am not an analyst, so i will not go there…but you are first on the attack, then the victim…and a bit disingenuous on top of it.. ..hmmmm..just read again your quote above…i was keying off of that….and if you want i will go back and dig up prior quotes regarding your time in Mexico and in the hood that suggest a bit of an edge on the essayist..it is an impression you have left on me Michael

    of course i would never never never give you any kind of tough call for trying to help anyone or improve their work…that is why we are here…but, for some reason it just is not coming off that way imo….and of course curiosity and questions are why we are here, but you always frame your questions as answers based on your own personal experience…you are not asking questions as the dispassionate objective interviewer, but almost as the resident expert….your quote above and all the rest of that comment is not in the form of an innocent helpful question imo…

    yet, i will take you at your word on intent…and as i said before, the role of devils advocate is always an important one…

    cheers, david

  • IMANTS..

    we love your fiction..and nobody could ever accuse you of dishonesty….you are all about point of view and personal expression….that is all you need….

  • Ha, well you got me there.

  • MW:

    Michael, I will not jump on and add more to what David has written with regard to the PR/dishonest/propaganda comments. I too was floored when I read it and wasn’t sure whether or not to respond. I took the afternoon/night off from reading/writing after that, and since David has waded in, there is nothing for me to add with regard to this dialogue (Danny’s essay). But, if possible, i’d like to talk about what I did last night as a means to frame future discussion on ‘critique/criticism.’

    Last night I spend 4 hours meeting with looking at the work of 3 young, talented free-lance working photographers here in Toronto. I to this often (though not as often as I once did) as a way to help, give back and encourage young photographers. I try to help in any way i can because when i started making pictures seriously there was no one to help me and in fact I often ran into a photoworld defined by walls/ceilings and arrogance. I wish I had met someone as giving and thoughtful as david 12 years ago, it would have saved me alot of stress and sadness, but I believe in doing what david does: give back.

    So, I try to look at alot of work and offer advice to young (or old photographers). Often, i get requests to look/edit work (Windup, still haven’t forgotten you, believe me). So last night, i did this for more than 4 hours. It was a fruitful, and fun evening. The reason why i mention this is because I want to offer one way to see about the process of discussion/criticism. So, to use one examle. I looked at an essay of a young photographer last night (about 35 pictures). Then we looked at a wider version + ‘b’s. about 150 pictures. I looked at all the versions about 4 or 5 times and then i told him what i thought worked. I went thorugh picture by picture and talked about the qualities/strength of the powerful ones and how they seemed to work (visually, narratively, metaphorically, technically) vs. the ‘weaker’ (or throw outs). We also talked about story and narrative. I NEVER (not ever) tell another photographer what they SHOULD do. I still with what they have and suggest strength and encourage them to build from STRENGTH. to see the strength. Most importantly, i never compare that essay i’m looking for with another, or rather, with what it lacks. I focus on it’s strength and we try to figure out what needs to be done to strengthen it.

    The reason why i am suggesting this to you is that because 1) you are an intelligent and thoughtful viewer and 2) you have articulated that you are interested in criticism, art/photographic criticism. The point is that THIS ESSAY is NOT (Danny’s) lacking anything. It is a powerful, solid, beautiful, intelligent body of work. Now, it focuses on an idea and it is true to that idea. That must be understood. So, when critiquing work, i think the ‘art’ of the critic is not only to bring insight in the analysis (what to you see that others do not) but also what makes a work strong…or weak. ASking this essay to show other aspects of the community is not a criticism on Danny’s body of work, but a request to understand the subject wider: meaning: more variety of work. That is where I think your ‘criticism’ here failed. You made the mistake of critiquing danny’s work through the prism of what you, as a viewer, want to have when dealing with detroit/urban blight.

    Also, one of the MOST IMPORTANT aspects of criticism is RESPECT. You must approach the work with respect and honor. It is the only way to establish a good dialogue. I think you started off poorly by joking about poor black folk and just dug a deeper more entrenching hole. It is good (and important) to be fun and not to be overly serious, or synchophantic, but you must remember that we put our lives out there, we share our work with the work as a way to communicate and foster communication/community. when you approach a body of work from the angle of flippancy, whatever you may have to say will not be heard.

    Playing devil’s advocate is also an important part of dialogue, but it must be done within the gesture of community: otherwise it sounds harpish and like a tired crone. Again, discussing last night, I didn’t like all the photographers (not at all) that the photographers showed me, but i liked the essays and I worked hard with them to figure out what makes sense, from where to build. Had you contextualized Danny’s essay within the environment of a general need you (we all) have to know as much about these people, their lives and the city as possible, a great dialogue may have ensued. Your (or my) needs or failure as a viewer does not, a priori, mean the essay itself failed, far from it.

    All good dialogue involves discourse and respect, not full agreement. I think that is the only thing I wish to really say. It is not only HOW you write (and you are a strong, articulate writer) but what fires the engine behind the prose and thoughts. A good writer (in terms of criticism) is one who brings to the table not a premeditated discussion to teach the creator what they need to know but rather a good writer (in terms of criticism) is one who brings a generosity of vision to bare on work that is created. YOu need not like work or even get it/feel it to write intelligently. Tearing work up (as, for example Robert Hughes does often) can work if it’s born of from the generosity of the mind, not from a paucity of insight.

    You need NOT praise work to be consider an excellent critic but you must be able to separate yourself, for long enough, to know that it must always begin and end with the work at hand in it’s complexity.

    If i being with the premise of failure as a starting point, those 3 photographers (nor any of us) would arrive at any meaningful terminus…..

    hope that makes sense….

  • CORRECTION:

    i wrote “last night, I didn’t like all the photographers (not at all)”…GOOD GOD…i meant:

    Last night, I didn’t like all the PHOTOGRAPHS…

    i loved all three of you guys (if you’re reading here)….:))))

  • sorry, CORRECTION 2 (i’m tired form the wine and from looking at so many pictures and editing stories)…

    ending should be:

    If i began with the premise of failure as a starting point, those 3 photographers (nor any of us) would NEVER arrive at any meaningful terminus……..

    begin with strength and work on the strength of work…that’s alot easier to do, and to foster dialogue, than focusing on the failings…

  • I do not know how many of the person’s commenting on Danny Wilcox Frazier’s documentary project are white but what I find, troubling as much as galling is a total disregard for the effort he put in to document African American suffering in Detroit. I am an African American and I am documenting my beloved Harlem community. After seeing his work in Detroit, Harlem, with the onslaught of white gentrification has transformed this once renown ghetto into one of priciest neighborhoods to reside in Manhattan, made me sigh with relief. Yes, there is much poverty, unemployment and crime still in Harlem but not on the human misery scale as in Detroit.

    That said, reading comments about why is the black church in his essay tells of absolutely lack of knowledge of slavery. In addition, the essay mentions appalling statistics on black illiteracy. During slavery, blacks were lynched for teaching others to read and write and so, here we see in 2010 a sickening parallel, oppression. Next, the church was used by slave owners to pacify slaves from rebelling on their one day, Sunday, from toiling on plantations from sun rise to sun down. The belief in Christianity and the stories told in the bible were all slaves could hope for: freedom from tyranny of bondage and the lash.

    Yes, some of the criticism from an academic or plain critic’s perspective may in deed be warranted but from my perspective, what is informative is that the critical comments here are heartless, based on what I have read. The nation elected a black President which is a monumental achievement yet places like Detroit still exist. Sadly, how little has changed for black people in this country. Even photography, is a white bastion where few blacks can gain entry either as positive subjects or as working photographers. My work is dedicated to exalt images of black people yet show warts as well. I expect criticism of my work will focus on the weakness of my images and story telling in my essays and giving short shrift to the lives of black people who struggle everyday for a better life. Danny Wilcox Frazier you did good! Bravo!

  • Jimmyb! :))

    straight up…..danny is a seeker…no way ’round that! :)))

    the thing, too, bout churches….they’re still often the one place that all the community can kick it, and go the toe without judgment, it is still the place where community lay….a place where an oldg and can still hope for a damnbighug from a mother who has lost her baby….and that why the inclusions of the churches here is NOT cliche but is document and testament and cause, for real, they’re still the place of not just worship and to lay the dead to rest but to sing and to get out of the boxed feeling of struggling alone in a room/house/apt…..:))

    but i’ve written enough already here about the importance off his work…

    cheers
    bob

  • jimmyb, hi, I have no idea either how many here are white or whatever other skin colour, but I disagree with you when you write that there ‘is a total disregard for the effort he put in to document African American suffering in Detroit’.

    On the other side I agree with your last sentence. :)

  • Jimmyb, I don’t know whether Danny is white or black and it makes no difference to me. I personally considered the inclusion of churches to be a valid counterpoint to the violence shown in other photographs, basically showing that a community exists even through dark days. That is not to say that one has to have a religious background to be a good person and a member of a strong community.

    Religion, oppression and poverty are often partners, and not just as a palliate to the oppressed but often as a vehicle of defiance and resistance to oppression – as witnessed by the work of the church in Central and South America and in Poland at the time of the fall of Communism in Europe. In each of the quoted examples it is ironic that the oppressors may have hoped to quell rebellion by allowing religious gatherings but only succeeded in bringing people together in a strong opposition.

    Poverty is a curse and a waste as it stifles joy and fulfillment and robs the individual and society. I’ve had a quick look at your website and your beloved harlem does indeed look vibrant. I’m going back for another look. Incidentally, I’m white, although I’ve never even considered the racial background of anyone here.

    Best,

    Mike.

  • I’d ask the same question, make the same point, if I saw an essay about Harlem that featured familiar looking photos from the Abyssinian Baptist Church, images I could easily see for myself simply by plunking down $39 for the tour. Meanwhile, Google tells me there are over 400 churches in Harlem and that denominations include Roman Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Black Muslims, Episcopalian, Methodist, many flavors of Baptists, and many others. Isn’t it possible that some of these churches might tell us something, perhaps something a bit more nuanced about the community? Or at least communicate the same message through more innovative imagery?

    Not holding my breath for an answer, but not apologizing for the question either. I think it’s a good one.

  • MW,
    Ok, I wanna play too…!
    Let’s say I missed a lot of “episodes”..on this one,
    what exactly is that bothers you around those “church photos)”…
    What is “it”? Really?

  • Well Panos, since you put it that way: predictability. But we’ve been over that. In short, Preston generally agrees with my basic point. David and Bob have made very articulate and convincing arguments that I’m wrong, that the church stuff is not predicable and so what if is. My ultimate position is that this is an issue about which reasonable people can disagree. Unfortunately, I had another knee jerk kinda reaction when accused of having absolutely no knowledge of slavery, as if that had anything to do with my point. That was my bad… Shoulda just let it slide.

    So now is the place where I tell you what I really think and want to say to everybody: Peace, good wishes and happy holidays to one and all… and a happy and productive new year…

    mw

  • “good wishes and happy holidays…” absolutely

  • Michael, nothing really wrong with predictability…Its another way to tell s story , “straight” approach maybe, but not to be alarmed , i think…:). Church actually IS A STRONG element.

  • Michael maybe it’s time for you to put your great knowledge to a test and produce a an essay of substance………. not just a daddle in the park type

  • Well Imants, it’s not really about me. Whether or not a piece of art is predictable and/or whether that predictability is a good or bad thing are questions independent of my personal strengths or shortcomings. To argue otherwise is clearly a logical fallacy.

  • And regarding my vast knowledge, as I mentioned, I got the 400 church statistic from Google, simply typed “how many churches in Harlem.” But it’s true that from my actual experiences walking around Harlem, I know for a fact that it contains more than one church. If not for that personal experience; if I were just judging by stories I’ve seen in the media, I wouldn’t know that. As far as I’d be able to tell, the Abyssinian Baptist Church would pretty much be it for churches. And Sylvia’s the only restaurant. The Apollo the only music venue. Or maybe the Cotton Club?

    This is probably the best illustration of my personal picture of Harlem. It’s a place I know quite well, but one I’ve never physically visited. Great art on several levels.

  • Well the essay isn’t predictable nor is it typecasting for those who have never been there, I don’t think all these essays are created with you in mind.

    To argue otherwise is clearly a logical fallacy. …. other than you who else is in agreement sound like an assumption on your part

  • I’ve never been to Detroit, nor implied that I have. Probably wouldn’t have asked the evil question if I had. I don’t know the answer.

    I’ll let Bob or maybe jimmyb explain the invisible man reference… or better yet, read the book yourself. Just because folk in other parts don’t recognize local stereotypes doesn’t make them any less stereotypical. Why doesn’t your work include more kangaroos? How can anyone do a story about Australia without any kangaroos?

  • You sure are an angry man …… yes my work has the odd kangaroo in it plus Mick from Bullamakenka …………….
    How can anyone do a story about Australia without any kangaroos? …easy my neighbour is not a kangaroo

  • ………… and just to make sure you now know something else my work is not about place nor region , nor country…… a misconception on your part if you saw it that way.

  • No dude, just demonstrating how easy it is to throw out demeaning misconceptions based on diddly squat psychological twaddle. Point is to keep it impersonal. Deal with the ideas, not the imagined psychological failings of the individuals expressing them. Pretty much everything that goes on here falls into the category of propositions about which reasonable people can disagree. No?

    I like your work. Find the personal attacks mildly irritating sometimes though.

  • Yes you are that bloke who threw one too many hand grenade and finally one went off in your hand ………….. not a personal attack an observation. Now I am off to waste some of my time on something just as trivial

  • MW, Imants :))

    ok, i’ll wade in :))…’cause i didn’t go to sleep last night, and have been madly running around town trying to get ready for the trip (24 hrs) and to finish a writing shit, only to find tonight that i don’t have enough film for my trip, so tomorrow, back down to pick up some film and pack and then off…and i’m in a damn sweet mood, tired, but electric….been listening Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy which absolutely drops large….i’d thought LCd’s album was the vinly of the year….but god damn, that is a major righteous souring mad lick….i want both of you guys to listen…anyway, more about that at the end here…

    so, here goes:

    First Up, Mw:

    Michael, I would NEVER say you were ‘wrong’ about your ideas or your reaction…there is no right/wrong to view a piece of work, no way to carve out 1 meaning, 1 story from a body of work that plays both to the strengths and contradictions of a story….the inherent contradictions in Danny’s piece is the same contradictions and confusions that exist in that community and that is not cliche….but more importantly, i value (and need) your bomb throwing, if for nothing else, to get my juices ribbed ;)….you are a smart cat, with thoughtful and often penetrating questions, even if sometimes they appear to be deliberately contrarian ;)…but, that’s the ripeness we need, to pick up the sticks and bones to toss against a wall in order to think and to, ultimately, feel one’s way through the heart of a piece….so, i’m always game when your questioning…as long as those questions come from a place that hopes for a honing of insight, or rather, for rumination that opens something else….so, i never meant to write ‘we’ were right, you were wrong, only that i think i wish you to take the next radical step: to question into rightness ;))….so keep it up, and i’ll try to offer an response, here goes:

    CHURCHES. HERE…they MUST be part of this work, not because it’s cliche to show folk praying in a community riffed by sorrow, or because that is the typical paint swabbed on the African American community, but because it has important thematic resonance. This story is about both Death (kids, boys, men, dying, mom’s suffering) and life. If you’re going to do a story on folk being shot, show the funerals, then you must show the fullness and importance of that: that these folk are in church not only to bury but also to console and come together…Even if the church weren’t historically such an important part of the community (which it sure is, always has been), this essay would still necessitate churches, because they ARE PART of that city experience, just as the graffiti and zoo suits and broken homes and bottles of fifties and forlorn mattresses….cars exposed, prom celebrations: it is the detail and the detritus….the church here is both an important narrative component (funerals and liturgy, song and psalm) but also for verisimilitude. Now, i agree, that the community aint just about baptist churches, but about mosques and 7th days and and lutherans and RC’s and Mennonites, etc….but, you see, danny isn’t making a visual claim for denomination, but rather about prayer, service, song, community…sure, those pics are in mosque, their christian, but the deeper take on those images is that their houses of worship and houses that haven’t been eroded, but are rather supports….so, they MUST be here, because of the face that churches, or rather, houses of worship, serve the community, are a part of the community, just as b-ball courts and empty lots and corner parties and pawn shops and beauty salons and corner stores…they’re there, they must be a part…but they also serve as spiritual posts for this essay: points of reflection and points of hope, points of community that make this essay, and make that community, not solopsistic and death-kneeled, but the opposite: still filled with light of living….burying the kids and going back for solace and hope and to move beyond….now, an essay on the diversity of the houses of workshop in the community would be another topic (a buddy Omar S, a great photographer, a muslim has done a great body of work on the african-american muslim community in nyc, post 911) but that is not THIS essay….again, i just want to say, or rather, suggest, that I think you’re asking Danny’s essay to be all encompassing, it is not and it cannot be…we must approach it for what it is….and while, you may think/feel (a reasonable thought) that church images are obvious, well…Go Tell it on the Mountain ;))….know what i mean….it must be here…shit, i’ve criticized the shit out of essays that deal with detroit and violence and show funerals but never deal with the important healing and community power of those houses….as i told Justin M, there is just no way to get around shooting the community without dealing with his, for historical and contemporary reasons….a place where a killer and the mourner, ironically, can (and do) come together….THAT is critical to understand and to appreciate here…

    As for Harlem…well, i know a bit about harlem…one of my closest friends was from harlem, spent some time there and no, not in the places you name or what others associate…shit, to me, harlem means 2 things: running up there as a kid and then going to visit my friend’s hood and family….as i wrote here a couple of years back (road trips?), he was later gunned down off of Strivers Row….told dah the story, told rufus the story on top of david’s loft….i don’t associate Absynnians Baptist with Harlem as the only church, rather i associate that the way i dont associate the Met with THE nyc….it’s a landmark, historical, tours, history, but, anyone that has spent time there knows that there are 100’s of churches there and the folk that speak of Abyssinian seem to be the visitors….in danny’s essay, it’s just simpler….it’s about showing, detailing…make sense?….i think danny’s essay is an evocation and not a journalistic approach, just as justin’s essay was about yielding spirits, channeling, not necessary describing…make sense?….

    Imants: :)….invisible man, necessary reading….that book and baldwin and zora neale hurston opened my eyes, not to what i didn’t know, but to what is possible….but than again, my dad gave me Cleaver’s Soul on Ice for my 16th birthday…and i’m a fucking white guy….

    ok, so enough about crit, can i share a song instead….

    here is Kanye’s Monster….it, to me, is exactly part of what this is about….and i just ask you get through it….get to the last 1 minute and that ending…and that says all…the full complexity and brilliance of that song….and what that says and stands for and ends with….and that song, is for me, a way to cadence this work…

    listen to this song…and after the end, which comes after all that shit, tell me it aint so…

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ona42jz8w0k

    no right, wrong…just ways to get home….

    peace and love…

    booging out of here soon…

    b

  • I will have search for the books ………. thanks

  • Imants…

    email coming (about your pa and this year)…just writing something for the christmas post….haven’t forgotten ur emails…give me 2 hrs….:)))

    christmas card sung me a smile….

    i promise, time we skype…u want to skype tonight?…send me an email…i should be done in 1 hr writing this post for david…

    bb

  • …invisible man, necessary reading….that book and baldwin and zora neale hurston opened my eyes, not to what i didn’t know, but to what is possible…

    Don’t forget The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

  • MW: NO DOUBT! :)))

    Imants, fell asleep on the couch just after i wrote the comment for David….will try again tonight, sorry ;)

  • Jimmyb, I looked at your Harlem work and I like it a lot. It could do with an edit, but what photographer’s work couldn’t do with an edit (laughing). Like me, you show what you have. Like me, need to show the best of the best that you have – but what you show now displays great access and empathy for your subject.

    Good light, Jimmyb,

    Mike.

  • MW…

    just for the record, i NEVER said you were wrong nor that churches in a story on the hood were not predictable…i did say their predictability made no difference to me just as the predictability of a dead body in a war essay would not bother me either..predictability of content has nothing to do with the value of the art imo…in any case, please note that in every comment i made i might have been asking you to at least look at something from a different perspective, but at the same time totally respecting your right to view it any way you want..and i did say several times that what you are expecting from photography is not what i am expecting…but again, no right or wrong to it….hope it is clear this time…

    Merry Christmas Michael…and looking forward to our meeting in January…

    cheers, david

  • That’s ok Bob I will see you when you get back………. meanwhile you need a pair of these , they sure help with the running. My Xmas is nice and easy since I got these http://www.etrouko.com/im.htm

  • MW…

    Just a word of support. Hang tough.

    For whatever that’s worth.

    Happy Xmas.

  • Yep David, I noted all that. And I always respect and take your advice to look at things in a different perspective. Honestly, I respect your opinion much more than my own, especially about the quality of individual photos. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at your work in NatGeo. How could I not respect what you have to say? Still, gotta be myself. I don’t really know what I expect from photography. I guess a big part of me expects the level of quality you’ve managed to achieve in your own work. If that’s not the goal, why bother?

    Perhaps I am a bit contrary at times in the hope of getting a well-reasoned rebuttal? Or maybe I’m just pissed off about something else and it works out that way? Hard to say for sure. But it’s a good thing when you or Bob or whoever does such a fine job of explaining your point of view. I know it’s those kind of exchanges that turn a lot of people off on comments, but it’s the more argumentative threads where I see the most truly enlightening insights. Outside of the photos themselves, of course.

    Anyhoo, if jimmyb’s still checking in, I too hope you continue to comment here. If you let it, burn will help you become a much better photographer, no matter your starting point. And you can help us become better photographers as well.

  • WOW, best work I’ve seen on BURN. finally something different…yes, DIFFERENT…better yet, UNEXPECTED!
    “two thumbs up” ;)

  • Magnificent, beautiful, BEAUTIFUL!
    What else to say?

    Maybe one tiny thing … with so so many different subtopics whirling together, I would try to relate the begining and the end of the essay so you get some sort of visual “clamp”. To take away the feeling of a random order – IF you want this kind of thing. I personally often prefer it – albeit sometimes the feeling of randomness is important to the subject. Maybe you feel this is the case here?

    I do not know if I should congratulate you on being published here, or BURN on having your publish here :)

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