Detroit, love and the lack thereof

I fell in love with Detroit when I wandered through a street with my best friend, snapping photos as we sneaked up on Michigan Central Station. I fell in love with Detroit when I drove through the city alone for the first time despite my parents’ expected fears. I fell in love with Detroit when a homeless man stopped me and my friend to tell us about growing up and fulfilling our dreams. I fell in love with Detroit when I locked hands with people I didn’t know in Mexicantown, praying over what may be, for some of them, their only food for the week. I fell in love for Detroit when I biked through the city with thousands of other people, laughing and yelling and taking in a new angle of the neighborhoods.
Detroit may look like it is falling apart, but beyond the side the media always lets us know about, there’s beauty, there’s community, and there is love. Hate in and for Detroit can only survive if we let it. Poverty and death and blight are very real, but so is love. Love is powerful, love is life changing, and love is so desperately needed.
It’s so easy to avoid what needs to be changed, so easy to hate what needs love the most. Detroit, looming under a cloud of stigma, Detroit needs love. And I fall in love with Detroit each time I step foot inside its borders.


This Wild Little Dream

I’m starting off with the generic thing I see some variation of plastered all over social media at random points of the year:
If you had told me this was what my life would be a few years ago, I would have thought you were crazy.


Shooting a concert with my best friend Aubree last fall

I never would have expected to be where I am in the least. From the days of awkwardly holding a camera and pretending I knew what I was doing because I could control the ISO and didn’t have to shoot with the flash up, to slowly figuring out how to control the shutter speed and so on, there was never a moment I sat down and thought, “Wow, one day this camera could become the object my entire life revolves around.” When I wrapped my hand around the kit lens that came with my first DSLR, I didn’t even imagine that one day I would invest in a lens that would not only make my arm fall asleep, but capture photos that would get my images plastered all over the place. When I took up journalism, it was writing that drew me to the field; I didn’t think photos would tie into that deal. I loved taking photos but I didn’t see myself as a photographer. You know what? I still sometimes don’t.


On the field before shooting the Michigan football game

When I shot my first set of senior pictures, I was thrilled but I thought that was it. When I shot my first concert, I couldn’t contain my happiness but, scared and lost in the photo pit, I was certain it wouldn’t happen again. When I shot a concert with my best friend, I felt something so powerful about photography and the friendship formed partially by it. When I shot my first festival, a pride filled me that I could never explain nor replicate. And the day I walked out onto the field of Michigan Stadium clutching my camera and staring in awe at the audience, nothing could compare. These feelings that I was on the wrong path or that I was going no where seemed to be plaguing me but in that moment, it all made perfect sense to me. My camera, my passion, again reminded me that there is value and purpose in my life. More importantly, I was allowed to show my passion to those around me in a way that could translate both to those close to me and strangers alike.


Spending time with one of my best friends, Sarah, during the halftime of a Michigan game

Through a camera and some dreams I thought I wouldn’t see beyond sleep, I have been able to find myself. Who I thought I was and what I wanted was shaken up right before my very eyes. With every single opportunity that has come my way, I have discovered what matters to me, what brings me true happiness, and what has the power to change my mood and my mind. For some, following my accomplishments is something they enjoy and they are readily willing to share their approval with me. For me, knowing that I have support and love out there is one of the most beautiful things. While I still struggle through not knowing exactly what I want out of this life, it is so comforting to know that my joy isn’t something I have to enjoy alone.

Detroit, in all its glory

A home away from home is defined as, “A place where one is as happy, relaxed, or comfortable as in one’s own home.”

My home is in the same city I have lived in since I was born. Aside from that, my home away from home is the city of Detroit. I would rather be in Detroit.

I have a love for that city that is deep and endearing.

And no, I am not just talking about the happy go lucky atmosphere of downtown in the middle of the day during a sporting event or large concert. I am talking about the abandoned buildings, the homeless, the trash on the streets, the spray paint that peppers the buildings. The city has so much to offer. From the advice you will get from someone that calls the streets home to the hope witnessed when an old building slowly but surely gets a face lift to the beauty of a mural covering crumbling walls, Detroit has a lot to offer. From a booming past, the present is beaming with hope. It will be a slow process, but Detroit will be great. Detroit is great. I’ve seen the dark and abandoned streets, I’ve heard the horror stories of murders, robberies. But that seems to be what people want to hear. Detroit is known for the violence, Detroit gets the media attention when it is put on a negative blast.

When I was young, I was sheltered from what lurks just outside of downtown. Now nearly 20 and fascinated with urban cities, art, and people and lifestyles in general, I have ventured down the dingy streets. I have seen the burned out houses, the boards on the windows, the makeshift memorials honoring killed loved ones..It is all sobering in a way, really. This past winter I attended an event downtown where the streets were packed to capacity; I could barely even move. It really got me thinking about how the city is constantly badmouthed, but a family fun event, sport, or concert will draw in the crowds. Even with all the bad that is just blocks from where you’re enjoying yourself, the city still pulls in those from the suburbs. Of course, there are still those people that refuse to get near the city, it happens, but each time I visit Detroit, the population visiting is growing. Just the past two times, I saw many, many people from out of state. It’s comforting that people that probably hear much worse about the city can come and visit. I’m often asked by people who haven’t experienced the city if it really is that bad. Like anything, there is bad. I have learned to accept that, and instead of fear it, embrace what the city has to offer.

Detroit is beautiful. Beauty does not have a single definition, so yes, all of Detroit has beauty in its own way. There is beauty in a bustling downtown, beauty along the river, beauty in the art, beauty in the people in the city. There is so much beauty in the people fighting for their city. Hate is not going to fix Detroit; only love and understanding will save the city of Detroit. I believe that while there is much progress still to be made, steps have been progressive. I am truly hopeful and excited to see what Detroit’s future holds.