This City’s on Fire

On the way to a friend’s house in Southfield, MI, I drove over an intersection with good visibility and saw a plume of smoke on the horizon.  Thinking it would be something close, small, and insignificant, I picked up my buddy and we went to check it out.  (We are photographers after all).

Well, as we were heading in the direction of the smoke, we realized it must be bigger than I thought because we didn’t seem to be getting closer.  Turns out it was actually 20 miles away.

From what I gather, it was an abandoned factory complex on Detroit’s West Side and the PD have no idea what happened.

To reiterate the scale, we met up with a volunteer firefighter from a northern suburb.  He was there because he saw the fire from Auburn hills – almost 40 miles away.

Here are some of the shots.

– Jon

One Giant Movie Set

It’s been kind of hit-and-miss with the nice days in Michigan this spring.  Now, I’m not really one to mind rain, but my camera seems to have a rather noticeable aversion to it.  Last week summer came out of nowhere and hasn’t shown signs of leaving.  That paired with a bit of free time, I journeyed into downtown Pontiac for a bit of photography.

If you aren’t local to Metro Detroit, I’ll understand if you don’t really know much about Pontiac.  Let me explain it like so:  If they were looking for somewhere to film “I Am Legend,”  Pontiac wouldn’t even need CGI or set design.  I suppose that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the point.  “Desolate” is a good word  for this situation.

I like to refer to Pontiac as Detroit v2.0.  In addition to the lack of anything redeeming, the city seems to be headed toward 2 extremes of a spectrum.  On one hand, artists and galleries are making their way downtown and creating a kind of depressing version of Ferndale-Corktown.  Also, by my count, there are half a dozen locally well-known nightclubs.  There’s also Erebus, a rather famous haunted house.

On the other hand the city is like a ghetto.  Nearly all the schools have closed, which forced the assimilation of multiple schools under one roof and has resulted in more than a handful of gang brawls, including shootings and the like.  Driving around, I feel like perhaps 1 in 7 buildings is abandoned or in need of demolishing.  A good 80% of the businesses that are still open are all lumped into a 3-block stretch of a single street.  I even drove past the homeless shelter yesterday and noticed there was a special parking area just for female staff members (it’s well-lit and right next to an entrance).

Even the cops left.  Seriously – last year the Pontiac PD was decommissioned.  The city is now paroled by State PD.

I’ve always liked Pontiac and I don’t want to say it’s hopeless, but when I see news articles about the “revitalization of Pontiac,” I usually just ignore them and move on.  Detroit has a fighting chance – enough people care and are actively trying to improve the city.  Pontiac isn’t really getting the same energy.

Well, scattered among the vast seas of parking lots, there are quite a few grand structures that deserve some photographic attention.  So, I suppose I’ve found my new project.  Here are a few of my favorite shots so far.  They will be on my fine art site and available for purchase after I feel I’ve really sunk my teeth into the project.

– Jon