Beaten, but unbroken

Realistic (but hopeful) portraits of Detroit by Dave Jordano.


This Stim writer grew up in the shadow of Detroit, which means knowing many people who spent their artsy phases looking for dilapidated homes or crumbling, abandoned buildings in the city to photograph. So many people were doing it, the term “ruin porn” was coined to describe the wave of online slideshows that were less about documenting the demise of once thriving architecture and neighbourhoods, and more about having something cool and edgy to post on their photography blog. It was around this time that Dave Jordano showed up.

Jordano, a photographer who was born in Detroit but is now based in Chicago, first started his “Detroit: Unbroken Down” series of photographs in 2010 and still regularly updates the series, with a book collecting the photos set to come out next month from Powerhouse Books. Like others who have turned their lens on the city, Jordano focuses on areas that have perhaps seen better days.

But what separates Jordano’s work from the rest is that is doesn’t glorify the city’s ruins; it glorifies the people who are able to live among it and the things they do while they’re there (as well as a couple shots of the neighbouring Windsor, Ontario). From the kids who still make full use of the basketball courts even though the school next to it has shut down, to community clean-ups on vacant lots, to hopeful murals and stuffed animal memorials, it’s about finding glimmers of hope in between the downfall.

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