Yesterday I read that Detroit, motor city and cradle of the automobile industry in the USA, has filed for bankruptcy, being the largest city to ever do so within the United States. After having visited the place on my North-Eastern American road trip two years ago, I was not surprised at all by this news…
I have hardly visited a huge city that was as desolate and such a ghost town… Apparently once the fourth biggest and most populated city of the country, it has now lost around 2/3rd of it’s population after the collapse of the car industry and the continued economic crisis. Everywhere you look you see derelict and abandoned buildings, giving the city an eery feel.
While there, I met Dave, Blue and Joe, who call themselves the 3 amigos. All 3 were unemployed and I found them drinking a beer in the sun outside a general store. Since October 2011 Michigan law stops all benefits for people who have been unemployed for over 2 years, increasing the problems even further in a city where jobs are hard to come by.
The majestic former train station is in utter decay and is still waiting to be restored and find a new purpose. Apparently there have been dozens of plans for this beautiful building, but none have been executed so far and there is talk of corruption and mismanagement. The debt of Detroit is estimated to be $18 billion or perhaps even as much as 20 billion dollars.
Even so, I met some incredible warm and wonderful people in Detroit and all the other former industrial cities I visited during my trip ‘Looking for Dave’. And despite all the decay, the poverty and the somehow desperate feel of the city, two experiences of beauty and fun will remain connected to Detroit for me.
First is the incredible beautiful mural by Mexican artist Diego Rivera in the Detroit Institute of Arts, depicting the Detroit car industry. A true treasure whose sheer beauty just blew me away.
Secondly, besides cars, Detroit is also the birthplace of Motown records and so I had to visit the place where all these legendary songs were recorded. In the house that is now The Motown Museum, you have to take the obligated tour as you do at Sun Studio in Memphis. But the guide was entertaining and he knew funny details about some songs and their famous singers while guiding you around the place. The ‘moment supreme’ is when you’re in the actual recording studio and they separate the boys from the girls and all of a sudden you find yourself swaying your hips, pushing out your arm and singing ‘Stop in the name of love, before you break my heart…’ at the exact same spot where Diane Ross and her Supremes recorded the song 🙂
I made a portfolio/postcard set about the project ‘Looking for Dave’ that is of course still for sale to support documentary projects like these. The set costs 10€ and can be shipped all around the world. Shipping costs within Belgium 1,75€ , within Europ 3,5€, worldwide 4€ . Contact me here or through the contact form on my website.