Photographer Reveals the Real Detroit

Once the vibrant Motor City, Detroit very quickly lost half of its population and gained a bad rap for being a failed city. It’s often depicted as a broken down city, full of abandoned homes, boarded up businesses, widespread poverty and rampant crime. But one photographer sees the beauty of Detroit—the beauty and spirit that lives in its residents. Documentary photographer Wayne Lawrence shares some stories of the people of Detroit:

Lawrence was asked to photograph Detroit as part of National Geographic’s Exposure series. Born in St. Kitts and now based in Brooklyn, New York, he always tries to capture the human element and focuses on communities that are often overlooked by the media.

For this assignment, he traveled to the Motor City to photograph the run down neighborhoods, meeting people who have real stories along the way.

woman in her living room in detroit

Rebecca Graham, 99, sits surrounded by portraits of five generations of her family in her Midtown home. She has lived in this house since the 1950s and has seen profound changes in the city.

Every day the residents are surrounded by decay and rebirth—from crumbling homes and empty lots to homes and buildings being rebuilt. But, what may first appear to be a sad and too far gone city is actually thriving with hope and spirit.

artist portrait

Portrait of an Artist in Detroit

guy riding bike in detroit

Eddie Chrzan (Bullethead) was born and raised in Detroit. He gets around the city on his bikes. For casual rides he rolls out his Schwinn Sting-Ray, his “lit-up bike.”

As Lawrence says, it’s all about the people. No matter what you say about the city—the politics, the economy—when you get down to it, it’s always about the people.

“It’s a hard knock city; Detroit is a place built on struggle. Anywhere you find places like this, there’s bound to be beauty and soul.”

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