I have been called many things over the years, but “Moon Child” is one of my faves. The name is in reference to a photo series of Detroit I worked on for a few years that involved photographing some of the city’s most notable abandoned buildings during a full moon. The series includes photos of Detroit landmarks, such as the Michigan Central Depot a.k.a. the “The Train Station,” the GAR (Grand Army of the Republic) Building, and the Book-Cadillac Hotel (which at the time was abandoned but has since been renovated into the Westin Book Cadillac.) The whole idea for this series may sound simple enough, but I had to have a complex strategy to accomplish what I did. First, I had to figure out what buildings to shoot, then which part of the building to feature, and then calculate where I wanted the moon to be on the horizon to juxtapose it with the building in the photo. The seasons also determined how high or low the moon would be in the sky. Next, I had to play the weather game. I would only shoot on a night with racing winds and puffy clouds, so when the clouds passed in front of the moon during a long exposure they would brighten and make the moon appear larger than it is. This combination created an effect of movement in the sky, painting it with clouds and moonlight during the timed exposure. The project also required venturing into the darkened landscapes of Detroit at one, two or maybe three o’clock in the morning. The results were well worth the effort. The images feel haunting, artistic and original.
My next series involved long exposure night shots of occupied historic and modern buildings in Detroit. Instead of focusing on the abandoned side of the city, I decided it was time to focus on the RENAISSANCE! This is where my photos of Detroit series started to gain a bit of popularity within the city’s diverse, talented and eccentric art community. I had work showing annually at Pure Detroit and many other galleries across the city and suburbs. During this period I became exposed to the incredibly vibrant culture of art and artists in Detroit. Art communities, galleries and landmarks, such as the The Heidelberg Project, The Detroit Artists Market, CPOP, The Scarab Club, the Russell Industrial Center, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) and many others influenced my business partner Jeffrey Matlock (Rest in peace, brotha.) and I to have gallery shows at our photography studio, Octane Photographic. We had the honor of exhibiting photography, sketches and paintings from exciting local and national artists. Maybe someday we will have a revisited version of our most popular annual show, “Motor City Rocks and Rolls!” The show featured Detroit-area photographers’ images of Detroit-made vehicles and Detroit-area musicians. Both Jeffrey Matlock and I gave many of our students (He taught digital photography and I tutored digital photography at Oakland Community College.) the opportunity to showcase their work at our studio to help them get exposure and provide a stepping stone into the Detroit art scene.
Detroit was referred to as the Paris of the Midwest for its magnificent architecture. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, following the rise of the automobile industry came the construction of many of Detroit’s Gilded Age mansions and buildings. Automobile wealth eventually led to the boom in downtown Detroit business and the construction of the city’s early 20th century skyscrapers. Magnificent buildings inspired by many types of architecture shaped the Detroit skyline and the soul of the Motor City. The city today still has a diverse collection of design eras and styles, which motivated me to start taking photos of Detroit buildings and architecture. Go ahead and take a walk around Downtown Detroit; let the history of this breathtaking pride and craftsmanship encircle you. It is what fuels us Detroiters and gives us the hard-working edge we wear with pride. We may get beat up in the media on a regular basis, but this just fuels our desire to work harder and be the best we know we can be, and already are.
Please check out Jeff White’s new website of Detroit, Michigan photos for purchase!
Coming soon: A post and photos on a new series, photos of Detroit’s modern buildings and architecture.