In conjunction with our annual photo issue, we are publishing photo essays of long term, in-progress, personal work by contributing FADER photographers about the people and changing landscape of America. More photos from Dominic Nahr’s “In This Forgotten City,” along with his personal statement about the project, are after the jump.
It is no surprise to hear that industry giants General Motors and Ford have had their worst quarterly loss in the history of both companies and, as one resident of Detroit puts it quite bluntly, "The bottom is falling out of the wagon." With the military spending 3.1 trillion dollars on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, it becomes quite obvious that the government's priorities lay elsewhere than with their own people, because like many things American, it’s all about the quick fix and little for the long-term investment. This means that the people of Detroit will have to fend for themselves for a while longer.
Sadly the fall of this city is like a tragic opera, but its composers are the hip hop artists who spit their words of ghetto, hood, dollars and killings. These real time situations are perpetuated even further by politicians, police and people out to get their own. This gives the residents left in the hood their own anthem of struggle and survival. The words "Tomorrow ain't coming, gotta live for today," by Trouble, a former drug dealer, who is now selling his CDs at a Detroit Gas Station, ring true for many. As Mrs. Anderson, a mother who is determined her children will not become statistics of Detroit’s demise, states: "We will never be able to escape the shadows of the plantation."
On a cold day in early February 2008 I took my first steps on a Detroit road. All around me are burnt and boarded up houses all empty, there is no one in sight. I then come across two men. Our conversation began with the taller of the two. I told them I was a journalist and his reply to me was, "Well you talking to me means you're either a undercover cop or a crackhead. Either way there are three niggas watching you right now." I instinctively took a step back and thought this might not be the way I wanted my first day in Detroit to turn out. He smiled at me, "But don’t worry, I own this block." This is when I realized I was standing in a sea of foreclosures. His family's homes were the only functioning ones on this road. There is no wonder that Detroit has the highest foreclosure rate in America.