Words: Projects

Angelus Novus 


In 1966 a car driven by an auto executive from Michigan broke down in Tucumcari, New Mexico. My father was the mechanic who fixed his car at a local garage. The man gave my father his card and told him that ‘we need good mechanics up in Detroit’. My father flew up and got a job. We relocated a couple months later. This was the ‘moving on up’ moment for the blue collar middle class, the promise of a better life in the big city. But times have changed. For several years I've been shooting the devastation and remnants of a thousand lives in the neighborhoods I grew up in Detroit to explore past memories. Memories as decayed as the architecture. Recently I went back to Tucumcari and was stunned to see it looking much like Detroit: burned out houses, boarded up businesses, and deserted industrial sites. I started mixing the images I took in Tucumcari with the work from Detroit and a variety of questions came into focus. While it seemed like another example of the disaster of the working class, I had to wonder if those categories, those class distinctions still make sense and the houses and detritus I was shooting also seemed to have lost their definitions as functional objects in the crumbling landscape. Now, they seemed some sort of material in a purgatory between man-built and nature. My previous photographic strategies gave way to capturing more documentary images. Soon I started mixing imagistic approaches as the variety of material becomes an archive mapping the terrain of the personal, social, and economic dimensions of the two cities that form the core of my identity.