BROKEN LINE (Detroit, Michigan, USA; 2007-2010)
In 1927, the New York Times described the citizens of Detroit as "the most prosperous slice of average humanity that now exists or ever has existed." Today, as the City of Detroit flirts with bankruptcy, the former home to seemingly unlimited economic opportunity it is now known as the poorest large city in the United States.
The “Motor City” has fallen a long way since its heyday as the world automotive manufacturing capital. Over the last 60 years, the steady outsourcing of automotive sector jobs has caused Detroit’s population to shrink from 1.9 million to just over 700,000. Residents are now moving away from Detroit at a rate of one person every 20 minutes.
This ongoing exodus has left vast swaths of desolate urban landscape within Detroit that are the scars of a large-scale economic collapse. It’s not unusual to find blocks with only one or two inhabited houses, or others where the land has even reverted back to wild prairies. With no economic engine to drive the city, the overwhelming size of Detroit (about 140,000 square miles) has led to a collapse of the essential services network that used to maintain it. The Detroit fire department faces yearly cutbacks, while trying to cope with rising incidences of arson within the thousands abandoned houses in the city. Groups of laid off auto workers strip the precious metals out of the abandoned auto factories where they once worked. Stories of homicide and public school closures bookend the Sunday morning sermons that fall upon the ears of shrinking congregations.
In many ways, Detroit has hit rock bottom. Decades of outsourcing labour, corrupt politicians at City Hall and poor urban planning have left Detroit unable to diversify and adapt to its changing economic landscape. What’s left today is seen by some as a colossal failure of capitalism. To others, Detroit is a new kind of opportunity — a blank canvass where a new idea can be born.