The photo book Your Town Tomorrow acknowledges a resilient community in the midst of challenging transition. Although documentary in format, it is also a very personal series to me as it chronicles my life and work in Detroit, the communities where I lived, and a lot of my friends and neighbors. After 10 years of photographing, I’m ready to publish a book of these images, and with your support I can make this happen.
Why is this book important now?
Detroit has been the site of complicated change since I moved here twelve years ago. New development and economic interest, venture capitalists, and corporate investors have again altered the structure of the city. The national media’s narrative of Detroit claims it’s a “new” city of great economic opportunity, but it hardly talks about the people who have been here. The people is what truly makes a city; they are essential to Detroit’s culture and vitality.
Showing Detroit without its people is misinformation. This happened during the economic downturn of 2008 when national media characterized Detroit by decline and decay. My work has always been a reaction against the portrayal of Detroit as desolate city full of industrial ruins. There’s not enough attention on neighborhood organizations and activism, and I hope that my photos can contribute to their visibility.
Shot largely during the Obama years, these photographs also activate a larger conversation about America today. When we feel our political system is failing us, how do we move forward? The grassroots organizations and activist groups in Detroit have pioneered creative ways of dealing with the country’s social and economic issues.
Who am I? And what is my motivation?
In 2002 I received a scholarship to study photography at Cranbrook Academy of Art, a school in a near suburb of Detroit. During my time there I frequently left to go photograph in Detroit. After graduating, I moved back to the Netherlands but soon realized that I left my heart back in Detroit. I had made lasting friendships and created a feeling of incompletion by leaving there. In 2006, after struggling to relocate in Amsterdam, I decided to move back and set up my studio practice in Detroit indefinitely. It wasn’t until then that I got to know the city on a much more intimate level.
In 2007 I began the Your Town Tomorrow series by photographing community gardens and urban farms that were increasingly emerging. Detroit has a strong history of social activism, and through these gardens, people were dealing with issues of food security and self-reliance. From then on, the inspiration for this series has been the people of Detroit and the revitalization of the city on a grass-roots level.
This interest sparked another project called the Walk-in Portrait Studio where I staged temporary portrait studios around the city to document people who are active in the betterment of their communities. The photographs were then part of a solo exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 2014-2015 and then entered their permanent collection alongside images from Your Town Tomorrow.
What will your contribution support?
This crowdfunding campaign is the first step in helping me reach my overall fundraising goal and publish Your Town Tomorrow. Publishing is very expensive, costing around $20,000-25,000, and your contribution will help initiate this process. This first stage of fundraising will include hiring an oral historian to interview the people featured in the book and paying a designer to create the book's final layout.
With this initial fundraising goal, I can meet an upcoming matching grant to support the entire publishing costs. Ultimately, most of the money we raise will go to the actual production of the book - like printing, binding, and distribution.
The final product should be published in December 2018 and will include around 75 selected photographs with captions, including interviews and personal accounts from the people in the photographs.
Your Town Tomorrow has always been self-funded. While my recent print sales have helped with some of the photo book costs, publishing expenses far exceed my budget. I also see this crowdfunding campaign as a way to engage with people both in Detroit and elsewhere. I’m looking forward to expanding my audience to other cities in the United States, Europe, and beyond.
Rewards for your support
Postcards: A set of five images from the Your Town Tomorrow series.
Poster: Exhibition poster from the Kunsthalle in Vienna, Austria, featuring the image: Diaz family and their ‘48 Chevrolet Fleetline, 2008
Limited archival prints in 7.5 x 10" and 15 x 20": Please choose an image from a wide selection of the Your Town Tomorrow series, viewable here. Below are some of my favorites. They run in a limited edition, so some may not be available, but just contact me with any questions or requests at firstname.lastname@example.org
Risks and challenges
I expect the book to be published by December 2018, but because we are in the early stages of the production process, delays may arise. I will regularly update contributors with the status of the project - and if the book needs more time, I'll let you know and send something special in the meantime for those who pre-ordered the book.
Thank you very much for your help.
Whether you have pledged or helped to spread the word, your support means a lot!
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