Dave Jordano: Detroit Unbroken Down
Dave Jordano has always impressed me–with his person and his work. I came across one of his photographs at an auction in Los Angeles many years ago, and I was immediately intrigued. And then I got to know Dave and his work in a more significant way and began to understand that he is a compassionate and dedicated seer, totally committed to his craft. Dave is a documentarian with an ability to find beauty and pathos in the people and places who cross his path. His portrait work is some of the best, allowing his subjects to be photographed with dignity and respect and providing a window into their worlds. Dave’s years of walking the streets of his hometown of Detroit have inspired a masterful body of work that explores a once vibrant city and its residents who have learned how to cope with change. I am thrilled to share his long overdue monograph, Detroit: Unbroken Down, published by Powerhouse Books. Large and beautifully printed with essays by Nancy Watson Barr, Curator Detroit Institute of the Arts, Sharon Zukin, Professor of Sociology, Brooklyn College, and an interview by Dawoud Bey, Professor of Art, Columbia College Chicago.
Dave was born in Detroit, Michigan in 1948. He received a BFA in photography from the College for Creative Studies in 1974. In 1977, he established a successful commercial photography studio in Chicago, shooting major print campaigns for national advertising agencies. Jordano has exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is included in the permanent collection of several private, corporate, and museum institutions, most notably the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts Boston; the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; the Detroit Institute of Arts; the Detroit Historical Museum; The Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, Evanston; the Harris Bank Collection; and the Federal Reserve Bank.
Dave Jordano returned to his hometown of Detroit to document the people who still live in what has become one of the country’s most economically challenging cities. Against a backdrop of mass abandonment through years of white flight, unemployment hovering at almost three times the national average, city services cut to the bone, a real estate collapse of massive proportions, and ultimately filing the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, Jordano searches for the hope and perseverance of those who have had to endure the hardship of living in a post-industrial city that has fallen on the hardest of times.
From the lower Southeast Side where urban renewal and government programs slowly became the benchmark of civic failure, to the dwindling enclaves of neighborhoods like Delray and Poletown (once blue-collar neighborhoods that have all but vanished), Jordano seeks to dispel the popular myth perpetrated through the media that Detroit is an empty wasteland devoid of people. He encounters resolute individuals determined to make this city a place to live, from a homeless man who decided to build his own one-room structure on an abandoned industrial lot because he was tired of sleeping on public benches, to a group of squatters who repurposed long-abandoned houses on a street called Goldengate. Jordano discovers and rebroadcasts a message of hope and endurance to an otherwise greatly misunderstood and misrepresented city.
Detroit: Unbroken Down is not a document solely about what’s been destroyed, but even more critically, about all that has been left behind and those who remain to cope with it.
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