For Dazed’s autumn art residency, Michael Avedon travelled to the city of Detroit. Shot with a Rolleiflex, the 23-year-old photographer’s stark images find beauty in the decay of the city; they linger over the deteriorating grandeur of abandoned buildings and capture the once-proud Motor City in economic ruin.
Juxtaposed against this disintegration are intimate portraits of local legends like renowned artist Gilda Snowden, graffitist Antonio “Shades” Agee and the curator Robert Sestok. It was an experience that Avedon found illuminating. “There was a lot of pride in a city that’s essentially isolated,” he explains. “These people are trying and they want their city to succeed. There’s a lot of hope – there’s light and optimism here.”
In his own way, Avedon is following in the footsteps of his grandfather, the late Richard Avedon, who spent five years living in and out of motels, photographing the locals left of the Mississippi for the seminal body of work, In the American West. “It’s utterly brave and shows the real artist,” Avedon says of the series taken between 1979 and 1984. “He was searching for humans who suffered and he was trying to find something about himself in those pictures. My grandfather was obsessed with contradiction and I look for that as well. I’m open to any city, any location. I love putting myself in one world but dabbling in all these other spaces.” The resulting series of photos amounts to a compassionate, clear-eyed tribute to the indomitable human spirit.