In continuation of my previous work, Detroit: Unbroken Down, which documented the lives of struggling residents, A Detroit Nocturne relies more heavily on the absence of the people who inhabit Detroit. But this is not to say that I’m not aware of their presence. These photographs represent a visual document that speaks to the quiet determination of its residents, both as independent shop operators and as home owners who have survived the long and difficult path of living in a post-industrial city, stripped of economic prosperity and opportunity. In many rust-belt cities like Detroit, people’s lives often hang in the balance as neighborhoods support and provide for each other through job creation, ad-hoc community involvement, moral and spiritual support, and a well honed do-it-yourself mentality.
With all the media attention about Detroit’s rebirth and revival, it’s important to note that many neighborhoods throughout the city have been surviving for years, relying on local merchants and businesses that operate on a cash-only basis, which have stuck it out through decades of economic decline. Relying on a strong sense of self-preservation, individuals struggle to survive by maintaining a healthy sense of connection without the fear of giving up. All of these establishments, whether large or small, are in many ways a marker of the ongoing story that is Detroit, and a testament to the tenacity of the city’s residents. who are trying desperately to hold on to what is left of the social and economic fabric of Detroit.
These photographs speak to that truth without casting an overly sentimental gaze. I’ve chosen to make these images at night, not only to put more emphasis on their locale by presenting them in an unfamiliar light, but also to introduce a moment of quiet and calm reflection. Pieces of the past, present, and future are rendered here for careful consideration. They are, after all, the physical evidence of where we have carved our collective ambitions and lived out our dreams.
Dave Jordano is an award-winning documentary photographer based in Chicago, Illinois. Jordano has exhibited both internationally and nationally and his work is included in several private, corporate and museum collections, most notably: The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Detroit Institute of Arts; and the Mary & Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University.
In 2015, Jordano was awarded the Peter Urban Legacy and Best of Show Award from the Griffin Museum of Photography’s annual competition. He was also awarded a finalist position in the triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition from the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC, and received the prestigious $50,000 AIMIA-AGO Photography Prize in Canada.
Jordano’s first book, Articles of Faith, documents small African American storefront churches in Chicago and was published in April 2009 by The Center for American Places. His second book, Detroit: Unbroken Down, documents the cultural and societal characteristics of the struggling but resilient residents of Detroit––Jordano’s hometown––and was published by PowerHouse Books in 2015.