Detroit is a large metropolis whose unique history that partially mirrors the history of Turin.
The pictures that Peter Ott placed in their Detroit collection come from a collaboration with photographer Geoff George in the context of an artistic, cultural exchange project between Turin and Detroit, highlighting the differences and similarities of the two cities.
The history of this city and its rapid, unavoidable decline are a sign of the Western world’s contradictions.
During the economic boom, Detroit was the city with the highest per-capita income in the United States, its fortune came from its vocation towards the car industry, which at the time was the leading economic force of many counties, including Italy. And yet, now we know that these cities did not move towards the future that many hoped.
Knowing about Detroit’s brilliant past, it’s all the more incredible to see the city today, after a few decades and following its decline. The first signs of instability started to show in the late ‘70s, the car market moved abroad and jobs started to be lost.
The social structure started crumbling and racial tension became more and more disruptive, exacerbating the emergence of ghettoes that was taking place in all American cities.
Affluent started moving in growing numbers towards the suburbs which, with a contribution from Hollywood, became a part of the American dream.
This gradual depopulation of the inner city, in a couple of decades let to halving the population of Detroit which, following a trend that was replicated in other cities, meant that entire neighbourhoods were abandoned.
The great 2008 crisis was the death knell of the already agonising city of Detroit, which officially declared bankruptcy in 2013. The American dream had failed, poverty was tangible and, as can be imagined, the city recorded the highest crime rate in the United States.
Detroit is still in a difficult situation today, but a new growth in small and medium business, together with a vibrant artistic movement, offers a small glimmer of hope.
House rents are significantly lower than average and have made living in the city attractive to many artists, who responded to the city’s call to action to clean up the graffiti-covered wall of the city and cover them with their creativity and cultural dynamism.
This is the backdrop of the Detroit images, with their meaning, their history and their anticipation of a new cultural blossoming. Each work is unique since the graffiti are often overwritten with new images and colours, which makes each of them a unique frame of increasing intrigue and prestige.