Detroit is my hometown, but I've been gone for four decades. These photographs are my reaction to all the negative press that Detroit has had to endure over the years. I wanted to see for myself what everyone was talking about, and like everyone else I was initially drawn in by the crumbling factory interiors, the broken down infrastructure, and the empty houses and office buildings that make up a third of the city. It took me a week of shooting this kind of subject matter to make me realize that I was contributing nothing to a subject that most everyone already knew much about, especially those who had been living there for years.

When I looked beyond the physical spaces and concentrated on the individuals living there, something else came into focus. The people were troubled, struggling, and coping with the harsh reality of living in a post-industrial city that has fallen on the hardest of times—but they were also surviving and occasionally thriving.

These individuals demonstrate that Detroit is not the city of death and decay that everyone was reporting in the media, but one that shows signs of human activity and movement. My hope is that this work will convey the many ways in which Detroit is a city made up of small communities, all building a way of life through perseverance, hope, and sheer determination. A city clinging to the vanished ideals of an urban oasis—that once hailed itself as one of the most beautiful and prosperous cities in America—but one which has now fallen from grace.

Thus, this personal project is not about what's been destroyed, but more importantly about what's been left behind and about those who are coping with what remains.

—Dave Jordano


Editors' Note: Don't miss the work of all the other winners and finalists from the LensCulture Exposure Awards 2014. In total, you'll find 31 visually delightful works from across the world.

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