The Face of Detroit

Detroit, Michigan was know as the the world’s traditional automotive center…. When the automotive centers shut down, the people of Detroit lost everything.   Bruce Giffin, a local photographer from Detroit documents the stories of these people.  Some of these people have been homeless all their lives and some found themselves homeless because they lost their jobs…but even with their plight, they are survivors.  
This story is in memory of Susan Brown, who was from Detroit and was working on a documentary to tell the story of the struggles of these people.  She spoke about these individual human stories to us and here Bruce Giffin who’s work she supported,  brings the story to life with his photographs.  We wanted to do a story together… She became a great find of us in S4C and we loved her.

Susan passed away today

We all are shocked and touched about the loss. She had this… gentle touch, sensible eyes and deep heart. Her stories, her photos, her words will be missed by all of us.

Susan, we take it from here… Shoot your photos in peace now, wherever you are.



The Face of Detroit

(by Bruce Giffin)

[DISCLAIMER: On “The Face of Detroit” website, 1/3 of the images portray a homeless person; 2/3 of the images portray persons who are NOT homeless. It’s not important to know which…]

I think it’s in the water here…Detroit! The abandoned buildings are not going to save
this city…the politicians aren’t going to save the city either, at least until they save
themselves first…and the people I photograph on the streets aren’t in any position to save
our city! But there must be something in the water that instills the survival instinct in
Detroiters! The people I photograph are not powerful enough to save us by themselves,
but it seems that we Detroiters share that same instinct and eventually our survival will
come from it! Here are some of the survivors I regularly meet…

Elbert has survived on the streets of Detroit for over 35 years. He used to be a school
teacher and you can tell by talking to him that he’s very intelligent!

ELBERT (click to see the gallery)

There’s Jamal who I found walking down the middle of the street on Michigan Avenue at
9:30 Saturday morning dressed in a suit carrying a sign asking for a job. The sign states
that he has resumes with him and his phone number is on the sign…

JAMAL (click to see the gallery)

Next there’s Kenny who lives with his wife Violet in an essentially abandoned 3 story
building in a wheelchair from a surgery gone bad…there’s a different wheelchair on
every floor. When he needs to go to the second floor he crawls up the stairs on his hands
and knees and uses that wheelchair and then crawls back down…

Kenny (click to see the gallery)

Beautiful seven year old Brianna lives in the worst part of the city, Delray, in the shadow
of the Detroit Sewage plant where the smell of raw sewage permeates the air about 90%
of the time…she lives mostly with a smile on her face…

BRIANNA (click to see the gallery)

Rufus lost most of his fingers to frostbite and told me that his check comes on the 3rd of
the month and that he wants to take me to dinner…

RUFUS (click to see the gallery)

I ran across these guys and gals playing this broken down piano singing their hearts out
on the sidewalk…how many people in the corporate world do you meet with that kind of

(click to see the gallery)

Lance is riding around on this rig in 5 degree weather trying to drum up welding business
on one of the worst streets in Detroit…

(click to see the gallery)

Paul from Yes Farm is working in a field surrounded by burned out houses…

PAUL (click to see the gallery)

Caesar decorated his bike with flashing light sabers from Star Wars and they even flash
when the bikes not moving…

CAESAR (click to see the gallery)

As anybody who can read knows, Detroit is in big trouble. I believe our politicians have
a part in putting us here, so chances are they won’t get us out of it. There is a spirit here
that can’t be denied. You can’t keep a Detroiter down; knock us down, and we’ll keep
getting back up. I think it’s only a matter of time before we figure all this out and stand
up again for good. Until then…

Bruce Giffin

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  1. Larry Kotowicz

    Thank you so much for posting this. Susan did love your work & we all will miss her dearly! So glad you’re going to “take it from here”


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