Things started to go very wrong for Detroit — formerly the most muscular of the USA’s industrial powerhouses — in the 1970s. The collapse of the city’s manufacturing sector led to large scale migration of Detroit’s workforce and the companies that had employed them, and the downward spiral continued sharply until the situation hit rock bottom in 2013. The city was forced to file for bankruptcy — the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history — and remained under federal supervision in a state of economic emergency for 17 months.
Detroit is now officially autonomous again and, in theoretical economic terms at least, on the road to recovery, but life is still an enormous struggle for a large proportion of the population. Detroit native Dave Jordano has returned to his hometown to document the reality of the situation — both in terms of what has been destroyed but also what has remained in the aftermath of Detroit’s horribly fascinating decline.
With unemployment at three times the national average, poverty is an inescapably oppressive force in Jordano’s images, its force clearly visible everywhere from abandoned buildings to the expressions in the eyes of Detroit’s abandoned people. Detroit: Unbroken Down by Dave Jordano is published by powerHouse Books.