Exploring Flint, Michigan: Day 1

Making Images Again in Vehicle City

When someone brings up Flint, Michigan, the conversation usually revolves around the topics of lead-tainted water, low income and crime. Flint has had—and continues to have— highs and lows. But, here’s the thing about Flint: the people who live in that storied city are incredible.

Flint, Mich.
Camera: Canon 6D

Most of the folks there have been dealt struggle after struggle and yet they persevere. Flint is actually one of the most incredible cities I know of because the people there are so mightily resilient.

Years ago, I was a photojournalism intern at the Flint Journal and it was everything I’d dreamed of and more. One of my favorite aspects of being a photojournalist is that it allows a person to learn about a community by being immersed in it; by meeting a variety of people and listening to their stories.

The Flint Journal. Construction on Hill Road and U.S. 23. Flint, Mich.
Camera: Nikon D2H

After completing six photo internships and two staff photographer positions, I’m here to tell you that beautiful moments are taking place every day, all the time. Also, there’s is something that bonds each and every one of us: We’re all on this earth together.

Flint, Mich.
Camera: Canon 6D

Getting back to Flint: it is a place that means different things to different people. It’s a place I enjoy making my way to whenever possible. I had an opening to make some images in Flint and obviously jumped at the chance.

Flint, Michigan

My photo excursions take me where I choose to go and I could not have been more excited to be in Flint again. Like any place, some of it was the same since I’d last been there, and some of it was different. I hadn’t been to Flint since news of their water had been broken.

The Flint River. Flint, Mich.
Camera: Canon 6D

This particular trip to Flint would be for three days—Friday through Sunday—and I had no plans other than to document the city as best I could and to photograph what I observed. Having in-depth stories is a wonderful way to photograph a place but my story was simply to drive and capture images when they were there.

The sidewalks were mostly empty, that was one of the most stark differences. It was a sparsely-populated place the last time I was in Flint but it was even more so now.

Jon Finley (center), of Fenton,head coach of the Flint Rogues Rugby Football Club, conducts practice Thursday at Longway Park. This is Finley’s first season with the team which opens Saturday at Longway Park with its first game at 12:30 p.m. ASSIGNMENT INFO: Needs shots of Flint Rogues rugby team coach Jon “Floyd” Finley conducted practice for a feature story on Finley being the team’s new coach this season. The team practices at Longway Park. (The Flint Journal / Keith King)

I couldn’t help but stop and make an image of the Flint River, since it played an integral part in the water problems there.

My type of photography there was like street photography, but mostly without people. There weren’t any portraits. My photo walks consisted of eventually seeing someone at a distance and including them in an image. Sometimes street photography is like that.

Flint, Mich.
Camera: Canon 6D

The light was beautiful on the Friday I initially arrived there. I arrived in the evening and the sky was clear so the sun was setting low and unencumbered by clouds of any kind.

Photographing abandoned and detritus feels cliche sometimes, since it’s easy to see and photograph. To me, while I was in Flint on that first evening, it was prevalent so I photographed it. The lack of people and the feeling of emptiness that accompanied almost every location was palpable.

So, I noticed the quality of light and what I felt were interesting subjects. It was as simple as that; a lesson here is that sometimes, that’s all it needs to be. As you head out to make pictures, don’t always put pressure on yourself to capture award-winning photos all the time. Be aware that it’s ok to create images your way.

Flint, Mich.
Camera: Canon 6D

After photographing on that first evening, I picked up some barbecue food on the east side of town and then traveled to my lodgings at the Red Roof Inn located on the west side of town. It was cheap and would suit me perfectly for my purposes.

Since I was in Flint for three days, I’ll follow up this blog post with two more blog posts that will cover my days photographing the wonderful city of Flint.

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