2012 - Ongoing
Michigan, United States
This is a story about Flint, Michigan, both as it’s perceived and experienced. Flint no longer needs an introduction after this past year and it probably hasn’t needed one for the past 30 years. The city has long been the the poster child for the American dream gone wrong. Between Michael Moore and the Water Crisis, everyone knows what to expect when they hear the name “Flint”. Economic, political and social dysfunction. In a perfect world, these photos would be conveying some other reality, they would show you another story. But these ideas about Flint are accurate. Flint is a place of struggle. It’s true and everybody knows it. And that’s what this body of work is all about.
I’m interested in how ridiculous and terrible what has happened to this city is. There's something surreal and unbelievable about a place of 100,000 people snarled in this much drama and the photos here are meant to convey what it feels like on the ground. The visceral reality. The dirty shoes. To be in the dirty shoes of Flint means you’re not on the ground. It means you’re standing up. Resilient and proud. There is a lot in Flint that people don’t get to see. My goal in this project is not to show people someplace that they don't know. My goal is to put them in a place that they think they do know.
Some of it is intimate and character-driven. Briana and her son Fatdaddy (his real name is Bradford but no one calls him that). Sabrina and her granddaughter Hazel. Peanut, Frost, DJ and Balasko. Some of it is about the context in which they live. The handgun hidden next to the pancake mix. The body under the yellow tarp found on a morning walk. The billboards reminding people that boiling water does not remove lead. Some of it is about theater. The ex-mayor eating a coney dog after he lost the election. The High School welcoming President Obama. The Police officer testing a gas mask as he prepares for civil unrest that ultimately never comes.
What happens in Flint happens in many other urban American cities. But in Flint, it happens all at once. It’s what make Flint so important in the national conversation. It’s like a testing zone for American mismanagement. Eventually, something will have to change. Flint can’t go on like this. Better seems really far fetched. Worse seems almost unimaginable. Crazy as it seems people will be there no matter what. Cause they’re proud. Or cause they’re stuck. Flint is a failed place. With a lot of character. That’s the part of the story that I want to focus on. Somewhere between those two facts is reality.