The Face of Detroit at Affirmations

The Face of Detroit at Affirmations

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Ferndale 115 News Wire, 10/01/2011)

Looking into the eyes of the faces on the wall at Affirmations, it’s impossible to tell which of the subjects are homeless, and which simply live in poverty.

There is Reddrick, riding with his broken-legged dog Possum in a basket on his handlebars, looking for anyone who can help his injured friend.  There is Kenny who lives in a three-story abandoned building with a wheelchair stashed on each floor that he reaches by pulling himself up the stairs.  And Betty, or Jan or Lee, depending on when you ask.  It’s hard to say what her story is, because she doesn’t seem to know herself.

These are some of the faces captured by Kresge Foundation fellowship winning photographer Bruce Giffin.

Giffin used to photograph abandoned buildings, back before it was considered cool.  But now as mainstream media gobble up what the rest of Detroit calls “ruin porn,” the Dearborn Heights photographer shifts his lens away from the bleak surroundings and focuses on the inhabitants of the ruins.

“I’m not one of those photographers who stands across the street with a zoom lens to get pictures of people,” Giffin said.  “I talk to them first and find out who they are. What’s their story?”

Those stories were shared on Sept. 8, 2011 as Giffin’s collection “The Face of Detroit” opened at the Pittman-Puckett Gallery inside Affirmations (290 W. 9 Mile).  A packed house enjoyed an alcohol-free evening and a short speech from Giffin about the message behind his work.

“We are all a paycheck or two away from being homeless,” he said.  “These are all people just like you and me, and any one of us can end up in that situation.”

He said we need to look at the individuals in Detroit and “understand.”

“Our future is in these folks,” he said.

The event being dry was to prove a point as well.  “It seems obscene to me to stand here holding a glass of wine, enjoying myself, when alcohol was what brought a lot of people to the streets in the first place,” Giffin said.

The Face of Detroit runs through October, and any part of the sale of any prints will be donated back to Affirmations.  “I think this is a very impressive and unique collection,” said Mark McMillan, Event and Sponsorship Manager at Affirmations.  “Each one tells its own story.  I could stare for hours and see new details about each one.”

For more information about the Pittman-Puckett Gallery and other Affirmations events and features, go to  For more about Bruce Giffin’s Face of Detroit collection, go to  For other Art news, check out our Arts and Entertainment Section.

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