‘i.Detroit – A Human Atlas of An American City’ uses photographic portraiture, technology and ancestral DNA to map Detroit.
In his latest work, U.K. artist and photographer Marcus Lyon chose 100 Detroiters through whom to tell the story of Detroit. Using a mix of photographic portraiture, profile, technology and ancestral DNA, i.Detroit – A Human Atlas of An American City is a research-based, people-led exploration of the city.
The Kresge Foundation caught wind of a similar project Lyon had done in Brazil and wanted to commission and fund a repeat here. “I mean, it was a pretty easy ‘yes,’” Lyon says. “I always had a deep fascination with the city, really from a very young age. I think a lot (of it was) driven by the musicality of your city, but also just a sort of sense that it was somewhere I needed to understand.”
Lyon found that many of the Detroiters he approached for the project had their guards up, ready to defend our humble city. Why should they trust him to tell our stories accurately? What made him different from all the other misguided outsiders who’ve made up their minds about Detroit before ever touching down?
“When we listened to that, we had such strong intentions to tell the right story in the right way,” Lyon says. “That seemed to be the only way this was going to be something we’d be proud of as a piece of work.” Lyon and his team linked with Detroit native and musician L’Renee Hollins who acted as a local guide, accompanying them during most of the field production. “She helped us navigate so many different areas of the city – geographically but also emotionally.”
The atlas opens with a handful of essays from prominent Detroiters including former city councilwoman JoAnn Watson. The main section is where you’ll find profiles of each of the 100 i.Detroiters – Rashida Tlaib, Satori Shakoor, George N’Namdi – which include their portraits.
Scan a photo with the i.Detroit app and it’ll activate a soundtrack of that person telling their story. Also within each person’s section is a DNA map of their journey, with a breakdown of their ancestral origins, and a map of their birth and life in Detroit.