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Documenting Detroit Through Local Photographers' Eyes

This nonprofit gives its fellows resources, mentorship, and the chance to tell the stories of their city.
A young man at the African Ancestral Commemoration Ceremony at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Michigan, June 2017.
A young man at the African Ancestral Commemoration Ceremony at Belle Isle Park in Detroit, Michigan, June 2017.Jeremy Brockman

In recent memory, the narrative surrounding Detroit has been “a broken record of train stations, crime stats, [and] sports teams,” says Karah Shaffer. She is a native Detroiter and the executive director of Documenting Detroit, a local journalism initiative that aims to nurture the city’s photography community through fellowships and public, multimedia exhibits.  

Documenting Detroit was first dreamed up during a road trip between Shaffer, an artist and producer, and Alan Chin, a photojournalist and instructor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Chin, now Documenting Detroit’s creative director, was inspired by the Documentary Center in the South Bronx, a nonprofit gallery and education space founded by photojournalist Michael Kamber in 2011. Chin wanted to create something that would, “significantly impact neighborhoods, communities, and photographers—voices that don’t normally get represented, [such as those] just starting out or working three different jobs,” he says.