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A Bruce Giffin Art Exhibit at Urbane Underground

Brice Giffin A foggy morning on Belle Isle

I have become acquainted with an interesting Detorit photographer, Bruce Giffin. I could tell that Bruce was a colorful character based on his Facebook Posts.  It was clear is that Bruce is a passionate lover of Detorit, before it was the popular thing to do. We love to host events at Urbane Underground. A few years back we helped put on an Art Show Underground Art and it was a hoot, and we want to do another. I reached out a few weeks ago to Bruce through Facebook, and we met at Green Garage in Midtown this week to talk through and start planning a Bruce Giffin Art Exhibit at Urbane Underground.  It will be hosted on Thursday December 1st. More details to follow as things unfold. 

Found Michigan, an online media project devoted to long-form storytelling about Michigan life, history, and culture wrote an excellent article about Bruce and his work. Founded in 2011, the site publishes weekly magazine-style features, interviews, essays, photography and fiction. Here is what they had to say in their article titled Photographing Detroit; a Conversation with Photographer Bruce Giffin.

“Detroit have exploded in the media in recent years. Enamored with the urban decay they’ve seen covered in just about every major media outlet, tourists from around the world flock to the city in pursuit of photographing the crumbling buildings and withering interiors—so much so that Detroit essentially has given birth to a whole new genre of visual art, called “ruin porn.”

Mention “ruin porn” to longtime Detroit photographer Bruce Giffin, though, and you’ll get a bit of an eyeroll. After quitting the sales job that first brought him to Detroit in the late ’70s, Giffin taught himself to use a camera by shooting in an abandoned building in Northville, then built himself a career in photography, with stints as a staff photog at the Metro Times and as a well-loved photography instructor at Macomb Community College. In 2011, Giffin was chosen for a prestigious Kresge Artist Fellowship in the visual arts for his project titled “The Face of Detroit,” featuring evocative, hyper-close portraits of Detroiters (some of which are included in the slideshow below).

Joe Jones The Faces of Detorit

In the three decades that Giffin has been living in and photographing Detroit, he has pretty much seen it all. He was among the first to begin shooting inside the city’s iconic empty buildings like the historic Michigan Central Station and the Packard Plant, an abandoned 3.5-million-square-foot auto manufacturing facility that, for awhile, was the city’s ground zero for scrapping, salvaging, partying, photography expeditions, urban paintball, and everything in between. And though his days of shooting inside abandoned buildings are mostly behind him (for now), Giffin still cruises around the city four or five days a week—always with his dog, Henry, beside him—on the hunt for the next incredible image that speaks to him.

Given that the images people see of Detroit have the power to shape their perceptions of this complicated city, we wanted to get a local photographer’s perspective on the ethics and essence of photographing Detroit. It became apparent that Giffin was a guy who could give us some answers.”

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