CARL BEAN-LARSON

CBL

CARL BEAN-LARSON

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These photographs were produced during the first leg of a trip home to Michigan—4 days in Detroit and 5 days in Traverse City. While staying in the Indian Village neighborhood, I found some time to bicycle, explore, and photograph the city. I’ve been to Detroit a handful of times before—the last was in 2008—but my knowledge is less than intimate and my sense of direction underdeveloped.

Detroit is a place that resonates strongly with my photographic practice. It’s buildings, neighborhoods and surfaces are inseparable from it’s history, people, and politics. Even the smallest details can contain a sense of time and mood that I find compelling. This condensing of information contrasts with the huge sense of space throughout the city; grand architecture, quiet warehouses, wide boulevards, and empty lots. The combination of these elements provides two of the most important components of my practice, wandering and investigation.

I biked around 20 miles that day. The weather was beautiful, the bike lanes were decent, the cars okay, and most of the people were greeting hello and smiling.

As I rode, I tried to reconcile these aesthetic and conceptual interests with my distaste for the tourist ruin porn photography that now feels so synonymous with Detroit in pop culture. In my mind, images of built, rebuilt and overgrown surfaces convey both resilience and wildness. Architecture and construction resonate history and nowness with undertones of both grandeur and political shortsightedness. The vernaculars of pewabic tile and the automotive industry give local color and context to otherwise abstract images.

I tried to build a group of work that found a balance between documention and abstraction. I looked for opportunities to build on existing projects like Moiré, Works In Progress and Anonymous, but found perhaps the most success in simple surfaces, and in joiners like the (multiple pages) Liquor Store Wall and We Buy Cars. Those constructed images resonated most for me, and helped to rekindle an interest in that process of photographic production.

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Special thanks to Rory & Christina Carroll