Few are the photos taken of Detroit that are not of ruins. Scenes of deterioration and decay overpopulate the pages of magazines and journals.
So when someone like John Carlisle emerges, it is a welcome thing.
Carlisle, a Metro Times contributor, writes about and photographs a different side of Detroit and its residents.
He spoke with Cyndy about his book “313: Life in the Motor City,” and the joy he gets from the city.
“I try to capture the real side of Detroit, people who don’t take part in the sensational aspects of the city, regular people trying to get by. With city government so broke, there isn’t as much you can rely on from them, in many ways in Detroit you are on your own,” said Carlisle.
Many of the people in Carlisle’s book were discovered through random journeys through the city.
“Being a Detroiter when I would talk to people on the streets they would say, ‘All you guys write about is Kwame (Kilpatrick) or shootings. So I set out to write about people you would never hear of. People who are doing something positive,” said Carlisle.
One of the people in Carlisle’s book is Mr. Bow Tie, a Detroiter whose specialty is cleaning dirty headlights. His services are available seven days a week and he provides them with ecstatic joy.
It is the depth with which Carlisle treats his characters that is refreshing. That he spends a good deal of time with the people in his stories is evident.
“There is something to be said about getting on the secondary roads in Detroit. People may be surprised the places they once knew are still there. Using common sense as you would in any big city, there is a lot to be said about exploring.”
Security is often an issue with which one is faced when thinking about Detroit. But to Carlisle, with a bit of common sense, one should not be deterred from exploring the city.
“I grew up here so I think I have an instinct for which areas to avoid. For the most part, the crime is crime of opportunity and you will get that in any city with a lot of poverty. In broad daylight, you really shouldn’t run into too much trouble, using common sense," said Carlisle.
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