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Alleys & Ruins no. 130, Bubble Gum (2009, Ann Arbor, MI, 10pm)

Alleys & Ruins no. 130, Bubble Gum (2009, Ann Arbor, MI, 10pm)

Alleys & Ruins no. 130, Bubble Gum (2009, Ann Arbor, MI, 10pm)


I lived in beautiful Ann Arbor, MI for 3 years. When I wanted to shoot urban decay at night, I would head to Detroit, less than an hour away. It was a no-brainer! Detroit was my playground. In my time living there, I shot an armload of alleys across the country, but Ann Arbor just seemed too nice, which is a great thing if you live there. In those 3 years, I shot one Ann Arbor alley, and only because Michigan Radio, the local NPR affiliate, wanted to do a story on me and my work. Producer Tamar Charney was not thrilled with the idea of going to Detroit's dark and gritty corners at midnight, so we opted for an Ann Arbor shoot.

There's a famous alley downtown, covered in paint and gum. Because of its notoriety - and because untold hundreds of people had photographed it, I was not interested. My work is about rooting for the underdog, so after hearing its praises for the hundreth time, I decided I would never shoot it. And so Ms Charney and I found a different location to do her story.

While living in San Francisco for the next 3 years, and struggling to find any kind of decay in that city to shoot, I started thinking back wistfully about that good ol bubble gum alley, and Why had I never shot it!!

After moving back to the midwest, I went straight to Ann Arbor to get this shot.


A few years later, I'm exhibiting "Bubble Gum" at the Ann Arbor Art Fair when a stranger, Jameson, approaches me and wants to show me something. He points to a platform in the picture and says, "I used to sleep there."


I look at Jameson, and despite his flea bitten fedora, he doesn't look homeless. 


"For years I didn't have a home - nowhere to  sleep. This alley was one of my favorite places and that platform was a good place to rest my head at night. Looking at it brings back all kinds of memories. I probably woulda died on the streets but someone brought me to Dawn Farms and they took care of me and fixed me up. Now I have a job and a home and lots of reasons to live."


I asked Jameson about Dawn Farms. Its an addiction and recovery center in nearby Ypsilanti. They got him to work on their farm, providing treatment, room and board in return for the hard labor. It saved his life.



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