An Extraordinary Document of Our World and Detroit Résurgent
An Extraordinary Document of Our World
and Detroit Résurgent
Worker portraits by Gilles Perrin with assistance by Nicole Ewenczyk
An exhibition of photographs at the MSU Museum
Opening Sept. 8, 2013
An Extraordinary Document of Our World and Detroit Résurgent are two related bodies of photographs; the first is a selection of worker portraits made around the world over the last two and half decades while the second is a set of portraits commissioned in 2012 by the Michigan State University Museum and the MSU Our Daily Work, Our Daily Lives program, to document people whose work is part of the resurgence of the greater Detroit economy. Together these portraits explore worker lives before modernity swept away old customs and practices and explore lives of workers whose skills are part of the new economy of the 21st century.
An Extraordinary Document of Our World, begun in 1989, chronicles how people live and work at a time of rapid change. It visually preserves for future generations what the world of work once looked like and represents an important chronicle of life in the last part of the 20th and the first part of the 21st century.
When the portraits are carefully paired, they reinforce the social and cultural changes revealed through the diversity of the people photographed. Two portraits made in Egypt illustrate this point. One portrait shows Egypt's first female airline pilot, while the second shows a traditional female embroiderer entirely shrouded in her burka. Together these portraits summarize the move by many in Egypt to modernity, while others still cling to the old ways of life.
The portraits reveal that while work often looks different depending upon the culture in which it was made, one also sees visual parallels between work across culture, geography and time. These portraits reveal a nuanced and complex tapestry of life.
Detroit Résurgent will explore the people who are remaking Detroit into a vibrant community of industrial, agricultural and artistic renewal. Its focus will not be on the decayed rust belt vision of Detroit so often presented in the media, but rather it will tap the positive energy that is remaking the greater Detroit area: new high-tech industries such as the battery industry for hybrid and electric automobiles, and high-tech manufacturing in the auto and other industries. People are reclaiming the land through urban farming and artists and other cultural entrepreneurs are remaking neighborhoods.
During an extended visit to Detroit in May and June 2012, the photographers will capture portraits of a cross-section of working people that may include engineers, high-tech factory workers, construction workers, computer programmers, hotel employees, chefs, nurses, doctors, casino employees, urban farmers, and artists, and executives in business and government whose decisions affect the lives of working people.