Detroit has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite its lack of density compared to other big cities, at 670,000 residents, Detroit’s per capita infection rate was one of the highest in the nation in April. Detroit also leads the state in the number of confirmed cases. As of May 18, Detroit had 10,348 confirmed cases and 1,255 reported deaths.
Yet, on May 11, Mayor Mike Duggan declared Detroit is “beating” the virus, even though “every single loss affects us very deeply.” Under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order, signs of life persist in a city known for its resilience. BridgeDetroit asked three photographers to document their observation of the coronavirus’ impact on Detroit.
Here is Keenan Hastings’ account, the first in a BridgeDetroit three-part series. Hastings shot his photos on May 8 and 9.
Photos By Keenan Hastings
Q: Where did you take photos and why?
A: I shot in Lafayette Park, Eastern Market and the Dequindre Cut. It is a thriving area. I see it as a hub outside of downtown Detroit and you can understand how people are living.
Q: How do you describe your style?
A: I am a street photographer. I bring my street aesthetic to my job. I do freelance work for brands, or [take pictures for] events but I like to be people-oriented and people-focused. I enjoy people.
I used wide shots to observe social distancing and to see people in their lives. I like to observe people doing things, living their daily lives.
Q: What did you notice?
A: I am big on mom-and-pop stores. I think they are super-underrated. Lafayette Foods and those stores are important to the people who live there.
I grew up on the west side and my mom looked down on those stores. She would want to shop at Kroger or other places but when I lived in Lafayette Park, I didn’t have a car, so I could do everything I needed on that strip. COVID-19 showed me how important these stores are. They aren’t like Amazon or if a Traders Joe’s came to the area, it would be game over for mom-and-pops.
I really appreciate those stores and how important they are.
Q: What else did you see?
A: I wanted to capture people living life. The picture of the guy smoking the cigar? It took me an hour to walk to Eastern Market. I walked by him on my way there and he was still there when I got back. So I wanted to take a picture of him.
I live in a basement apartment in West Village, so I have access to the street scene.
Not having to go to work is freeing people and showing them what they can do in a day. It’s a sad situation but a lot of people have been able to hit the reset button. People are getting in touch with themselves.
I wanted to capture that instead of a lot of depressed people. Though this has been tragic, it was needed. It puts things in perspective for people. That’s what I tried to capture.