Tag Archives: photojournalism

During Stephen McGee Films shoot

During our interview with Naomi Long for Kresge Arts in Detroit I used the same camera I was shooting the interview with to snap a quick portrait. I toggled the setting on the back of the 5d Mark II to my black and white mode and took this shot. I love Naomi Long's poetry and love for other poets.

“This just in!!!! Detroit photographer and cinematographer Stephen McGee unveils new website showcasing his ten years of reportage photography and short films and it encourages people to document the world around them to help others and educate “.

Well, Thats what I hope the headlines will say but for now I just wanted to share with the few people that read my blog that my new site is being launched today. I am still making modifications and adding Portfolios with old work.

You can visit the site here…

I will also start posting my creative process as I finish my 96th film for Kresge Arts in Detroit.

All while learning more about my faith and where I belong in this visual world. Would love to know what you think!

     Local empty store front advertising real store with cardboard cutouts of a pig and sausage, a few boxes of cardboard cheese and cardboard milk. This was placed to show what Detroit could be with investment.

Photography this week; Local empty store front advertising real store with cardboard cutouts of a pig and sausage, a few boxes of cardboard cheese and cardboard milk. This was placed to show what Detroit could be with investment. Below; on the set of Red Dawn.

My Story comes out tomorrow in the New York Times about the pro life movement here in Michigan. It is the work I am most proud of because it was three days of quick photography, daily deadlines and lots of car travel. I think 7 different locations. The hardest part was my new macbook pro failed. And my backup computer failed. And the model the mac store gave me to replace failed (thanks Snow Leopard). 3667 images for the story. Damien Cave, the writer, was awesome enough to let me transmit from his computer, while he was typing the story.

It will be a lens blog, listed below, a audio slideshow and a photo story in the paper.

The Lens Blog is a blessing to me because it was unexpected. I will write more later. Right now, off to prayer.

Damien, a writer for the New York Times, holds a white board while my photo subject holds a photograph she took of an aborted baby. Make Shift photo studio.

Damien, a writer for the New York Times, holds a white board while my photo subject holds a photograph she took of an aborted baby. Make Shift photo studio.

On a side note, it has been a most amazing day today. Rainy, which hindered the tempers of the children who were going to fight. I did not photograph any fight today nor did i see any police.

I met the president of a camera case company last year on a plane. He saw my crappy camera bag and told me he would send me a new one from his company. A year later I have nothing but that is cool with me. But I figured I would call the company and find out if the offer was still there. So I did, I explained everything. The company said that the guy was no longer with the company but that they would send out a bag of my choice. I sent them two examples of the bags totally a lot of money that I was going to buy and I received an email back that both bags would be in the mail for me for free.

All I can say is that when God has something for you to do, he equips.

I also thank Daryl Lang and PDN for getting my story about yesterday out to the other photogs out there.

Red Dawn set

My friend Jackie Victor and I were talking about major media being in town to cover Detroit.  I was at my usual spot, Avalon, discussing that most stories being told were actually just being retold. The packard plant being on the cover of a major magazine addressing Detroit was the example we both agreed not the best choice from a Detroiters’ perspective for a cover shot that should have been different.

So what story isn’t being told? I’m 22,000 images into a photo/video documentary in my search for who detroit is. My hope with this letter is to ask the detroiters themselves to help me by opening their lives. (thank you to those who have volunteered so far).

Please read this blog post and help me find the stories to tell. from bar mitzvah to mosques, car lovers to the unemployed, young and successful to a hip hop artist. My goal is 70 day-in-the-life photo stories with video and written components in the next 12 months.

My mom just wrote to me this after she read this desire to photograph Detroit, “My prayer is that you will look to those who are doing good in Detroit, to those who are living productive lives in Detroit, to those who are in love and making their way in Detroit. Look to the sprouting seeds, the seeds of new life.” I hope the same thing mom. Continuing…

As Detroiter who travels the world working on photo/video assignments, I have now turned my focus to cover Detroit for the next year. And I am going to rely fully on stories from Detroiters focusing most of storytelling through photography. For 7 of the next 12 months, I want to document the city of Detroit in depth using both photographs and video to create a traveling photography exhibition and feature length film. With letters from the Detroit citizens in the exhibit this will finally be a visual example of our city that doesn’t mock or attack, but just documents the life of the people. I want to live with you and document what you do. Sounds strange but that is how the best photographs come from and is where the spirit of Detroit can be found.

In the city that modernized the industrial line giving jobs to tens of thousands of immigrants and American citizens alike I ask how can the American Dream still exist for the citizens of a city that is not only mocked for it’s existence but on the fridge of bankruptcy. If you have a detroit moment coming up that I should photograph, or a story that I should interview you about, please contact me and you can be part of something huge.

Picture 11

As a Detroit citizen by choice, I have throughout the past three years, photographed and filmed the daily life happening around me in Detroit.  From refrigerators flying out of high apartments windows to shootings to a 6th grade ceremony for Obama’s inauguration. I, with many of the new young homeowners in this city, share an optimism and see the potential in the shell of this former great American icon.  The optimism is not seen easily nor can it be reached by simply driving around viewing the many insecurities like attractions that encompass Detroit.

The focus will include a study on quality of life, the basic human rights that being met or not met and the definition of community in the terms of local and world view. Detroit was made, remade and unmade by the automobile industry over the course of the twentieth century creating within its city limits a human geography of race, class and power unique in America.  Amidst the constant negative news coverage and the doom and gloom of the 2008 and
2009 economic crisis, many Detroiters remain optimistic of another rebirth for their city.  Holding on to what citizens in other cities might take for granted, Detroiters share a strong sense of pride in their
common luxuries like the corner grocery store, cafe or church.  Detroit is a city whose boundaries are known, its history is written, its current status is unknown, its budgets, rhetoric and problems has been placed for the world to see (and mock) and its murder rate at an all time high.  Yet, with all
of that, I have found that individuals who are drawn to this city invest with a hope of being part of the change that is inevitable in thought and hope.  But with each investment comes the high possibility of failing if the investment isn’t timed correctly.

Picture 12

I still don’t believe that Detroit has been written about in the popular media in the way that makes Detroiters proud and at the same time educates others. Over the past 5 months the city I have lived in for 3 years now has been swarming with foreign correspondents trying to get their story’s edge on a city that has been around for awhile. I say swarming because their are not too many of us freelancers here and it is easy to spot an outsider.  With most of the auto reporting being done from outside the city limits of Detroit I want to focus inside this great American icon that helped build America into the country it is today.

“There is so much unknown” a local mid-50s white male architect said during one of Detroit’s only fashion shows I photographed in the past year at the Detroit Artists Market.  “Which is why I stay,” he finished.  Here in Detroit I am a difference.  I, like the cars that make up most of America today, am an import.  I have driven slowly to enjoy what I see and have come from trips
abroad and have had to breathe slowly just to remember why I remain here.  Each hopeful Detroiter goes through their own recessions of doubt with the lure of another state’s common luxuries beckoning.  Much more than my desire to photograph and film my city is the desire for the inhabitants of
Detroit to have a voice of their own. As a Detroiter I want with the Guggenheim grant to give that voice and with that voice I think many outsiders will begin to think differently about how they not only
respond to the reports from popular media but how they look at their own communities to find that place is more than buildings, but are people.

Picture 14

“People don’t want to know about the good in Detroit”, one news editor told me.  From my windows of an American built house and American built car I notice the light in the city, the possibility, the citizens in the city left for dead.  I continue to call Detroit my home even with all my travel to 28 different countries.  I have lived everywhere people want to live; California, Las Vegas, Washington DC, Italy.  The difference is that I am a difference here.  Not in a way prideful or bold, but in a way that by echoing the determination of the
few, in a way where I am accepted by other citizens instantly as a part of something larger, in a way that every single person in this community can be which is by taking advantage of the possibility to make a change here by being the change.  Conversation first.  Investment second.  It is not that I look past the hurt, it is that I, we, Detroiters, know that the past, pain, and failing industry exists and we count it as blocks for

Picture 15

It seems to most of the citizens of Detroit that the world doesn’t want Detroit to succeed.  For many of the young working class the day will come when the world finds Detroit as a center for possibility. In this transition to despair or success, there needs to be a proper documentation of what Detroit is now. “Detroit always finds itself” a subject of mine said in an interview.   Until financial stability comes the citizens of Detroit must hold on to what remains with or without the economy… hope.

Picture 16

When I was 21 I could not convey my idealism or dreams in one 5 minute sitting. I was told I did not know what I want. In response I told everything I wanted but not in a Christmas list manner but in an idealistic matter. Everything could happen and my words could be the push factor for the happening.

At 23 I could not convey to a New York Times editor what I wanted to do as a photographer in less that 5 minutes. It was 2 am in a barn in New York. Words upon words and many dreamed filled metaphors brought out not a single tangilbe dream of mine. Explanations that never ended only compounded to find some other realm to talk about.

Now 6 years later, I find that my idealism exits stronger than before yet I use less words because my search is more refined. More faith meets the greater questions that exist. The stakes are higher with larger budgets and bills. I have become patient knowing in a confident sense that I am young and have much to learn.

Wait and be patient, everyone who is younger, Your purpose will come. It is ok not to know but waist not in the reality that you are young but with ambition and contentment, await eagerly the dreams you have in your heart only to be brought by God and your mind will be blown.

My 6th trip to Asia, 2nd time to China, 19 days from now.

I was exploring an abandoned building last night and came across this group of people from the suburbs who were tipping had spent 3 months trying to push this truck off the 4th story of the packard plant for the fun of it. Not sure what the photos are worth, but wanted to send them along in case. I have more, just wanted to send you two for now. I have been doing a story the scrappers and urban spelunkers for the past 2 years. Crazy city.Picture 8

And what are we to consider, that rides on angels wings? Our loved one or the trouble of distant gun? Adopting worried cares complete with burdens and stares disciples need never filled.  Haste isn’t laid down when brides are won. And angels come at the distant gun. What is range if the sniper looks and sees both target and enemy the same? Why disprove non fiction by argument and verse when all you need is at your hand, until it’s gone. A scientist will say their stone is a fact until Obama or another stone brings something to distract.

God is God for as long as man can remember. Planet Pluto was pronounced dead last September, what is to disprove but truth that man has made? For we are so smart now! We know that we know less about things smart people know they know nothing about! Us In the middle of financial shade, so close as friends to the capital giving light and blame! If your argument is, “Raised you were which is why you are”, then why did planet pluto die? I was raised to know Jesus and the 9 planets. 7 or 8 left, i am not sure. Three years of paleontology gave me a deeper love for the study of.

Pluto; KIA by a science board which is out to prove.

Compound intelligence gives us only technology. Science proves we know little, there is a lot to know, and what we do know gives us a glimpse at the intricacies of God design.

Late is the only time to write. People expect early and forget after which causes the surprise.

Next Year in Christian Science Monitor and a pulpit near you; Da Vinci is found out to be the father of an ape, which he adopted, in a scandal, by finding a code (with some kind of fallen priest) about modern day hatred between whomever wants to hate and whomever else wants to hate. In the next issue, “What does proving prove?” and, “Dodgeball gives you cancer!”

An immediate fierce cannon of questioning shrapnel billows and busts as consequences are fondled following that oh small still quiet voice breathing over a whisper, encouraging as it guides, the small quiet voice that says, “Wait”.

I would suggest not to miss it twice.

Hoan, 21, born without legs, came to America in October to talk around the country about the affects of Agent Orange.

Some off the moments of 21 year old Hoan’s travels while she went around the country telling people about the affects of dioxin agent orange.  More Photographs, a video, to come and a written article too.

Hoan climbs into the car.

Hoan climbs into the car.

Hoan, 21, crawls over a barrier at the overlook of San Francisco.

Hoan, 21, crawls over a barrier at the overlook of San Francisco.

Hoan visits prosthetics doctor in hope of new legs.

Hoan visits prosthetics doctor in hope of new legs.

From the outside to the in, Hoan has very little fear of both mental and physical obstacles in her life. She smiles more than anyone I know and in the next post about her, you too can see how her life is lived and learn more about the amazing stories of the millions like her being born today in Vietnam because of what America sprayed in Vietnam over 30 years ago.

How do you cope/conquer your fears?

Just an encouraging word for people who are in difficult times. Please understand that God is always there for you and has a plan for you if you come to him.  I would like to remind you that Christianity is not about Christians, it is about Christ.

Stand firm in faith with me, with all believers, encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ as Christ encourages us and I encourage you. Tomorrow God has appointments in your fears and you CAN conquer them with the full armor of our Lord. It is not time to sleep or stand content, it is not time to put hope in our president (whom I support), but it is time to be a light reflecting in the true hope and true love that is Christ Jesus. Speak in love. Praise God.

Praise God for all of you brothers and sisters. I wish I had time to write all that God has been teaching me over these past weeks of travel documenting everything from Barack Obama to victims of Agent Orange, painters to volunteers, airports to fellow journalists. I want to and will Lord willing do so in the next week.

I leave for NYC for a big shoot I have on Monday and Tuesday next week. Please pray. I will then stay in NYC for 6 more days. Pray for my ministry and confidence in Christ.