Between 1967 and 1970, Enrico Natali captured on film the essence of life in Detroit, before its fall from grace.
“In a way, it’s sort of the cusp of an end of an era,” he says. “The decline was not yet visible.”
His black-and white images – more than 120 in all – depict a city that seems permeated by an optimism prevalent across all socio-economic strata.
“My intention was to photograph a broad cross-section of the population at all levels, from the ghetto to the top echelons of power and wealth,” he says.
He succeeded. And by deliberately constraining his technological options, he found that he could open up his channels of creativity.
“I only photographed people, and I only used one lens, one type of film, one developer, one size of print – and I never cropped a photograph,” he says. “If you use just one focal length lens you begin to see through that lens.”
His photographs capture a calm before the storm, with people attending hockey games, art exhibitions and high school proms. There are families posing together, secretaries with their cigarettes, and machinists, waitresses and beauticians plying their trades. Images of both young and old haunt what’s now turned into a bankrupt landscape.
“It’s like seeing a different era, with all these people on the street,” he says. “There’s nostalgia for a time when the world was not so difficult,” he says. “It was, but maybe we had it together more then than we do now.”
Or perhaps we were just more innocent.
Detroit 1968 will be published with a foreword by Mark Binelli by Foggy Notion Books form in coming weeks. And Natali’s work will be on display from Nov. 2 through Dec. 21 at the Joseph Bellows Gallery at 7661 Girard Ave., La Jolla, Calif.
For more on Enrico Natali, go to http://www.enriconatali.com/
For more on the Joseph Bellows Gallery, go to http://www.josephbellows.com/.