The images featured in this article were provided by photography students at the College for Creative Studies in Detroit, under the guidance of Carlos Diaz, instructor. The impact of the new streetlights on the quality of life in Detroit was featured in a public photography exhibit to coincide with the illumination of the final streetlight in December.
The student photography project began with a request from the Detroit Public Lighting Authority (PLA) to clearly show where the lights had been installed along the city and neighborhood streets.
“Our objective was to make photographs that transcended simple documentation,” Diaz said. “It was important that the photographs communicate something about the human condition and that they reveal and express how the installation of these new lights have changed the dynamics of the city and quality of life, literally and metaphorically.”
Diaz said when the students talked to residents during the photo shoots, the residents expressed gratitude for the safety, security, and aesthetic improvements that the lighting provides. “In many cases, the residents would ask us to thank the PLA for bringing back lights to the neighborhood.”
The students created a list of the important facets of city life to include, such as churches, bus stops, the Thanksgiving Day parade, gas stations, businesses, apartments, important landmarks, and neighborhoods large and small.
“I think the photographs reflect a connection between the students and the cityscape and how they chose to represent the city,” Diaz said. “They are aware of the negative images and narratives that have defined the city in the past. These are unique photographs of the Detroit landscape, and because they are taken at night, they reveal the city as magical and in a way that we literally could not see with our eyes. Before the lights were installed, these images were not possible. The new PLA lights have become a very visible symbol of the reinvigoration of the city of Detroit.”