Getting Drunk With Your Subjects
I recently spent a week getting drunk in Flint, Michigan. Oh, and documenting the ongoing water crisis. The reason that I prefixed my photographic endeavors with my drinking endeavors is that the two are one and the same in many ways.
When I drove down to Michigan it was my first time in the United States since a brief trip to Boston 10 years ago. Just like anyone who follows the news regularly, I had heard plenty about Flint. I had heard that it was a poor, majority black city. I heard that it was the murder capital of America. I heard that it used to be a prosperous city before GM pulled their plants out and everybody left, and I heard that they have brown water.
I certainly found the Flint that I’d heard about, but I also found much more.
The story that I thought would come out of Flint quickly changed from one about a city of poor, downtrodden victims to one of resilient and passionate fighters.
I found a story that needed to be told amongst the wave of coverage by national and international media who had never even stepped foot in Flint. The real story came to me organically as I immersed myself in the culture of this city.
As simple a piece of advise as it may seem, I cannot understate the importance of getting to know the city you’re photographing on a personal level. Candid conversations about the struggles of real people over a beer will always be more valuable than the statistics that I read online about the water crisis in preparation for my visit to Flint, and I think that goes for just about any subject.