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National Geographic Photographer Wayne Lawrence on His Portraits of Detroit


Here’s a short video in which National Geographic documentary photographer Wayne Lawrence talks about his recent project of documenting the city of Detroit.

While he did photograph buildings and locations found in and around the city, Lawrence largely focused his lens on the city’s inhabitants and their unique stories.

“It’s is a hard knock city. Detroit is a place built on struggle. Anywhere you find places like this, there’s bound to be beauty and soul,” he says. “I just hope that you connect with the people in these [photos] as human beings. That’s all I can really ask for. This is a human story that needed to be told.”

National Geographic photo editor Todd James writes that Lawrence was able to capture powerful portraits by being slow and deliberate with his 4×5 film camera and by genuinely connecting with and caring for the people he photographed.

Here are some shots that Lawrence shared through his Instagram account:

Kenneth Morgan, a Gulf War veteran, returned to Detroit four years ago after 30 years away. He left when he was nine years old, traveling with his military father, but chose to settle his family in Detroit because, he says, "it's home. There's no place like home." Morgan, his wife, Robin, and their children, Gary Effler and Kenneth D. and Korey Morgan, are renovating a duplex they bought on the East Side for $1,800 plus back taxes. "I figure if I can fight for my country, I can definitely fight for my city." Please see our story, "Taking Back Detroit", in the May issue of National Geographic with portraits by @waynelawrence and edited by senior photo editor Todd James, words by Susan Ager, mapping by Martin Gamache, Emily M. Eng and Kelsey Nowakowski. With additional video work online by Jake Rutherford and Spencer Millsap.

A photo posted by Wayne Lawrence (@waynelawrence) on

You can find more of Lawrence’s “Taking Back Detroit” portraits on his website and through the full story over at National Geographic.

Taking Back Detroit [Nat Geo via ISO 1200]