Metropolitan Detroit is one of America's most racially and ethnically diverse regions, but also one of its most balkanized. Many Detroit residents view the act of shopping across 8 Mile Road, the boundary between the city's largely (but, decreasingly) white suburbs, as treasonous. Suburbanites, meanwhile, often boast about not having been to Detroit in decades.
Enter Andre McWilliams. Last summer, the 35-year-old Detroit native began taking photos of people across this region. The main thing he wanted to show: “We have differences, but our similarities are stronger.” On random street corners in Detroit, and suburbs like Royal Oak and Ferndale, McWilliams set up a mini-studio: his camera, a large stretch of white background paper. “I was looking for interesting people – pretty much anybody,” he says. “Everyone has an interesting face. I wanted to capture people as they were.” Some people rocked headphones. Kids ate potato chips. McWilliams recalls one woman eyeing him suspiciously, and walking away. Twenty minutes later, she returned, and posed for a photo.
He's a bit of a man about town, who despite having studied photography for years, never completed a formal portfolio. One day, he was introduced to officials at the Detroit Public Library. An exhibit had just been removed from the library's main branch. The officials asked McWilliams to bring his exhibit to the library. But first, he had to quickly finish the portfolio. The final project, known as The People, is at the Detroit Public Library until Jan. 15. “I wanted to grow as a photographer,” McWilliams told me one recent night, “and that's what this whole process has been about.” (To view McWilliams' work, click the above photos.)