Atlantic Cities
Postcard

The People of Detroit, Circa 1968

The People of Detroit, Circa 1968
Enrico Natali

Enrico Natali moved to Detroit in 1966 for a job in the photography department of Hudson's department store. He quit 10 months later  to resume his work as a freelance photographer.

For the next two years, Natali shot the streets and neighborhoods of his adopted city. His results were published in the 1972 book New American People, a title coined by Hugh Edwards, one of the country's most important photography curators (and author of the book's foreword). Edwards thought Natali's images represented the quintessential "American life." Natali agreed, at least until he moved out to California a couple of years later.

The images have now been republished as Detroit 1968 (with a new foreword by Detroit-born Mark Binelli). Decades later, the collection offers an incredible look back at the once-vibrant city. Natali's photographs focus on Detroit's people, not its buildings. It offers an especially empathetic perspective, but steers clear of a specific narrative. "I realized I had to stop myself at the door," says Natali says. "My viewpoint would only get in the way, but there was a lot of difference between what I saw in the white and black communities."

After documenting city life in New York, New Orleans, Chicago, and Detroit through the 60s, Natali put the camera down and began a meditation practice in California. He rediscovered photography at the turn of the century. Later this week, he'll return to Detroit, appearing at the city's Museum of Contemporary Art to talk about the place he photographed over 40 years ago. It'll be his first visit since.


"Office workers in downtown Detroit." 


"After school." 


"Businessmen at a squash match."


"Henry Ford II."


"Young girls at Metropolitan beach." 


"Neighborhood children."


"Ann Davis at home with her daughter and son." 


"Husband and wife at home with their youngest child." 


"Women's convention." 


"Spectators at a public demonstration." 


"Detroit Tigers' World Series victory celebration." 


Left: "Community Patrol Corps member." Right: "Couple at Love-In." 


"Pool player in an East Side pool room." 


"Women waiting at a bus stop in the rain." 


Left: "Two young men on Woodward Ave." Right: "Young woman in a hat on a city street." 


"The Ambassador Bridge, spanning the Detroit River."

Top image: "Children following military personnel during the Detroit Riot of 1967."

All images by Enrico Natali, courtesy of Artbook and Foggy Notion Books.

Mark Byrnes is an associate editor at The Atlantic Cities. All posts »

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