The academic year is rapidly coming to a close, and I find myself getting more and more anxious about returning to my hometown. Dearborn, Michigan is only about 45 minutes outside Ann Arbor (20 if I’m in a hurry) but it’s like an entirely different beast to me. A beast I’ll have no choice but to enter the belly of in a mere 22 days.

 I don’t mean to sound so melodramatic, but I am genuinely dreading my return home, and the four long months I’ll be spending away from my friends, away from my professors, away from sidewalks flooded with passerby. It was in the midst of this growing apprehension that I was challenged to explain how to define my hometown in three images, keeping in mind the photos Dearborn has set aside for the public domain. But as I’m faced with this rather irrational, I do admit, fear of returning home, I’ve decided to modify the restraints of the challenge and attempt to use images entirely scavenged from the web to somehow communicate the complicated feelings I feel for my hometown. It’s definitely a very personal entry and a bit more lengthy than three photos. After putting this rather extensive portrait of my hometown together with pictures I’ve taken from a variety of online sources, I considered taking my own pictures and making a photoessay on Dearborn that’s all my own. But I don’t want to. I don’t want a biased eye behind my camera. These photos are the unbiased children of internet contributors. Uncovering and arranging them was difficult enough.


 This is one perspective of Dearborn. The clocktower building is located in Greenfield Village, the huge historical attraction that serves as Dearborn’s most beloved pride. I look at this photograph and find it inspires feelings of uneasiness and adventure. I suppose this is what I wish Dearborn was: something interesting and lively and unnerving and exciting, like some haunted town from a fantasy novel. I’m not denying that Dearborn is haunted though. Dearborn is haunted by something far more dispirited.





We’ve entered Dearborn’s true grounds. A quiet, sleepy little piece of Suburbia. A family town, as they say.

 Strip malls litter the landscape like broken rubber bands. They really are a modern marvel. This particular strip mall (within walking distance of my house) brings a wealth of culture to my community. Where else
 can you go to the post office, eat Chinese, buy a new computer, do your grocery shopping, buy sweaters for your plus-sized mother, purchase batteries from the dollar store, do your taxes, buy discount tennis shoes, and get a haircut?

 So many boarded-up buildings. When I was younger I used to get excited whenever a store or restaurant closed. Maybe they’ll build an ice-skating rink, or maybe they’ll open a new movie theater. But you don’t have to be that old or wise to know that nothing’s going to replace the abandoned businesses anytime soon. The picture on the right is of a combination Krispy Kreme and Baskin Robbins that opened a few summers ago. It was open when I left for college. Closed for my return.

But I’m not being fair. There are plenty of signs of hope and prosperity in Dearborn. Take Sacred Heart Elementary School. Open since 1973. Nothing stops them from holding mass on Sundays and having pancake breakfasts, not even being located on one of the busiest roads in Dearborn. Their students know their 10 commandments, and have recess in a parking lot.

 This is the Dearborn Inn. Nicest hotel in the area. My mother tells me I’m going to get married there. Of course she assumes I want to get married in Dearborn.

Miller’s is that restaurant that locals will always tell visitors to Dearborn they absolutely must must must eat at during their stay. They’re known for their scrumptious $9 hamburgers, served on napkins. If under 18, you must eat there with a parent.

 Fairlane Mall…the immensely huge shopping center you risk your safety shopping at. Past 6 PM, police patrol the mall, checking IDs to make sure all shoppers are 18 and up. Some are eager to turn 18 so they can dance at the club, while in Dearborn you need to be legal to hit the mall. Not that people are dying to shop at Fairlane. It’s amazing how this picture on the mall’s web site makes the center look so cheery, so bright, and so safe. The mall is none of the above.

The Star Theater shares a parking lot with Fairlane. Outside looks like a fairy tale. The inside…well, maybe a Brothers Grimm fable. They ID after 6 too.

The other Dearborn theater.

 Where all the young Dearborn people go to hang out. There’s nothing really else to do in the city, so everyone sees about 2 or 3 movies a week in the summer. Catch is–this theater is in Canton about 20 minutes away.

 This is one of my favorite pictures of Dearborn, because it’s of a park I’m rather fond of. There are these huge, huge hills overlooking this huge grassy field surrounded by trees and bike trails and wilderness. Too bad the bridge crosses the Rouge River, famous for being intensely polluted. There’s a reason the water looks foul.

 The moment the world turned its eyes to Dearborn. This proud moment of Dearborn’s history was all over the papers and the web. Bretton Barber’s legacy will not be forgotten. I once looked up
 Dearborn in a huge, leather-bound encyclopedia-like book to find Bretton’s smug face greeting me.

Dearborn, of course, is also known for its large Muslim population. When I was growing up, I would admire this building’s architecture and beauty. I’ve heard this mosque called an eyesore more times than I care to remember.

The 50’s McDonalds. Center of Dearborn’s elementary school social scene. I can’t even imagine how many hours my 2nd grade self spent crawling around the playhouse with my friends. Or how many french fries that equals.

 Henry Ford’s name is like a deity in Dearborn. Ford field, Henry Ford Hospital, Ford Road, Ford-tel, Fordson, Hank High. We don’t have statues of Stalin–we have statues of Ford.

 Look at how far the auto industry’s come.

 I live in a neighborhood called the Ford Historic Homes District. The houses were built in the early 1900’s and housed Henry Ford’s first factory workers. They’re the kind of homes you fill with antiques and other testaments to the past. I tried to find a picture of the houses online, but all I could find was a link
 to merchandise endorsing my neighborhood. How wonderful it is to have one’s home glorified forever on the made-in-China T-shirts of the obese.

 Dearborn Homecoming is this 3-day carnival during the summer where former residents of Dearborn get together, catch up, and talk about the old times. Only most of the people at Homecoming never left Dearborn in the first place, and they enjoy talking about the old times every weekend.

 Dearborn is a city preoccupied with the past. Greenfield village, the 50’s McDonalds, neverending high school reunions. Times are tough, but that doesn’t mean you should flee away from the real world and reminisce in times when things were easier, things were better, and people were happier. Why dwell on the past and stop yourself from building a future that’s even more awesome that the good ol’ days when you were prom queen and your family had three cars and you decided to live in Dearborn forever and ever? Why ignore the fact that the city is sick? Either rid the city of its illness, or get the hell out of there before you catch its sickness too.

 Hong Kong is my favorite restaurant in Dearborn. Skip out on Miller’s and try their egg-drop soup.

 The “no” on the “no vacancy” sign has been removed in this photo. There are always vacancies. They tore down this motel last summer. Never built anything in its place.


There’s an interesting collection of photos on PixelPress called “Notes from the Underground” ( Without reading the description of the pictures, the pictures just appear to be photos taken on miscellaneous individuals on a subway. The pictures are interesting, because they examine people participating in a colloquial behavior they might participate in every day and never think about.
The attacks on New York have focused world attention on the city’s changed skyline.
Photographer David Kohn concentrates on its underground

This short explanation puts the photos into context, and suddenly one sees symbols and themes in the photos that relate to the events and overall mood of 9/11.

I found this photograph particularly compelling in the midst of the 9/11 photos. When I think of the terrorist attack on the world trade center, I immediately think of its expansive coverage by the media. There was so much controversy and conspiracy theories regarding the government’s possible involvement in the attacks, and much doubt in how much we could trust the information they were conveying through the media outlets. For me, this photo does an excellent job of capturing the suspicion many Americans developed towards the media’s coverage of 9/11. The man holding the paper wears a trenchcoat, bringing to mind images of spies and shift individuals concealing/gathering top secret information. You can’t see the person’s face, suggesting the fear of relying on faceless informants unable to be held accountable for the information they provide. So many different shades of this disturbed paranoia towards the media are expressed in this single black-and-white photo.

If an extraterrestrial landed in Ann Arbor and decided to forgo a visit to the president in favor of checking out Briarwood mall, I’d imagine him or her to be particularly perplexed by the mannequins strewn about the stores. It’s fascinating to wonder how the human behavior could have evolved from hunting and gathering food to survive into constructing artificial versions of ourselves to adorn with clothing and accessories deemed appropriate for a short period of time to inform consumers at large of exactly what they should be spending their money on. Imagine how many mannequins a person passes by in a single shopping trip. Imagine how long it takes a single mannequin to be dressed, posed, and positioned. The world of mannequins is an expansive one, perhaps deserving of a second look.
Mannequins with no faces. Identical in every way except for dress.

 Mannequins with expressions deemed appropriate.

  Ghostlike torsos with purses.
 It’s fashionable to be disfigured.

 Provocative mannequin. I’d estimate 8/10 Americans can name the store it was photographed. Now that’s impressive brand imaging.

 A gang of sorts, pressuring the passerby to come in and buy cheap skirts and belts.

 The only male mannequin interesting enough to photograph. Unlike all the females he gets to sit in a chair. Then again, perhaps it’s because he has a handicap.

 The hair and facial detail of these mannequins is commendable. I especially admire the negative body language (arms crossed in discomfort) of the mannequin in front. Posing all day in expensive clothing too strenuous?

 You decide.

College spring break has come to be associated with sunny beaches, fruity drinks, and lazy college kids in bathing suits. My spring break, however, has been filled with 45-minute trips to Walmart, ramen noodles, and flea-infested beds.


I signed up for a program called alternative spring break (ASB) with my sorority. 12 of us were going to take a road trip down to Crank’s Creek, Kentucky and spend a week building porches, painting walls, and volunteering our time in other ways to help fix up the struggling rural community. But after driving for 11 hours and getting lost in Tennessee, we couldn’t find the center we were lodging at. We drove around aimlessly without cell phone reception for about 30 minutes, when someone finally got a hold of someone. He asked how we could have possibly missed the survival center’s sign.

The room we were to sleep in was small, cramped, and rather dirty.





A baby doll was nailed upside-down to the wall, serving some unknown purpose while frightening those who had to use the restroom.










My comrades upon discovering the mattresses we were supposed to be sleeping on were infested with FLEAS. We could not sleep in those beds without compromising our health, security, and without the risk of bringing an immense flea epidemic back to Ann Arbor with us.


Rendezvous at a Walmart in Virginia 45 minutes away, the closest location with cell phone reception. We called our ASB coordinator, desperate for her advice. She said to deal with it or come home.


Flea Spray, a photo that summarizes the great struggle against the fleas Kentucky had presented us with.




We could not properly fumigate the beds without giving ourselves cancer, so we slept in a variety of other more creative locations. This is a picture an acquaintance took of me sleeping on the kitchen table.










A local canine sleeping an a creative location as well, with bits of sawdust to keep him warm.




The cows loomed in the distance, indifferent to the plight of the flea-fearing sorority girls.





This lone dog seems to judge my comrades and I for sleeping in vans and on tables.




There was not much food to eat…just snacks really. The cell phone sandwich was an attempt to dry out a phone dropped into the bathtub, but serves as a metaphor. The non-serviced cell phones were useless in Kentucky, and would have served us better to eat than to contact anybody.


The Salamander, a terrifying monster of a machine that kept us from freezing to death while we painted the inside of a trailer after a sleepless night, wondering where we were going to sleep next.


Forest Hill Cemetary sits tucked neatly into the corner of Observatory and Geddes, but there’s nothing neat about the sprawls of mismatched graves and headstones strewn about the gated hills and trees. There’s no practical way of navigating this labyrinth. No matter where among the sprawling graves your feet may lead to, you always feel as if you’re right in the center of an endless world of stone and marble. There’s crumbling old gravestones too worn to read and sharply-cut marble that looks as if it were shined yesterday. There are tombstones short as stumps, and others that stretch toward the sky.

A monumental chalice, a shell of its former beauty, stands battered and dirty with a hole it the bottom that spills out whatever it was once meant to hold. A woman mourns over the dead, holding her face steady in a stone hand.


Religious images, of course, dominate the landscape. An angel stands tallest amongst its surroundings eternally offers its respects to the remains it towers above.










An esoteric symbol decorates this monument. The Greek letters “Iota Delta Phi” appear to be written at the bottom of the half-moon. Is this the name of a fraternity, or some other secretive organization with a prominent presence on this individual’s life to be worthy of placement on his grave.

Chin Kai has a date of birth and no date of death…is his date of death unknown, or is he really still alive? Seems like a terrible omen to have your name inscribed on a tomb when you haven’t even died.

But perhaps the most puzzling thing about the graveyard were the countless piles of stones placed atop tombstones.







Who put all these stones there? And why? I immediately felt like these stones had some spiritual, perhaps supernatural significance. What if they were supposed to be some sort of spell, the purpose of which I can only imagine.
A purpose I can only imagine or Google, that is. Upon further research I found that the stones could possibly be some sort of Jewish custom. Rabbi Jeremy Schwartz of the interwebs explains that “The leaving of a pebble is in a way the erection of a small, new monument-a tomb-stone to honour the memory of the dead. Indeed, the custom may have evolved from an ancient method of marking graves. So in one sense, it is simply a way of saying: here lie the remains of a person worth remembering. And the pebble also lets others know that someone did come and remember. Symbolically, it suggests the continuing presence of love and memory which are as strong and enduring as a rock. And we know that one name for God is “The Rock of Israel.” So the rock is a reminder of the presence of the Rock, Whose love truly is stronger than death.”
So, nothing of the occult with that explanation. But then take a look at this pile.
That is by far the largest pile of stones I found in the graveyard, and it was sitting beside a freshly dug grave. The grave was free from snow, and the dirt looked raw and soft. The rocks must have been placed there quite recently. They seemed abnormal and almost sinister. Further investigation into the matter led me to the Irish legend of the Dearg-due, a spirit-like monster than rises from the grave to suck blood. The only way to keep this these vengeful ghosts from rising is to erect stone piles called cairns atop the graves of the dead. I don’t know why the stone piles are there or what they are for, and most likely I never will. I entered the graveyard with a friend, scouring for interesting photos, but I ended up scouring the internet for some explanation to the puzzle I’d stumbled upon.

I am absolutely enamored with Lady Gaga.

Perhaps you find it shallow, perhaps you think it insignificant, but her influence on pop culture is incredible, and doesn’t seem likely to die out anytime soon. While having a hit pop track is no big feat, Gaga has consistently been cranking out hits, staying in the limelight and the minds of the populace. Even people who don’t listen to her music know who she is. Her presence is seen in dimensions other than the music world. Fashion designers have been emulating her style and consumers are greedily buying leggings, leotards, and clothing too confusing to have a proper name. They say she’s inspired a culture of vanity and that she liberates the youth and encourages them to revel in the qualities they’ve been conditioned to suppress. She’s been the subject of controversy and suspicion, and people actually research her music and videos and accuse her of malintentions (One such article claims she is a member of the Illuminati She’s become a savior of the so-called “freaks” and an idol for their persecutors. In a modern sense of the world, Gaga is a god to her fans.

I’d just like to clarify that I don’t consider myself a follower of Gagadism by any means. I’m just observing and reporting and slightly exaggerating.

I found this picture on a celebrity gossip site I frequent and had to post it. The contrast between Lady Gaga and the statue on her piano excites my analytical mind to no end. The statue is of a godly figure, a womanly being sculpted in white. One would think this is supposed to represent Gaga in her position of power and godlike influence.

Except for the fact that the similarities between the statue and Gaga end there. The statue’s expression is calm and emotionless, while Gaga looks like she’s concentrating on her performance. Although Gaga is dressed in white like the statue, the populace tends to associate her name with behavior and actions that are much more soiled than that pristine white. The statue’s head and Gaga’s may at first appear to be at the same height, but then you realize that’s only because Gaga is wearing a hat.

But perhaps the most significant difference between Gaga and that statue is that the statue is naked, while Gaga is wrapped in bulky, ridiculous clothing and accessories. The statue sits unfazed by its nudity, untroubled by her bareness while you can hardly even make out Gaga’s face!

Gaga may be entertaining. Gaga may be interesting. But Gaga will never be the sort of goddess she aspires to become, and this picture stands as proof.

I apologize if the reader found this post boring, but I am a fervent believer that one can (and should) find stimulating materials in the most unassuming of places. Just imagine the levels at which one could analyze great works of literature if one is able to find intellectual stimulation in the most petty pleasure of pop culture.

Now that the rest of the class has been posting links to their daybooks, I’ve of course been conducting random acts of espionage and seeing what sorts of things everyone else has been up to. I’ve noticed one particular characteristic of the other blogs that mine seems to lack: the presence of photographic work from people other than the students in the class. Many people have been uploading these epic, inspiring images they think are incredible, and explaining why they like them so much.

Now, I think it’s a great thing to show off your influences and the characteristics of a photo that you think are most significant, but I can’t help but look at some of these inspiration photos and realize that there’s no waaaay any of us have a chance of replicating them unless we have 4 years of out-of-state tuition invested in a fancy camera.

This is a photo I found courtesy of Google Images that I really like. Before finding my current header image, I actually considered the photo of this young woman as my header. Just look at her–stare at all of her tattoos, her careless pose, the haphazard way she holds that cigarette, and her open mouth. This woman is such a character. Her appearance doesn’t necessarily delight me, but it certainly doesn’t repel me either. It just fascinates me. I want to know who this woman is, and why she’s sitting on that curb, and what she’s seeing or thinking that’s made her make that expression. Is she discontent? Is she at ease? Does it matter? What would it be like to be an individual this striking? Why is she crouching? Is she hiding from someone? Is she worn out from a long day at work? Is she just a model?

The picture blurs my perception of what’s the known, the unknown, the real, and the imaginary. I don’t know what to think about this woman–the photo just presents this fantastic woman without an accompanying fantastic story, and perhaps that’s why I find the photo mildly fantastic. But what I find especially satisfying about the photo is that it manages to accomplish all of the above without it being blaringly obvious that the picture is the spawn of some celestial camera god.

This is the first photo challenge I’ve chosen to participate in, and I’m going to admit that the idea didn’t even appeal to me at all until recently. The idea is to take a photograph I’ve taken, delete it, then try to recount at least 12 hours later the details of this ghost photo.

I didn’t like this idea. If I took a picture worthy enough to write about, why wouldn’t I just post it? If the photo expresses something I want to express, it seems so wasteful to just send it into nonexistence with the click of a button and hope my words are enough to communicate what I want to communicate.

Then, when I was going through a bunch of photographs I had taken over the weekend, I found the perfect candidate for the ghost image challenge–it was a photograph of a couple at Fifth Quarter nightclub that I had taken without them realizing it. I know the two individuals, but not very well, and they didn’t know I took the photo. I’d feel a bit awkward posting this secret photo of them on my blog, because quite frankly it was a little strange of me to have taken this secret photo in the first place. But the image is too powerful, in my opinion, to go to waste, so perhaps a description of this ghost image is my best option!

The picture is of a young man and a young woman dancing together. The young woman has her arm around her partner’s neck, and is looking up at him with smiling eyes and an open grin. Her hair is dark and long.

The young man is so tall his face is partially cut from the photo. The only part of his expression you can make out is his wide grin. You can’t tell where he is looking, but one can assume at the young woman.

The pose I’ve caught them in doesn’t look like a particularly impressive display of dance. Her arm is around his neck, and his arms hang loosely and end at her waist, but their bodies are far apart and relaxed. It’s like they were pretending to dance, when really they just wanted to smile at each other.

I don’t remember any of the colors of the picture except for the woman’s dark hair. I don’t remember what they were wearing, or what the people around them looked like. The strongest piece of the image I can recall is this couple’s relaxed, comfortable feat of just being together, and I suppose that’s what led me to secretly snap a picture of them in the first place.

So although that picture may have been sent to the underworld of nonexistence, the relationship between these two individuals that existed at that one moment that I had found so fascinating with never be forgotten…

…unless of course I delete this blog once the class is through.
kidding, of course, kidding

I mentioned in my previous entry that I am aware I haven’t been updating these blog entries as frequently as I would have liked…that is not to say that my camera hasn’t been glued to my hands the duration of this course, snapping shot after shot that sits unused in my laptop. This post resembles A Russian Journal‘s chapter five, in that all of a sudden, a flurry of photographs is going to dominate a work that was previously ruled by text. I certainly wasn’t prevented from taking photographs by the KGB though. The only thing stopping me from posting these photos earlier was my conviction that they were my convictions that they weren’t “good enough.” Well, I’ve come to the realization that although these pictures aren’t necessarily fabulous enough to be worth individual blog entries on, perhaps they’ll make for an interesting post if displayed together.

The Periodic Table of Elements in all its glory. This chart has been the center of my existence for the duration of the semester. No photo can possibly communicate the all-encompassing, the vastness, the epic influence this chart has come to play on my life.


My cell phone, an equally prevalent presence in my life. It’s been dropped from flights of stairs, stolen and returned, it’s got scars from when I accidentally left my hair-straightener on top of it, and teeth marks from where my dog has gotten hold of it. This stupid little electronic device is the god of modern times, and as much as I don’t want to admit it I worry sometimes that I’ve fallen victim to its worship.

A cafeteria shot. Look at the massive pile of food on that gentleman’s plate. It is literally a pile of food.









Some hot dogs, which seems like a bit of a misnomer considering they were cold and clammy. This photo has an interesting ability, I’ve come to realize. The hot dogs look more disgusting the longer you look at them.




Why are there so many squirrels in Ann Arbor? They are everywhere, and have no fears approaching students. I have a theory that one day, Ann Arbor will be home to the first entirely domesticated squirrels.







This is one of those photos that means nothing without an accompanying description. This is the CC Little Bus Stop, where a group of students had been waiting for a bus for nearly 20 minutes. They had grown impatient, and had actually started started singing a rambunctious rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody.” They were loud, they were theatric, and they were having so much fun that the individual to the leftmost of the picture (presumably a homeless person) decided to join in the fun. The singing stopped abruptly, and the performers scattered. The three individuals pictured are watching these frightened musicians flee their stage.

Finally, a photograph of a ficus. It’s been so cold and windy outside, and this fake little tree just summarizes the tragedy of the Ann Arbor winter. We so desperately pine for the natural and exotic that we’ve resorted to crafting these fake pieces of wildness and setting them about our plaster and drywall buildings where they remind us of the comfortable environments the human race have so successfully gone about avoiding.

Speaking of avoiding, I assure the reader I will no longer go about avoiding posting my pictures to the blog, no matter how inconsequential I think the images are. Once the photos have been uploaded, formatted, and captioned, they all seem a bit more legitimate, and I grow more fond of them. Except for that hot dog picture. That photo will always be gross.

Well, I must admit I have difficulties posting these entries regularly…I think I’ve been taking the blog a bit too seriously, being really picky and choosy about what images are “worthy” of being blogged about. I know the number of entries is supposed to be about two a week, and I’ve been feeling a little stressed that I haven’t been finding any super incredible photos to take.

Last night I actually dreamed about this blog. I shuffled through the images on my camera and found dozens of images I had taken that I thought were incredible. They were colorful, interesting, taken from cool angles, and I thought they were fantastic. The only image I remember specifically was a portrait of a woman with porcelain white skin and a huge red hat with a bird on it.
I sketched out a picture of what i remember it looking like (the photo is blurry on purpose to disguise my mediocre drawing skills)

This makes me think about what we talked about in class–how even though the camera doesn’t lie, the photographer’s bias can often seen through the photographs they choose to take. I have this preconceived notion of what a “good” photo is, and it feels like I’m just waiting for the world to come up with interesting things for me to photo. I think this shows my immaturity as a photographer–I’m waiting for the world to present something interesting to document, instead of making the world interesting myself through my photos.

So I don’t expect to see my red-hatted woman strolling down State street, but I do expect to find ways to make the insipid the intriguing.