A Day with Professional Architecture Photographer Roberto Conte

The light outside is just too bright. But it’s still early enough in the morning that I have a vague feeling of what it is like when that damn coffee shop that I love writing from opens up. Some Spotify playlist is going on in the background. Up comes “I Fall Apart” by Post Malone which is probably perfect for this post. Detroit. To many it might have fallen apart. But not quite yet.

Post Malone – I Fall Apart – YouTube

A few months ago a friend that used to live in Detroit asked me if I could take a photographer-friend of hers out on a photographic tour of Detroit. I was happy to do so.

I just wasn’t thrilled by the fact that I would once again go visit all these abandoned places. The Porn Ruin abundance had gotten to me.

Sneaking in, walking around and discovering abandoned places is exciting, informative, eye opening, and overall fun for the first few times. For me, it got old, no pun intended.

But I figured that in between one abandoned place and another I could show Roberto Conte, the renowned Architecture photographer (https://www.robertoconte.net/) who was coming, how beautiful Detroit really was.

A month goes by from when my Detroit friend initially writes me and Roberto gets in touch.

We hit it off straightaway, electronically that is. We exchange a couple of emails and we set our meet date and time for a weekend of Detroit exploration at the end of April.

We had to meet at 6am at the Detroit Central Station because Roberto wanted to make some morning photographs of the majestic building. Unfortunately it was freezing cold. I recall only wearing a sweatshirt because I couldn’t believe that it was almost May and it was still so cold, less than 10 degrees C cold.

And it was an overcast day, so not the prettiest of light. No photo there. We decide to move on, with one car.

We knew exactly where we were going next. He had warned me that he was a “war-machine” in that he was going to see as much as possible. His organization made it possible.

Using Google My Maps he had labelled all the sites he wanted to see and color coded them based on when he wanted to see them, if in the morning or afternoon for example. A tool which I would then use to plan an upcoming trip to Japan. I highly recommend it.

The first site, an old church in Delray, was closed and boarded up. We couldn’t get in.

On to the next. A school. And this is what welcomed us. A large gym with a chair, and blood all around it.

Abandoned School, Detroit, Apr 2018

The photo is a little shaken as I forgot to adjust my shutter speed after putting it on my tripod. Rookie mistake. It was still at 1/30 sec, on my Fujifilm x100F.

But that doesn’t matter too much. Or maybe it even adds to the picture. Nah. Better if it’s crisp!

We move onto a few other locations. Grabbing a coffee in between, exchanging life stories and having a “grand ol’ time”.

The next was an old Cadillac Plant. These are probably the sites that attract me the most, more than the churches or schools. It’s as if I think that factories are the first to go. One could argue, and ideally I would agree, that education is the foundation of a well functioning system. But in the end, is the bread on the table at dinner time?

If not, no schools, no churches, or anything else is even necessary. The human condition just fascinates me, and viewing these sites brings me into a societal analysis mode which I attempt to capture with my camera.


The Cadillac Plant.

We climb up a somewhat safe ladder.

And there it is. Immense, columns upon columns, barrels lying around, and what seems to be charcoal on the floor.

Roberto and I start shooting away. We look for our angles. For our frames. And I love that about photography. Each photographer sees things as they feel should be represented. Every click has a purpose. For the most part.

Abandoned Cadillac Plant, Detroit, Apr 2018
Abandoned Cadillac Plant, Detroit, Apr 2018
Abandoned Cadillac Plant, Detroit, Apr 2018

Switching between color and black and white is somewhat of a struggle, for me that is. I tend to prefer black and white, full of contrast, black shadows and useless blown out highlights. And they do offer that timeless aspect of them, together with all the drama that the subject, especially in this case, calls for.

Abandoned School, Detroit, Apr 2018

Like in the image below. The diagonal line cutting the frame, and having enough light to show some details, make the picture. Rather than throw the background in a massive blur, keep everything sharp, but hide through color. Black that is.

At a certain point we break to grab some grub. We head to the Eastern Market and have brunch at one of the classics, Russel St. Delicious. But no time to waste. Roberto and I have seen quite a bit thus far but the day is far from over.

Hotels, other schools, other churches, and just strolling around. Him always apologizing that he was driving like shit because he was looking at the next place on his Google Map and me telling him that it was absolutely ok cause one too many times I had the same conversation with my wife while going around.

And below are some of the photos from those days. And if you follow Roberto Conte on Instagram you’ll see much, much more from many other parts of the world.

I hope he’ll forgive me if my lines are not perfectly straight as they should be with architecture photography. He did use his tilt-shift lens for every shot. I mean, in the end, he is a Pro. A Pro photographer, and a Pro-cool guy.

Abandoned Hotel Lobby, Detroit, Apr 2018
Abandoned School, Detroit, Apr 2018
Abandoned School, Detroit, Apr 2018
Abandoned School, Detroit, Apr 2018
Abandoned School, Detroit, Apr 2018

Another day to discover through photography. Love it.

Until Next Time,