This Is What the Most Violent City in America Looks Like

The Photo Blog
Sept. 20 2013 11:06 AM

A Tale of Two Flint, Michigans

JuanMadrid_1

Juan Madrid

For the third straight year, Flint, Mich., has been rated the most violent city in America. The FBI logged 2,700 violent crimes in 2012, including 63 homicides.

But photographer Brett Carlsen didn't hesitate to move there in 2012 when he was offered an internship at the Flint Journal. Shortly after he arrived, he decided he wanted to get more involved in documenting the city. "I started realizing when I was at the paper that there was a lot more to the city than I felt we were covering," Carlsen said.

Carlsen set about photographing the city and meeting its residents, learning more about the its hardships since the collapse of the auto industry. "There's a lot of pride in the city. I still see a ton of that. Some people aren't as big fans, and they want to see the city like it was when they were younger. It's a hard place to be from," he said.

BrettCarlsen_1

Brett Carlsen

JuanMadrid_3

Juan Madrid

BrettCarlsen_6

Brett Carlsen

Advertisement

Eventually, Carlsen decided to invite his friend and former Rochester Institute of Technology classmate Juan Madrid to come visit the city and photograph it concurrently. The two are currently raising money on Kickstarter to fund a publication featuring their work together. "I love the way he photographs, and I thought it would be kind of cool to have the yin and yang of the two approaches. I don't know if there's anything beyond it—just two photographers looking at one place," Carlsen said.

The photographers shoot at the same time but never together. Each of their bodies of work represents two different artistic approaches. Carlsen, who studied photojournalism, looked to make connections and get access "behind closed doors," whether it was a church or a drug dealer's home. Madrid, who comes from a fine-art background, thrived on chance encounters.

He had one such encounter on his first visit last August. Madrid met a former gang member who told him about how he turned his life around after getting out of prison. "Having that amount of openness on my first visit there really set me off, not just on the project, but gave me a renewed vigor for photography," Madrid said.

JuanMadrid_2

Juan Madrid

Welcome to Flint

Brett Carlsen

Though their experiences were unique, both Madrid and Carlsen said they've been transformed by their experiences in Flint. Carlsen said his best friends live in the city, and although he no longer lives in in Flint full time, he’s considering moving back.

For both photographers, the project is ongoing. "I have a feeling I'll be visiting the city for most of my life," Madrid said.

JuanMadrid_4

Juan Madrid

Welcome to Flint

Brett Carlsen

JuanMadrid_6

Juan Madrid

Welcome to Flint

Brett Carlsen

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.