Old Detroit in Stunning Black-and-White Photographs

The Photo Blog
March 11 2014 11:00 AM

Old Detroit in Stunning Black-and-White Photographs

Rauhauser_Kresge File_2

Bill Rauhauser

At 95, photographer Bill Rauhauser is something of a legend in the Detroit arts community. He’s spent more than 60 years taking beautiful street images that reflect the vibrancy and history of the city’s past. In January, Rauhauser was named the 2014 Kresge Eminent Artist, an honor that comes with a $50,000 prize. Later this year, Kresge will publish a monograph of Rauhauser’s career.

Rauhauser started taking photos in high school with a plastic camera he ordered from a magazine for 39 cents. He later traded a stamp collection for a 35-mm camera. Rauhauser started his career as an engineer and only thought of photography as a hobby until he saw a Henri Cartier-Bresson exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art on a visit to New York. “His work was so fascinating and so strong. I just fell in love with it,” he said. “That made me think it could be an art form.”

Rauhauser spent 30 years teaching photography at the College for Creative Studies, which gave him the ability to spend more time on his craft. Getting a great photo, he said, requires a combination of being at the right place, shooting at the right time, having a broad cultural awareness, and a bit of luck. “Photography was something that was in my blood. I was able to use the extra time and inspiration to walk the streets of Detroit at the time and build up a large body of work while it was still a really beautiful city,” he said.

Rauhauser_Kresge_D

Bill Rauhauser

Rauhauser_Kresge_F

Bill Rauhauser

5B_145

Bill Rauhauser

1B_199

Bill Rauhauser

Advertisement

Although Rauhauser mostly eschewed color for black-and-white photography, he didn’t shy away from digital photography. Still, he has found the ubiquity of cellphone cameras detrimental to his practice. “It's very difficult to become invisible now. My way of working was to dress in a way that would not draw attention so I could fit in with the crowd. I’d walk up to somebody crossing the street and I could get a photo without being noticed. Not anymore,” he said.

These days, Rauhauser spends most of his time scanning thousands of his old negatives and looking for new gems among them. On days when the weather is good, he still goes out into the streets with his camera, but he mostly prefers to remember Detroit for the way it used to be. “I don't photograph Detroit much any more,” he said. “The contemporary photographers are interested in flocking to Detroit and photographing the burned-out hulks of houses and vacant lots. I spent a little time there and took two photographs and decided it wasn't for me. Most of my photographs were made in the ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. All the photos I took showed Detroit as a really viable city.”

2P_M-63

Bill Rauhauser

Rauhauser_Kresge File_3

Bill Rauhauser

5B_309

Bill Rauhauser

Rauhauser_Kresge File_1

Bill Rauhauser

5B_303

Bill Rauhauser

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

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

Politics

The GOP’s Focus on Fake Problems

Why candidates like Scott Walker are building campaigns on drug tests for the poor and voter ID laws.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

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

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  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
Science
Sept. 16 2014 4:09 PM It’s All Connected What links creativity, conspiracy theories, and delusions? A phenomenon called apophenia.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.