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

War Stories

The Right Target

Why Obama’s airstrikes against ISIS may be more effective than people expect.

The One National Holiday Republicans Hope You Forget

It’s Legal for Obama to Bomb Syria Because He Says It Is

I Stand With Emma Watson on Women’s Rights

Even though I know I’m going to get flak for it.

Should You Recline Your Seat? Two Economists Weigh In.

Doublex

It Is Very, Very Stupid to Compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice

Or, why it is very, very stupid to compare Hope Solo to Ray Rice.

Building a Better Workplace

In Defense of HR

Startups and small businesses shouldn’t skip over a human resources department.

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Use Facebook to Reconnect With Old Friends, Share Photos, and Serve People With Legal Papers

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 23 2014 6:40 PM Coalition of the Presentable Don’t believe the official version. Meet America’s real allies in the fight against ISIS.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 23 2014 2:08 PM Home Depot’s Former Lead Security Engineer Had a Legacy of Sabotage
  Life
Outward
Sept. 23 2014 1:57 PM Would a Second Sarkozy Presidency End Marriage Equality in France?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?
  Slate Plus
Political Gabfest
Sept. 23 2014 3:04 PM Chicago Gabfest How to get your tickets before anyone else.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 23 2014 4:45 PM Why Is Autumn the Only Season With Two Names?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 23 2014 5:36 PM This Climate Change Poem Moved World Leaders to Tears Today
  Health & Science
Science
Sept. 23 2014 4:33 PM Who Deserves Those 4 Inches of Airplane Seat Space? An investigation into the economics of reclining.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 23 2014 7:27 PM You’re Fired, Roger Goodell If the commissioner gets the ax, the NFL would still need a better justice system. What would that look like?