Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Petey Couture Photoshoot in Detroit City - The Adventure

Hi Petey followers!!
Today I'd like to use this blog post to talk about the adventure that was the preliminary Petey Couture 2011 photo shoot this afternoon, December 14, 2010. As I mentioned in my last post, this shoot was for our application to Toronto Alternative Fashion Week showing this April 2011. We had one photographer - Justin Bondy of Wet Fresco Photography, two models wearing two couture outfits and two designers preparing for a shoot of epic proportions...at least for Petey the Troll. The five of us piled into the car with our double doubles and our high confidence and we headed off toward the Ambassador Bridge - one way to Detroit City.

Michigan Central Station is a Beaux-Arts era structure built in 1913 by the architectural duos Warren and Wetmore and Reed and Stem, the architects behind New York Grand Central Station and a variety of other similar train stations across the United States. It was built at a time of prosperity in Detroit, when Henry Ford's new "assembly line" style of making cars became all the rage, and every average joe could get a well paying job in a factory. With so much money flying around, the people of Detroit built the Michigan Central Station to be among the most grandiose, most luxurious buildings in America. Of course, in 1913 the prolonged dominance of the vehicle in Detroit had not occurred to the designers, who assumed the majority of passengers would be arriving by streetcar or some other form of public transit. Thus, when the state built the massive freeways across Detroit City and made it impossible to live there without a car, the use of the old train station became unclear. As the majority of the population moved to the suburbs, leaving their formerly beautiful city to ruin, the station went with it. In 1988 the last train left the station and they closed their doors, abandoning the building to the elements, scrap collectors and homeless of the area.

I can't stress enough the beauty of this building we saw today, even in the state in which it currently exists. The oversized arched front windows are all broken, and there are bits of the ceiling all over the floor, but generally, the place is not in the worst possible shape. I mean... it's no Grande Palais, but it isn't caving in or anything. The graffiti covers every available surface in a free floating dialogue in which some of the most reputable taggers are involved. Aside from the graffiti, there is evidence of human life throughout; empty pop bottles, cigarette butts and footprints are scattered about the floor of the main room. We got in with no problem under the fence and through one of the broken windows. The shrill cold seemed even more bitter in the shade of the hollow shell we were standing in and Meaghan and I worked hard to keep the models from freezing their fingers and toes off for some of the shots. For the duration of the time we were in the building - not more then 30 minutes - we saw no one else inside. No homeless, no other explorers, no one to bother us or even say a word. And it was fine. :)

It was upon exiting the building that we came to realize that it wouldn't be that easy after all. I hopped out the window and spotted a truck watching us on the other side of the fence demanding that we come to him, lest we be arrested. It was a Border Patrol officer and he was not in a good mood. He unlocked the gate of the barbed wire fence and we huddled out like teenagers caught smoking a j on school property. He lectured us for a while about all of the horrible things that *could* have happened while we were in there etc etc... then he got on the phone. Before we knew it, there were SEVEN Border Patrol vehicles surrounding us: five little artists from Canada-land - aka NOT the United States.
"Is this going to be an international incident??" I thought on the inside, while trying to keep my cool on the outside to avoid panic.
Of course, after scaring the hell out of us and causing frost to actually form on body parts of ours from standing out in the freezing cold so long, they let us go without so much as a slap on the wrist. The dude was even flirting with one of the models at the end for Christ's sake. Ridiculous.
So we warmed up, drove home and breathed a sigh of relief upon entering our lovely Windsor, where there are a lot fewer abandoned historic structures, a lot less of a chance you'll be hasseled by a gaggle of international border guards for taking some beautiful pictures.