Personal Project: Stephen Voss

A photojournalist brings the harsh realities of Detroit’s abandoned schools to harrowing light.

Detroit school district

Detroit school district

This gutted hallway was one of the first things Washington, D.C.- based photojournalist Stephen Voss saw while documenting Detroit’s abandoned schools. Voss felt the empty, destroyed buildings spoke volumes about the impact of a deeply troubled economy. He shot the images with his 35mm DSLR as if it were large format to lend “respect and a sort of formality to the subject, and not have the images just look like snapshots.”Stephen Voss
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For this ironic image of books with happy kids’ faces on the covers rotting in water, Voss circled the pile to find the right composition: “I took little half steps from side to side until it came together and made sense.”Stephen Voss
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Tires in a classroom mystified Voss but evoked the omnipresent chaos. Even though it was a dreary, rainy day, he used only available light for the shoot, never going above ISO 800 to maintain image quality.Stephen Voss
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The project is also about the people who are gone, and Voss felt the painted banister cried out with voices no one heard. He tried several shots of this scene to find the right balance of angles.Stephen Voss
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Beauty was found amid the destruction. White paint splashed exuberantly on a blackboard seemed pointless, but yielded Voss’s favorite image.Stephen Voss
Detroit school district

Detroit school district

This gutted hallway was one of the first things Washington, D.C.- based photojournalist Stephen Voss saw while documenting Detroit’s abandoned schools. Voss felt the empty, destroyed buildings spoke volumes about the impact of a deeply troubled economy. He shot the images with his 35mm DSLR as if it were large format to lend “respect and a sort of formality to the subject, and not have the images just look like snapshots.”Stephen Voss
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The painting of a child in a wet recess courtyard made Voss imagine his own child playing there.Stephen Voss