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Hakeem's Room, Detroit, 2012. Photograph courtesy Dave Jordano

Hakeem's Room, Detroit, 2012. Photo © Dave Jordano


Flak Photo Stories — Dave Jordano, Hakeem’s Room

A closer look at The Collection

Editor's Note: If you're like me, you love looking at photographs. But it's also fun to hear image-makers talk about how or why they make their work. So I'm excited to present Flak Photo Stories, a place for photographers to write about the pictures they've contributed to The Collection. I'm also taking requests: if there are other images from the archive that you'd like to learn more about, send me an email and I'll do my best to coordinate a story for a future installment. I'd love for more people to discover these artists; please feel free to share this post with friends or colleagues. Enjoy! - AA


I met Hakeem while searching for his auto brake repair shop. He had a hand painted sign propped up on the side of his yard that advertised his business, but I couldn't find it. Turns out he had taken over an abandoned garage across the alley from the house that he purchased five years ago for $500.00. The first floor of his house is uninhabitable due to severe water leaks from his plumbing (he can't afford to fix it), so he lives alone on the second floor of the house which is neat as a pin. We hit it off immediately and I made some portraits of him in and around the garage. I commented on how I liked many of his hand painted "slogans" that were displayed in the garage whereupon he said, "That's nothing; I've got this room in the house where I've been writing on the walls for five years". I asked to see it and he refused, claiming that some of his writing might upset some people who might make him out as a racist.

Now, when someone tells a photographer something like that, there's no way you can leave without somehow gaining access into the house to see for yourself. I hung around for another half hour and had some great conversations with him and mentioned the room again. I think at that point he trusted me enough to let me in and took me up to show me his room. It was absolutely mesmerizing — as if his entire thought process had been mapped out on the walls — and none of what he had written made racial slurs or racist comments. His comments about race were opinions about the black man's lack of confidence to lift himself up out of poverty. Hakeem is a devout Muslim who is guided strongly by his faith, but he doesn't attend a mosque. He left me in the room for a half hour by myself where I took several views. I also did a portrait of him sitting on the floor, which was nice, but the empty room is more compelling. I look forward to visiting with him again to give him some prints and perhaps take more pictures. A large print of this image is fascinating since you can read everything clearly.

Dave Jordano received a BFA in photography from the College for Creative Studies in Detroit in 1974. In 2009 a major exhibition of his work on African American storefront churches was held at the Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL accompanied by his book, Articles of Faith, published by the Center for American Places at Columbia College. Jordano has exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is held in several museum, corporate, and private collections, most notably The Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Detroit Institute of Arts. His current project, Detroit Unbroken Down, documents the cultural and societal identity of his hometown Detroit. Jordano is represented by the Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA, Michael Mazzeo Gallery, New York, NY, and the Stieglitz 19 Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium.

Posted on Monday, October 1, 2012.


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