If you look up photographer Bruce Harkness images on the web, his presence is scarce. There are a few scattered images, but for the most part, it would be pressing do any sort of extensive research about his work. While looking for images to use for this blog entry, I was hard-pressed to come up with images that would fairly represent the body of work represented in this exhibit.
Sadly, many photographers are being marginalized based on their lack of web-presence. The digital revolution has made people lazy, and because of this, the physical print is often looked at as sentimental or antiquated. Instagram and other social media websites have made it convenient to look at a photographer's work without without ever having to get up of the couch.
Bruce Harkness' Poletown 1981 photographs are worthy of turning off your computer and making it to his exhibit at the Hamtramck Historical Museum. This exhibit documents the hostile takeover of Hamtramck's Poletown neighborhood by General Motors, in order to construct the Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly Plant.
To build the new plant, 1,500 buildings were demolished: literally wiping out a once thriving and ethnically diverse neighborhood on the southern border of Hamtramck. Churches, homes and businesses were suddenly gone, and Harkness was there to document the neighborhood as it morphed into 465 acres of barren land, so that GM could build it's new factory.
Over 4,000 residents were displaced, many of whom fiercely protested the demolition of their neighborhood. Eventually, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in favor of GM, siting it as legitimate use for eminate domain. The Poletown Neighborhood Council v. Detroit, went on to become a landmark case for the consideration of "public use" for eminent domain.
Poletown 1981 will be on display till August 30th at the Hamtramck Historical Museum, located at 9525 Jos. Campau, Hamtramck, MI. 48212 (three blocks north of Holbrook on the west side of Jos. Campau.
The museum is open Saturdays and Sundays between 11am and 4pm, or by appointment. Call 313-893-5027. Admittance to the museum can also be gained by visiting the Polish Arts Center next door. A staff person will be glad to show you through the museum.
In addition, Harkness will present his photos at the monthly Hungry for History program on August 27th, 2015. There will be a sit-down dinner followed by a lecture. The dinner is at 530pm ($12 charge), the lecture at 7pm is free.
For dinner reservations call 313-893-5027 or 313-574-9758.