April 16, 2020

Learning to Swim [for the City of Detroit]

Portraits for the City of Detroit Gratiot/7-Mile Redevelopment Plan

The City of Detroit has launched a redevelopment plan for the Gratiot/7-Mile community. I’ve been hired by the city and the consulting firm Giffels-Webster as the still-images creative director and photographer. Our task is to create a series of portraits with two primary goals:
  • Highlight key quality-of-life issues in the community (i.e. public safety, health, mass transit, etc.)
  • Drive community buyin for the redevelopment plan.
The city identified the Heilmann Recreation Center as a keystone institution in this community. As such, the rec center seemed like a good place to start our portrait project – specifically the rec center’s swimming services. Swimming pool and swimming instruction access a key to public health. In addition to promoting fitness, swimming lessons also promote not dying. According to the Centers for Disease Control, inability to swim is a leading risk factor for fatal and non-fatal drowning. This risk factor is higher in urban communities where people either have limited access to pools or flagging interest in learning to swim. As a person from an urban neighborhood who cannot swim, I felt it important to create images that inspire Gratiot/7-Mile community stakeholders to be nothing like me.

If you live in the Gratiot/7-Mile community and have the following considerations, please get in touch: ▪︎ Are a small business owner. ▪︎ Feel uncomfortable when your child walks to school/plays outside. ▪︎ Use public transit (especially with a small child). ▪︎ Live in a home on a block where most homes have been demolished.

Client: City of Detroit Planning Department/Giffels-Webster
Photography and Creative Direction: Noah Stephens
Subject: Nicole Valentini
Assistant: Sterling Hurd

I'd like to give a special thanks to Nicole, Sterling, and Heilmann Rec Center supervisor Byron Spivey. Also, Khalil Ligon in the City Planning Department and Michael Darga at Giffels-Webster for bringing me onboard for this project.

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