Friday, January 15, 2016

Meet Acronym

There are a lot of people photographing the rebirth of Detroit. The best way to keep up with the ever moving city is to "follow" the writers, photographers and artists that are documenting it. One of my newest favorite follows is a local photographer and writer named Amy Cooper a.k.a. Acronym. Her Instagram feed is full of interesting shots of the people, places, and things of Detroit. Her work is inspiring, much like the person behind the camera.

I had a chance to talk to Amy about her craft, her love for Detroit, and her blog, Detroit Ginger, where she writes about her experiences in Detroit. Read ahead to learn more about Acronym and do yourself a favor and start following her to see the world through her eyes.

HID-Why photography?
AC- "I've always loved documenting life. I started with photography at 13, and much like my father (who passed when I was 3), I always had a camera in hand, to the point of being annoying to all of my friends. Yet, as we got older, everyone cherished the stand-still moments we had together. It's almost like time travel, in a way. So after many years of capturing moments, the groundwork was laid to create ACRONYM, the alias for my photography. I chose the name because an ACRONYM stands for something, and that's what I hope to achieve with the photos I take."

HID- Who inspires you?
AC- "As cheesy as it may sound, the friends that I've made in the past year and a half. I spent a good deal of my time in Detroit running solo prior to then, and I have made some amazing friends with the most creative people I've ever met. They push me to try harder and be better, both as a person, and as an artist. I wouldn't be where I am now without them."

HID- What makes a good photo?
AC- "I will always hold the ideal that the feeling behind the photograph brings out how strong the photo is. Fact: Anyone can take a picture. The Detroit Photo scene has been over saturated with tons of "photographers" - and more power to anyone wanting to perfect a craft, but what makes a photo a good one is simply this: what does it mean?

It's kind of a loaded answer, but bear with me: I see tons photos from many artists, and some of them lack all feeling. It's a snapshot. But especially with my portraiture, I try my best to capture the person I'm photographing - even when asking them to be a character or a fictitious person. I want the person they are to shine through - and I think that's why it means so much to me. It infuriates me in some states when I see a photo of someone I know from a photographer and the person's personality is not reflected by the image."
HID- How would you describe your love affair with the city of Detroit?
AC- "I recently learned that my personality is what some people call an "empath." I feel and care deeply about many things. With that in mind, I have always been an underdog, and empaths tend to root for the underdog. When I started actively obsessing over Detroit, things were very different than they are now - but never the less, Detroit was, and still is, an underdog.

I've been able to be privy to some amazing changes happening before my eyes - some I've even documented. But different than any other place and any other state I've visited, Detroit has a unique pulse. There's a sense of energizing gravity. It's a place where I feel people can create their own history - their own world, and thrive in it.

I've seen the highest of peaks from the tops of it's skyscrapers, and I've seen the lowest of moments interacting with some of the people who have been crippled by the hard times - but all of that makes the city a living, breathing place, and I love it whole heartedly, the good and the bad."

HID- You describe yourself as a Detroit Urban Wildlife Photographer, can you define that term for us?
AC- "When I photograph Detroit, I don't try to sugar coat it. Even though I have dabbled in what people call "Urban Exploring" photography, I've never fully identified myself with that. Sometimes I just throw myself into the middle of Downtown, and walk, and almost every time, I find something new and beautiful I've never seen, whether that be a person, a place, or a new vantage point of the skyline. I would assume that's how it feels to a photographer for National Geographic, heading into the Sahara. The city is MY wildlife."

HID- How do you think the City of Detroit has changed in the last five years and where do you see it going next?
AC- "There's a ton of talk of what people have called the "gentrification" of Detroit - that whole "art/bohemian" lifestyle that's bringing more people to the city, and taking away it's grit and grime. Now, you can see patterns of this - so people aren't technically wrong, but at the same time, it's hard to say it's a completely bad thing. More small businesses have sprouted, and though, sure, we are getting a Nike Store, which is big business, I think that the small businesses are thriving more so here than anywhere else. There are many people bringing Detroit up by it's bootstraps, so to speak, and with that will come change. That's not bad if it means that we're thriving more than failing. Yet, we still have a long way to go.

From the Urban Exploring side, many of us are losing a lot of our cherished locations in this revitalization. Places like Book Tower and Lee Plaza, which have been recently purchased, are no longer accessible for a photographer. It's bittersweet, but in the end, those things will now be re-purposed into something more, to make the city better. That I can stand behind, even if I'm bummed I never made it to those spots."

HID- Dream photo shoot?
AC- "The first - Chernobyl in the Ukraine. I am a total nerd for things that are creepy like that, even if there's still radiation in the area. Second - Six Flags New Orleans. I've always been intrigued by the post-Katrina side of things, from both a historical aspect, and from a vacant/exposure aspect of what gets left behind by us as human beings. Third - I would love to both photograph and interview some of the big name artists in Detroit for photo and video. I would enjoy learning what they love about the city - and want to expose their talent to a new group of people through my work."

HID- What's your favorite photo that you have taken to date? 
AC- "It is hard to pick just one because I do both landscape and portraiture, but if I had to choose two, the first would be a skyline shot that I took from the Wayne State Parking Structure, that I flipped and mirrored to make a graphic image. It's crisp and detailed, and it's a skyline that has no other rival.
The other, a portrait of my friend Josh Kassabian. I dragged him out to Belle Isle and made him get in the water by the bridge, and I said something exceedingly corny, and managed to get his real laugh and smile out of him while simultaneously hitting the shutter. My heart seizes up every time I look at it, mostly because in that moment - I got him, 100%. That moment is frozen in time, and I will always remember him that way."
HID- What is Detroit Ginger and how did it get started? What is your involvement with it?
AC- "I created Detroit Ginger as a pet project, mostly because I was sick of being told what I could and could not write from my editor of my college newspaper. I did an interview with the ladies of the Detroit Jewelry company Rebel Nell, and they opened up to me about how they started from humble beginnings, and I felt exceedingly moved by them. I wrote the piece and turned it in, and my editor rejected it, saying she would not publish any more stories about Detroit from me. So I said to myself, "Fine, if you won't publish it, I will."

I felt so strongly about this story and how these brave and strong women needed to be highlighted, that I created a website and interface to share that feature, and it opened a whole new world where I could share my thoughts, the thoughts of others, and highlight people who deserved to be shown off, using the written word, rather than my photography. I've been told by many that when I combine the two, that is when I'm the most powerful."


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