Big Rapids, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
ON THE ROAD TO NOWHERE
My fascination with the mid-west began a few years back while traversing the country by train, in search of remnants of Americana throughout the Rust Belt region. It led me to meet the people who remained in these towns, years and decades after being laid-off from their jobs as factory and mill workers. Many of them still unemployed, living with family members and elderly parents, just trying to find a way to survive day-to-day. Some even living in homes that were in complete disrepair. My curiosity peaked as to why people didn’t leave after the factories shut down and the work dried up.
It has been over three decades since the deindustrialization of America. The Rust Belt has witnessed its fair share of poverty, declining populations and urban decay. All quite evident, even today.
This was such a foreign thing to me, being someone who grew up in a big city with lots of people and opportunities. I had never seen towns quite like this before. These were places where the majority of businesses were shuttered, run down motels were now serving as subsidized housing and only half of the homes on any given residential street were occupied.
Since then, I’ve been going back to the mid-west every summer and revealing more of these places. They are everywhere and I soon realized that this is what modern America looks like.
I began to find the answers that I was looking for. Discovering that many people were born and raised in these communities and never left, due to the lack of resources and education to find new employment, as well as being unable to afford relocation costs. It was better to stay in a place they were familiar with than to venture out into the unknown. Now many residents of these towns are hopeful that this new President will turn their cities of rust back into gold.