London Artist Creates ‘Human Atlas’ of Detroit

Photographer Marcus Lyon spent three years creating “i.Detroit: Human Atlas of an American City” — an extensive research project that pulls together photography, ancestry and audio to tell the story of 100 Detroiters.

London photographer Marcus Lyon has built an artistic practice around creating multi-sensory human atlases that map out the DNA lineage of people and places.

“We were there to tell your story with your voices.” — Marcus Lyon, artist and photographer

Marcus Lyon
Marcus Lyon

Described as an “identity art project,” Lyon has mapped stories through the people of Brazil and Germany. Over the past three years, Lyon has turned his attention to Detroit with “i.Detroit: A Human Atlas of an American City.” The project features the images, voices and DNA tracing of 100 Detroit residents. It exists both as a limited edition book and an interactive website.

“We bring all that together to tell a deeper truth about how we self-author but also how we co-author a more hopeful future,” says Lyon during an interview on CultureShift on 101.9 WDET. “It’s an atlas — we want some contours. We want some depth.”

From first responders and community organizers to poets, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders and educators — “people who are moving the needle and creating change in their society,” says Lyon — the elevated experience results in an app-based, image-activated oral history and ancestral storytelling that offers a pulsating view and feel of the city that isn’t often shown in national and mainstream etchings. 

“When you look at the project in Detroit, we’ve got a lot of focus on the neighborhoods,” says Lyon. “There were a number of outside commentators who come into Detroit with preconceived ideas… and then they go looking for the story that fits their ideas. We were not in that game. We were there to tell your story with your voices.

Click the audio player to hear the full conversation with photographer Marcus Lyon:

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