Detroit Today: How photographer Stephen McGee has shifted Detroit narratives

The way people feel about Detroit depends on how they view it, explains Stephen McGee, a local photographer and filmmaker.

Joe Louis fist sculpture in Downtown Detroit

Detroit has endured a lot of uphill battles in the last 20 years alone — including recession, corruption scandals, bankruptcy and water shutoffs.

But there have also been a lot of positives. Things like a vibrant music scene, sports stadiums, new poetry and arts projects, the Detroit Greenway and investments made in certain neighborhoods.

The way people interpret Detroit depends on the frame — and that frame shifts depending on who’s manipulating the lens.

Stephen McGee knows this sentiment intimately. He’s been around the city for the last 18 years, and in that time has watched it change a lot.

Listen: How Detroit has and hasn’t changed over the last 20 years.


Stephen McGee is a longtime filmmaker and photographer in the city of Detroit. He has amassed an archive of millions of images, thousands of hours of film and hundreds of interviews.

McGee recently published an article of some of his work in Hour Magazine. He says he’s attempted to help break popular narratives that Detroit “is back,” noting that, rather, “we’re building on strong, Black neighborhoods.”

“This Black, welcoming city is on the cusp of leading the world once again, and in many ways it already is,” says McGee.

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    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.