Skateboarding through Detroit's ghost city

© kevin Metallier

A French expedition to explore a forgotten world.

The formerly symbolic ‘Motor City’ of Detroit has rarely been out of the headlines lately. During the 1950s it was a metaphor for relentless American capitalism, the showroom of a prosperous ‘Made in the USA’ car industry. The city is a shadow of what it once was.

Oscar Candon, Frontside Smithgrind
Oscar Candon, Frontside Smithgrind© Kevin Metallier

Forty years of oil, industrial, social and financial crises later, it is now an agonised place. Deserted by more than a third of its population over the last two decades, it has officially been declared bankrupt; the last act of a decline that began in the late 1960s.

Bastien Duverdier, Footplant
Bastien Duverdier, Footplant© Kevin Metallier

It was through the heart of this Motown-turned-Ghost-Town that Julien Bechet, Michael Mackrodt, Oscar Candon, Bastien Duverdier and I rolled. In between crackheads, dilapidated buildings, bankrupt shops, deserted streets and abandoned houses, we slipped through shadows unseen, or at least ignored. The experience was like being in one of those ‘day after’ films that were so popular around the turn of the millennium.

Michael Mackrodt, Varial Heelflip
Michael Mackrodt, Varial Heelflip© kevin Metallier

We were, however, warmly welcomed and hosted by a crew of fabulous locals and quickly realised the potential that the city’s sprawl holds. Every day we would session improbable but captivating spots.

Julien Bechet, Frontside Flip Stalefish
Julien Bechet, Frontside Flip Stalefish© kevin Metallier

Detroit’s streets and abandoned buildings are a skateboarding playground for the adaptable skater. We were treated with a generosity of spirit that was at odds with the grinding realities of life there. In the midst of this economic chaos, Detroit's citizens organise and try each and every day to bring more humanity to this dying city; flowers in the cracks of the pavement of modern life.

Team© Kevin Metallier