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French photographer has outdoor show in Woodbridge

Michael H. Hodges
The Detroit News

It's a story you hear time and again. A foreigner, in this case a French photographer named Elene Usdin, comes to Detroit and is knocked over by the city's unique charms.

Naturally, she took pictures. A small outdoor exhibition of Usdin's work in the Woodbridge neighborhood is up at the Bicycle Park at Putnam and Commonwealth through Sept. 7 -- an outdoor exhibition perfect for the Covid age.

Usdin's book, "We Are Woodbridge," will be available from Wayne State University Press in September.

Corresponding by email from Greece, where she's temporarily located, Usdin says she was first introduced to the city when Jef Bourgeau invited her to do a show at the Museum of New Art in 2014.

"I fell in love with the city of Detroit," Usdin wrote, "and came often between 2015 and 2020. I really loved the people I met there, and during my different journeys in Detroit, I made a lot of portraits of Detroiters."

Eventually Usdin bumped into Larry John, the motive force behind Art in Woodbridge, which has helped install sculpture and murals throughout the historic neighborhood mostly built in the 1880s just west of Wayne State University.

"I had met Elene at Galerie Camille," John said, "and introduced her to Woodbridge. She loved the neighborhood, is a really a great portrait photographer, and was keen on this idea of doing photos of people who live there."

Elene Usdin shot "Pat on his Porch" in 2018, part of her project documenting Detroit's Woodbridge neighborhood.

Usdin ended up being the first artist-in-residence sponsored by Art in Woodbridge, and used that time to document its denizens and urban landscape.

A picture book of her project, "We Are Woodbridge," will be available Sept. 15 from Wayne State University Press for $30.

"What I love about Woodbridge," she said, "are the old houses that make me feel I'm in a timeless place."

She ticked off the other elements that, as a woman who grew up in Paris, particularly charmed her:

"Private gardens, vegetable gardens, Sunday public outdoor events, evening meetings in the street, dog parks, and life on the porch," Usdin wrote, "are a real exotic way of living for me, as a French woman. So it is very refreshing!"

French photographer Elene Usdin fell in love with Detroit, and particularly the Woodbridge neighborhood west of Wayne State.

It sounds like she's not going to be able to stay away.

"I love Detroit, truly," Usdin wrote, "especially the people -- who are so friendly, kind and weird in a good way."

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Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

'We Are Woodbridge'

Photographs by Elene Usdin

Through Sept. 7

Outdoor exhibition at the Bicycle Park at Putnam and Commonwealth, Detroit