Last week I had the surprise opportunity to photograph Nicole Curtis from the DIY Network show Rehab Addict. I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t that familiar with her show, as my wife and I had only a couple of weeks prior joined the rest of the free world and finally subscribed to cable television for the first time in several years. Upon finding out just who it was I would be photographing, I did what any self-respecting photographer would do and started doing some research on my subject. It didn’t take very long for Rehab Addict to become one of our new favorite shows.
What sets Nicole’s show apart from the vast majority of other remodeling shows on cable TV is the fact that she goes to great lengths to restore homes to their former glory by painstakingly finding the original materials that are true to the era in which the home was built. This happens to mirror the philosophy my wife and I have when it comes to older homes. While my wife and I are merely dreaming about the day we will be able to take on a project like this, Nicole is actively doing this in Minnesota and in her home city of Detroit (Lake Orion). In addition, Nicole gets just as dirty as anyone else on her crew. She is one of the few personalties that will actually tackle the work herself as opposed to hiring crews to do all the dirty work.
I was associated with this gig thanks to a call from Pace . This was part of a campaign they were doing to promote the Step Forward Michigan program, a program through MSHDA which provides struggling homeowners with assistance in keeping on top of their mortgages. Nicole was kind enough to lend her assistance to the campaign. I was there to take still images ranging from shots on white to editorial-style shots to behind the scenes shots of the video that was being produced…simultaneously. This was going to be a busy, hectic day to say the least!
For anyone that’s ever dealt with trying to take stills while working alongside a video crew, you know that due to the sheer volume of shots that need to be captured and multiple set-ups that need to happen, that the chances of things being less than ideal are high. The video guys have their shots that they need to get, the photo guy has shots he needs to get and to each craft, their shots are the priority. Fortunately, the video crew that Pace hired were extremely gracious and flexible and while at times it was a bit crazy, we were able work well together.
Overall, it was an incredibly exciting day for me. Not only did I get to photograph an amazing personality, but I also got to witness someone who brings a passion for restoration taking on a project in arguably one of the most devastated areas in the country. If you’ve been following the news, then you know about the headlines Detroit is making lately. It’s easy to focus on the negative aspects of Detroit, but we should all remember what an amazing city Detroit was in its prime. This is evidenced by the structures that remain. Even just walking through an old house damaged by arson (which is very common in the D), you can get a sense of the pride and grandeur that existed in this city. However, if you look at what’s really going on in Detroit, you know that it’s not just about devastation and ruin-porn. There is an undeniable spirit in Detroit that, in spite of being beaten down and bankrupt, is ready to show the world that it is in the process of reinventing itself. The population may be smaller and the demographics may change, but when enough ordinary people refuse to let things crumble into ruin, it gives hope that Detroit will thrive again.