Huffington Post

"Because not everyone in Detroit is an abandoned building" -- that's the tongue-in-cheek but sharp-edged tagline to Noah Stephens's "People of Detroit" portrait series.

Stephens, who grew up in Highland Park, says he started his photography project in response to negative and over-generalizing media portrayals of the city. The one that sparked the idea for "People of Detroit" was a 2010 "Dateline" special about a Detroiter who hunts raccoons and sells their meat, which received criticism for its misrepresentation of the city.

"When 'Dateline' implied that circumstances in Detroit were so dire that people had been forced to consume wild 'coon meat as some kinda of post-apocalyptic staple food, I had finally had enough of misery-obsessed, sensationalized portrayals of the city," Stephens wrote in an email to HuffPost. "I started 'The People of Detroit' to call attention to a side of life in the city rarely examined in national or global media."

Stephens posts his widely varying portraits to his blog. Most are of strangers he meets around the city, and each portrait is paired with a short essay about the subject.

"I try to get a sense of what it is that drives them; occupation, hobbies, what are they passionate about," Stephens said. "I also like to find out as much as I can about the relationship the person has with the city."

What began as a response project quickly took on a life of its own. Recently, when Stephens started thinking about bringing his photography to an offline audience, he came up with the idea to show his photographs at the Renaissance Center during the 2012 North American International Auto Show. The big car event will be held at Cobo Center, but the nearby Ren Cen is General Motors' headquarters.

Stephens made a fascinating case for why his work should be shown to coincide with the Auto Show.

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