Arsenal of Democracy


In a radio broadcast delivered on December 29, 1940, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of the United States as representing “The Arsenal of Democracy”. In this address, he promised to help the United Kingdom fight Nazi Germany by sending them military supplies (although the intention was still to keep the United States out of the actual fighting).

Following Roosevelt’s speech, Detroit, Michigan - the center of American auto- mobile manufacturing - made the slogan its own. “The Arsenal of Democracy” captured the city’s own sense of itself during its rapid industrial wartime conversion towards production of vital armaments. Factories previously turning out automobiles were converted to manufacturing tanks, trucks, guns and airplanes.
That was then.

Detroit is a city that has undergone vast changes over the past six decades—from being a wealthy industrial center to what it is today, a city that hemorrhaged 25 percent of its population from 2000 to 2010, where entire neighborhoods now lie waste and abandoned. 
I have selected 48 images from 16mm film “tests” (b/w and color), which I had shot in Detroit in the early to mid-90s. Each poster displays 24 frames—equivalent to 1 second of projected film. The images represent a record of the city at particular time in its history: a rediscovered archive preserved on motion picture film, which has been re-imagined as still photographs.


Robert Fenz
SOX   Oranienstrasse 175     Berlin 10999
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