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Detroit Grams

485 W Milwaukee St
Detroit, Michigan

Courtney Hurtt

By Amanda Lewan 
March 14, 2014

For the surfeit of Detroit media coverage that now exists both locally and nationally, do people outside of the city really have a better sense of the day-to-day lives of everyday Detroiters?

Take Sasha, for example -- a waitress at the U of D Coney Island on Livernois just south of McNichols. Sasha has been working at the same location for over 25 years, and has seen a whole generation pass through her diner, from the students at University of Detroit Mercy down the street to the loyal locals from the neighborhood. You probably won’t ever hear anything about Sasha in Detroit’s major media outlets, but Detroit Grams published Sasha’s story in their very first issue, “Coney Capital.” The online publication introduces readers to a different type of storytelling -- one focused on the unique culture and experiences of everyday Detroiters.

The digital magazine was born out of a website created to showcase Instagram photos during the Detroit Design Festival in 2012. The project then evolved into a beautiful digital platform that mixes social media, photography, design, and music to tell stories about Detroit.

Courtney Hurtt and co-founder Nneka Odum started the project in order to take a closer look at Detroit’s culture. While news captures what’s new and now, what’s changing, and what’s shifting, Detroit Grams is geared towards the everyday. The everyday in Detroit is far from boring, and their platform offers a new way to enjoy these personal stories.

“We’re using place, people, and stories as an avenue to talk about culture,” says Hurtt, who describes it as very ethnographical. “It’s a very narrative-driven, intimate approach.”

Courtney was born in Detroit and grew up in Southfield. She attended Michigan State University where she studied comparative cultures and politics, and brings her love of understanding and analyzing culture with her to Detroit Grams. She works full-time at WDET and contributes the storytelling to Detroit Grams. Her partner Nneka contributes the beautiful photography. Together they work with a small team of contributors to grow the publication.

Courtney says their approach is important to having a more in-depth understanding of the local culture we experience daily, and also to include everyone in the larger Detroit story.

“You don’t have to come to Detroit and make something. You can be a waitress and still have meaningful participation in the city’s story,” says Hurtt.

To her surprise, people are excited and eager to share their stories. Detroit Grams publishes quarterly and focuses on a different theme for each issue. The current issue, “Flow,” examines hip-hop artists and the music culture in the city; the next issue, due in April, will explore fashion and industrial gear.

Part of their goal is to not only tell the untold stories of the city, those small slices of life that truly are pieces of a greater whole, but to also show the talent and beauty of the city on a larger scale.

“Outside of the city we want to send the message that we have beauty here. We have creativity,” says Hurtt. “We have talented photographs, designers, digital designers, and writers, and we’re all here. We want to present that through Detroit Grams.”

All photos by Doug Coombe. 

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