Photographer Carlos Diaz has taught at College for Creative Studies for the past 32 years — long enough to shape and influence an entire generation of Detroit photographers, and mentor them in a medium that has changed wildly thanks to advancing technology.
Before digital photography was even a glimmer, Diaz was engaged in an analog form of photo collage, painstakingly layering hand-cut elements from old patent manuals atop photographic images of Coney Island, to create “invented landscapes” that nonetheless speak to reality.
A selection of these invented landscapes of Coney Island images, as well as others from Diaz’s oeuvre, are on display at David Klein Gallery in downtown Detroit. “Carlos Diaz: Spaces & Spectacle,” a 35-year retrospective of Diaz’s work, opens on Saturday and continues through June 10.
In addition to his imagined landscapes, Diaz is showing parts of his 2008 “Carnival Midway” series, which features unadulterated black-and-white photographs of empty carnival machines and food stands; his 1980-1983 “Wade Carnival Shows” series, which capture typically invisible or socially suspect carnival workers in flattering and uncompromising portraits; and his 2012-2014 “Rouge Series,” which portrays equipment and environmental tableaux from in and around Detroit’s Cody-Rouge area.