Detroit Framed: The Portraits by Donita Simpson, signed

Portraits of the Detroit artist community, 2013 – 2018. At home or in the studio, the artists speak to the viewer; they tell us who they are. Softcover book with heavy matte card stock cover. Each image on its own page.

About the Artist

Donita Simpson, spends her time photographing established and emerging artists in Metro Detroit. She explores the artists, their studios and the newly created environment that exists between the artist and the photographer.

Ms. Simpson has exhibited her work internationally and continues to show her work widely. Recently, her portrait of Gilda Snowden was chosen as a finalist in the Outwin- Boocheever Portrait Competition where it was selected from 2500 images to hang in The National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institute from March 2016 until January of 2017. It then traveled the country until 2018. Her work is in the collections of the Tweed Museum, Visual Studies Workshop, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Detroit Institute of Art, as well as, several private and corporate collections.

Simpson earned an MFA in photography and an MEd from Wayne State University. She has served as an adjunct professor of photography at both Marygrove Collage and Wayne State University in Detroit.

Artist Statement

In 1989 I began the process of making photographic portraits of fellow artists in Detroit. In 2010, after viewing many journals and books alleging the ongoing decay of the city of Detroit, I felt strongly that the negative characterizations didn’t tell the entire story and needed to be challenged. From that point forward, I was determined to photograph the art community I knew and loved, believing that the photographs would help build community support, understanding and engagement.

What makes a photographic portrait? Is it the facial expression, the body language, the clothing, the environment? It is, I believe, a complicated suite of those things, together with the deeply personal vision and emotional response of the portrait photographer.

Trying to portray a unique community demands a collaboration, a persistent and watchful eye, and a personal vision. I chose to photograph my subjects in their uniquely personal environments either at home, in their studio, or other deeply personal creative space. The language of authenticity speaks in a personal way, influenced by those places where a person unconsciously places objects of importance among their personal possessions. The studio is a fertile composite of identity. It is here where I come to understand who the subject really is.

In a language that only the owner of a studio can speak, I attempt to capture the symbols of personal identity and creativity. In those environments, they tell us who and what they are… in their own time, and in their own way.

Getting to know each artist enriches my life and is its own reward. In the end, selecting the final image is all about them, and not at all about me.

I look for the authentic depictions and representations, the true meaning and identifying qualities of each encounter, always hoping that the viewer will learn something new.


Self-produced in an edition of 50 copies, large format: 8.5″x11″, 88 plates, each book is signed by the photographer.

$ 50.00