ARTS & CULTURE
09/24/2013 09:59 am ET

'Welcome To Flint': Most Violent City In America Gets Closer Look From Brett Carlsen, Juan Madrid (PHOTOS)

The city of Flint lies 60 miles north of Detroit. Medium in size, it's home to around 100,000 people. And though it's far from the Motor City, where it's commonly known that services falter, crime festers and homes sit empty, it shares many of the same problems.

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Nubbz and his son. Lost hand and forearm while saving his daughter from a firework. By Brett Carlsen.

"Flint is like a fast forward version of Detroit in ways," said photographer Brett Carlsen.

It also happens to be the most violent city in America, using FBI statistics from 2012, with the most murders per capita for cities with over 100,000 residents -- residents who have a 1 in 37 chance of being a victim of a violent crime.

It's here that Carlsen and collaborator Juan Madrid turned their lenses for "Welcome to Flint," a photo series that doesn't gloss over the city's wounds. Former college classmates, the two started the project after Carlsen interned as a photographer for the Flint Journal.

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A man displays baggies of crack cocaine after being split up for distribution. By Brett Carlsen.

"I certainly was introduced to the lows of the city through that internship," said Carlsen. "Going to the murder scene of a 14-year-old and then meeting his family the next day to find a toddler wearing an RIP tshirt will make you realize very quickly that there are some deep issues surrounding violence. I think my experiences there just solidified my interest and put me into the city's culture a lot quicker than if I had just traveled there with an eager eye."

Carlsen and Madrid, who have been self-funded up to this point, are raising funds through crowd-sourcing site Kickstarter to create a newsprint artists' publication of their photography that would be distributed for free in Flint, as well a photography app. On Tuesday, they had raised about a quarter of their $6,000 goal.

For the people who call Flint home, their city is more than crime stats. And while Carlsen and Madrid don't shy away from showing crime -- or urban decay, or poverty -- they also temper it with flashes of joy and tenderness.

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Willie McClure Jr. 19, hugs a congregation member after hearing that he was awarded the Gates Millennium Scholarship. By Brett Carlsen.

Originally, Madrid said, they had planned for him to focus on the "positive" and Carlsen on the "negative." But as the project evolved, they abandoned that dichotomy.

"The project has become more about telling a nuanced story, one that tries to paint a broader portrait of a city that has hit hard times with no clear way of moving forward," Madrid said. "If we had focused on purely painting a black and white picture, it would have been more sensationalist and I think dishonest to the city and ourselves."

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A dealer pets the 6-week-old pit bull he received two days prior between rounds of shooting dice. By Brett Carlsen. / Photo by Juan Madrid.

Flint is the most dangerous city in America, but Flint is also ... "caring," Carlsen filled in to complete the sentence. "I find more people helping each other out and caring about one another than I do in other places. People come together to clean up neighborhoods, help each other with small business ideas and start crazy ideas like a non-profit music venue or a community story telling effort. The people of Flint actually give a shit about the people around them, which is refreshing."

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Photo by Juan Madrid.

"Though the project is literally about Flint, my approach involves using Flint as a microcosm of America today -- there are many issues this city faces that are prevalent across the country," Madrid said. "Poverty, violence, racism, capitalism -- those are just four that have become central to my understanding of this world and help drive me to explore ways of showing other people that change is needed and it's not going to happen without action on our parts."

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Photo by Juan Madrid.

Scroll down for more photographs from "Welcome to Flint."

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Photo by Juan Madrid.

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Trap house on the east side. By Brett Carlsen.

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Photos by Juan Madrid.

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Photo by Brett Carlsen.

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Spectators sit on a Ford Bronco as fireworks explode above the former Chevy in the Hole site. By Brett Carlsen.

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