Photographer Doug Coombe celebrates the music scenes of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti with multimedia exhibition | Art stories and interviews | Detroit

click to enlarge Andrew WK, who grew up in Ann Arbor, performed in Detroit's Magic Stick.  - DOUG COOMBE

Doug Coombe

Andrew WK, who grew up in Ann Arbor, performed in Detroit’s Magic Stick.

Over the years, Metro times collaborator Doug Coombe has photographed a dizzying array of musical artists from southeastern Michigan. His photographs of the prolific Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti scenes are the subject of a new exhibition opening on Friday, the cheeky title Last night a camera saved my life

“I seriously think southeastern Michigan is one of the greatest music regions in the world,” he says Metro times† “Detroit and Ann Arbor are definitely their own thing, but they are also very much like sister cities and part of the whole.”

The exhibit features images of artists who emerged in Ann Arbor and Ypsi, including rock star Andrew WK, the label Ghostly International, hip-hop collective Athletic Mic League, indie rock band Minihorse and more.

“Although Ann Arbor and Ypsi are temporary college towns, the scene is always reinventing itself, just like the Detroit scene,” said Coombe. “It’s always just a great music scene. It never falls off.”

The exhibition is owned by arts organization CultureVerse, which has a technology component called Saganworks. There will also be a virtual exhibit using a 3D scan of Ann Arbor’s legendary Blind Pig music venue that can be viewed online. Coombe says the online exhibit will feature images of artists who have performed at the Blind Pig over the years, as well as many additional photos of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti performers who couldn’t fit on the walls of CultureVerse.

“I’ve been doing this long enough to know there’s definitely a lot of stages coming and going,” says Coombe of honoring the music venue that has hosted a number of key acts before becoming megastars, and surged for sales in recent years before local investors gathered to save it. The online component allows him to exhibit even more work, he says.

“I think for every picture I put on the wall here, there’s like two or three other artists that I think are bad because I didn’t record them,” he says. “At least this way everyone can get some well-deserved recognition.”

In the meantime, Coombe is also working on a book of Detroit artist images — images that include the pivotal early 2000s era of the White Stripes, the former Detroit Electronic Music Festival, and hip-hop group Slum Village.

“Looking back at those photos, I thought about how small arts communities can not only change individual lives, but they can really change the world on a bigger level,” he says, adding: “The White Stripes, DEMF and J Dilla — those are three music revolutions in Detroit that changed the world.”

The exhibition will have an opening reception on Friday, June 3 from 6-9pm at CultureVerse; 309 S Main St, Ann Arbor; Later on, Minihorse, Ectomorph, Same Eyes and more will perform from 10pm-2am at the Blind Pig; 208 S. 1st St., Ann Arbor;

Related events also include Chris Bathgate’s record release show on Saturday at The Ark, Josef Deas’ DJ set on Saturday at LoFi, and the Tim Haldeman Quartet on Sunday at the Ravens Club. For more information, see

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