Our favorite Concentrate photos of the past nine years, and the stories behind them

Editor's Note: This week marks Concentrate's 500th issue. To mark the occasion, we asked managing photographer Doug Coombe to choose a few of his favorite photos from his past nine years of shooting for Concentrate. Here's what he came up with.


In the summer of 2010, former Concentrate managing editor Jeff Meyers interviewed me to take over photography at Concentrate from Dave Lewinski. Dave hinted that the job would probably change my life photographically and he was absolutely right. To work with great publishers (Brian Boyle and Paul Schutt), great editors (Jeff Meyers and Patrick Dunn), great writers (too numerous to mention), and fellow photographers at Concentrate's sister publications who inspired me to better my craft (Dave Lewinski, Marvin Shaouni, and Nick Hagen) has been one of the best things that's happened to me in my photography career.


The best part of my job, though, is all the great people I meet in the process. I've come to view my camera as a ticket to a whole other world I would never have known otherwise. In the process I've made great friends, watched the birth of great businesses, met great leaders working on improving our cities, and met great artists who enrich and change all our lives.


Trying to pick my favorite images for Concentrate's 500th issue has been a daunting and delightful task. If you want to do a deeper dive on some of my favorite images I've shot for Concentrate, I put together a bigger list of 300 images that I pulled the top picks below from.


Dug Song and Jon Oberheide

September 22, 2010

When I first photographed Dug Song and Jon Oberheide of Duo Security, then Scio Security, they were working out of the Tech Brewery and had just received $1 million in venture capital funding. From that relatively small beginning I watched Duo grow steadily over the years, culminating in the company's sale to Cisco last August for $2.35 billion. It couldn't have happened to nicer guys.


Robert Beech

October 27, 2010

Robert Beech created the spooky attraction known as Brandywine Cemetery in his front yard leading up to Halloween from 2000 to 2016. Needless to say, it was a photographer's dream that I would return to a few years later.


Trevor Staples

December 15, 2010

With Ann Arbor Skatepark's fifth anniversary just around the corner, it's hard to believe the park was once a long- and hard-fought-for dream. When I photographed Trevor Staples in 2010 for a Concentrate blog post he was in the middle of serious fundraising for the park. Now the park has become a model for skate park development. These days you'll find Trevor helping to set up many skateparks all over the Midwest.


Cre Fuller

May 18, 2011

Cre Fuller's charming robots are hard to miss in Washtenaw County. Hanging out with Cre while he gathered parts at thrift stores and then intuitively put them together in his studio was as cool as one of Cre's fine vintage outfits. For more from this shoot, check out this slideshow.


Ron Brooks at Water Hill Music Festival

May 9, 2012

The beauty of the Water Hill Music Festival was that it served as a reminder of all the great musicians who call Ann Arbor home and for one glorious day restored the neighborhood to foot traffic. Jazz bassist Ron Brooks was the owner of Ann Arbor's legendary Bird of Paradise jazz club, which closed down in 2004. At Water Hill, he was just another Ann Arbor legend you could stumble upon playing in somebody's front yard.


Chris Sandon, Mark Maynard, and Melissa Dettloff

July 18, 2012

I'm still amazed this photo happened and ran. Concentrate was doing a story on Shadow Art Fair, which ran as an alternative to the Ann Arbor Art Fairs from 2006 to 2013. Shadow Art Fair organizer Chris Sandon proposed doing a spoof of The Beatles' infamous "butcher cover," which itself was a dig on Capitol Records' shameless capitalism. As a huge Beatles fan I loved the idea. We did the photo shoot at night in Riverside Park. When I looked at the tiny back of my camera during the shoot I thought the shots looked great.


When I downloaded them on my computer I realized they were way more disturbing than they looked on the back of my camera. Fortunately editor Jeff Meyers had a good sense of humor and has worked on a few horror films himself. This isn't even the craziest photo from the night.


German Park

August 15, 2012

Everyone who lives in Washtenaw County needs to visit German Park at least once in their life. Just a little over 10 minutes away from downtown Ann Arbor, once you get there you'll feel like you drove a couple hours up north.

They're only open three times per summer, so make sure you don't miss your chance to enjoy traditional food, music, dancing, and beer sold in buckets.


Michigan Folk School

April 17, 2013

When Concentrate did a story on the Michigan Folk School in 2013, Jason and Julia Gold were running the school on their Superior Township farm. After successful fundraising last year, the school is now setting up a campus at Staebler Farm County Park.


Rob Hess

May 8, 2013

It's hard to believe that back in 2013 Ypsilanti's beloved Go! Ice Cream was based out of owner Rob Hess' home and delivered on his vintage 1946 Worksman tricycle. Rob's passion and sense of fun come across in his storefront, delicious ice cream – and this photo, I think.


Gina Brandolino

October 30, 2013

When University of Michigan (U-M) lecturer Gina Brandolino wrote a Halloween-season blog post on horror fiction, it only made sense to take photos at Brandywine Cemetery.


Lupe Quetglas

April 2, 2014

As a journalist you're frequently amazed at all the things hiding in plain sight. Photographing the Ann Arbor Tortilla Factory, I was surprised that the "factory" itself is on Ellsworth Road, right by Ann Arbor Municipal Airport and Leon Speakers. I had driven past it hundreds of times. I wish I had a chance to photograph the operation when it was just owner Lupe and her sister Andrea.



April 9, 2014

One of the biggest challenges of shooting for Concentrate is what we call mastheads - those narrow banner photographs at the top of the page. They can really make a page look great, but photographing them is not only hard – it's almost counterintuitive. When taking a photo, most people don't decide to put everything in a very narrow horizontal band. Your average photo most of the time won't make a good masthead.


One occasion that always makes for good mastheads is one of Ann Arbor's coolest events – FestiFools. I think everyone in Ann Arbor should check out Mark Tucker's FestiFools studio once in their life. It's overwhelming in a beautiful way.


Hilary Lowe and Michael Gustafson

April 16, 2014

It's hard to believe that for a couple years Ann Arbor had no traditional bookstore downtown (there were plenty of specialty and used bookstores). But after Borders declared bankruptcy and closed its flagship store in September 2011, that was exactly the case.


When Hilary Lowe and Michael Gustafson opened Literati Bookstore in April 2013, Ann Arbor book lovers breathed a sigh of relief. In 2014 Concentrate looked at how Literati and other businesses were breathing new life into a stretch of Fourth Avenue that once had been Ann Arbor's "adult entertainment" district.


Eve Aronoff

May 14, 2014

One of the great parts of my job is getting to meet some of my favorite chefs. Eve has to be one of my most missed restaurants in Ann Arbor, but Eve Aronoff's Frita Batidos is every bit as delicious – even though its concept couldn't be more different. Not surprisingly, Frita Batidos is opening up a Detroit location this year by the Fox Theatre.


David Zinn

September 10, 2014

Not only is David Zinn's art amazing, but his process is too. His delightful trompe l'oeil sidewalk chalk art is hard to miss in Ann Arbor, even though its very nature is impermanent. Spending time with him while he's working and interacting with curious/befuddled/admiring/perplexed onlookers is half the fun.


Kathy Sample and Bill Brinkerhoff

October 15, 2014

I always appreciated what a great store Argus Farm Stop is for buying from local farmers. It wasn't until a few years later that I appreciated how owners Kathy Sample and Bill Brinkerhoff created a great retail model that had inspired Detroit's The Farmer's Hand.


Jim Toy

March 18, 2015

Getting to photograph the gay rights pioneer Jim Toy months before the Supreme Court's landmark Obergefell v. Hodges decision nationally recognizing same-sex marriage is one of the highlights of all the stories I've photographed for Concentrate.


It felt like Jim's and many others' years of hard work and vision had paid off. As he said, "If I were living in 1970 I could never have predicted that the positive changes that have come about would have been brought about."


Martin Contreras and Keith Orr

March 18, 2015

This was photographed for the same story as the Jim Toy photo. Similarly it was a great time to take stock of all the positive change that was happening with Martin and Keith, then owners of Aut Bar. Now the pictures are a little more bittersweet; Martin and Keith recently closed Common Language Bookstore and sold Aut Bar last month when they retired. The new ownership does plan to continue Aut Bar's fantastic legacy.


Rik Cordero

November 11, 2015

Rik Cordero is ridiculous. The senior media producer for Duo Security is ridiculously talented, accomplished, innovative, creative, and curious. If you follow his Instagram you'll see how endlessly prolific he is and how he's always pushing the film/video envelope with new equipment and techniques. I like to think this photo is as awesome and over the top as Rik.


Yousef Rabhi

February 8, 2017

I've also had the pleasure of photographing a lot of city, county, and state government officials who are huge heroes to me. Accomplishing change in our frequently divided government is a daunting task, and people like state Rep. Yousef Rabhi give me a lot of hope and encouragement in these times. Also getting to photograph him under the beautiful rotunda of the Michigan state capitol is about as cool as it gets for a photographer.


Melvin Parson

August 2, 2017

Sometimes when you're introduced to a person while working on a story you then end up seeing them everywhere. After photographing Melvin Parson of We The People Growers Association I quickly realized what a fixture he is in Ypsi. His tireless positivity and enthusiasm are great to be around. Given that, I wasn't surprised to run into him at The Henry Ford a couple months ago, where he had just been named the inaugural Entrepreneur in Residence.


Eric Williams

August 9, 2017

Another local legend. Puffer Reds, Eric's iconic Ypsilanti clothing and sneaker store, was also one of the great record shops for breaking Detroit's fledgling techno, house, and hip-hop artists. Many times after a photo shoot I wish I had recorded or videotaped the conversation. This was definitely one of those moments. You can see a few of the music greats who have been to the shop in the background of this photo.


Lynne Settles and her Ypsilanti Community High School (YCHS) art class

October 4, 2017

My mother was a public school art teacher, so Lynne Settles' work with Ypsi students was near and dear to my heart. The day I visited her classroom her students had finished making luminaries for ypsiGLOW, which made for a perfect masthead.


Black Panther screening for YCHS students

February 21, 2018

The first time I met Jermaine Dickerson I was impressed by his mission to "help people discover and celebrate the hero within" through his nonprofit, Hero Nation – and that he was proudly rocking a Superman cape. I was amazed that a mere six months later I was covering a free screening of Black Panther that he had arranged for YCHS students. The photo above is from a presentation before the students headed off to the movie theater.


Florence Noel

June 27, 2018

As a photographer you frequently try to avoid cliches or overused locations. Graffiti Alley in Ann Arbor is one of those places. Sure, the light is great in there. Sure, it's colorful. But there's almost always an impromptu photo shoot going on there. But all rules – including ones you've made for yourself – are meant to be broken.


When Dear Black Women founder Florence Noel arrived at the Michigan Theatre for our photo shoot in a fantastic, colorful outfit, I threw out my location idea and suggested that we head over to Graffiti Alley. In our brief photo shoot Florence inspired me to throw my own rules out the window and take some of my favorite photos of the year.


Thunder Over Michigan air show

August 29, 2018

This picture captures so much of what I love about Willow Run airport. As a history and airplane nerd, this is one of the great places in America. During its peak, Willow Run produced a B-24 every hour. As a wartime manufacturing plant it was a major employer of female "Rosie the Riveters" and part of an important chapter in the American feminist movement.


And even though manufacturing no longer takes place at Willow Run, a large part of it is now the American Center for Mobility, which is helping to shape the future of autonomous and connected vehicles. And Willow Run is of course home to the Yankee Air Museum and Thunder Over Michigan, one of the coolest airshows in the country.


For more of Doug's favorite photos he's taken for Concentrate, check out this monster master list.


Doug Coombe is Concentrate's managing photographer.

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