Final Project


Youmacon is an annual four day convention held in Detroit, Michigan that spotlights anime (Japanese animation), video games and Japanese artwork and comics. The convention brings together fans of all ages and offers celebrity guest panels, live music performances, arcade rooms and interactive events. It began in 2005 with about 1,000 guests in attendance at the Detroit/Troy Hilton and six years later rapidly grew to the point where it became the first event to ever fill the Renaissance center to capacity. Now Youmacon spans across the Renaissance and Cobo Hall and brought over 22,000 people to downtown Detroit in 2017.

However, it is more than just a convention for most people, it has become a world of wonder. A place where fantasies come to life, people feel free to be themselves and embrace the things they have been ridiculed for enjoying. Though it is a big part of Japanese popular culture here in America anime has always been regarded as “nerd culture”. It has started to become slightly more mainstream in the last few years but is still not something that is considered an average interest in our country.

We all know how enjoyable it is to be able to commune with those who share our interest. Most people throughout the convention say that they came from schools and/or areas in which anime and cosplay aren’t popular at all and this is the only place and time of year in which they feel comfortable expressing themselves. For many it is not just about hanging out and talking about their favorite tv shows and dressing up for fun. It’s about being able to feel welcomed amongst a group when you are accustomed to being an outcast. Putting on a costume that brings you out of your shell and helps you embody your favorite character and feel a boost of confidence. Meeting new friends who share your passion for certain games and shows.


A Fresh Start and a Second Chance

In her home in Shepard, Mich. Kara Mclean kisses her 3-month-old daughter, Milah Nyokos, as she gazes at a framed photo of her eldest daughter, Aria Balis, who no longer lives with her. November 13, 2016.
Kara Mclean reports to the W.I.C office in Mount Pleasant, Mich. to claim food benefits offered to low income mothers, November 17, 2016.
Kara Mclean (center) shows her case worker a photo of her first born daughter, Aria Balis, and compares it to her 3-month-old daughter, Milah Nyokos, at the W.I.C office of Mount Pleasant, Mich on November 17, 2016. Mclean notes how similar the two half-sisters look and how much she misses Aria, who was placed into court ordered foster car a couple of years ago.
Aaron Ginowsky looks at his tablet as he sits with Milah Nyokos as her mother steps away for a moment to prepare a meal, in their shared home in Shepard, Mich. on November 17, 2016. Aaron recently moved into the one bedroom apartment with Kara Mclean and her fiance Stephen Nyokos as a temporary roommate after losing his home following a divorce.
Kara Mclean breast feeds her 3-month-old daughter, Milah, in the bedroom of her home in Shepard, Mich. on November 17, 2016.
Stephen Nyokos, sits on the porch of his home in Shepard, Mich., checking his phone as he waits for his grill to heat up, February 2, 2017.
Milah Nyokos, tugs at her towel as her mother, Kara Mclean, swaddles her after a bath in the kitchen of their home in Shepard, Mich. February 2, 2017.



“They took her because my ex showed up at my house and he wasn’t supposed to be there because of the restraining order. It’s not my fault though, what could I do, I didn’t tell him he could come over.” Kara Mclean says as she discusses why Child Protective Services took her first born daughter away from her. She is completely open when it comes to discussing the fact that her child was taken from her though her explanation is vague and opposes what other sources state as the reason her child was placed in foster care. However, she often brings it up the loss of her daughter in casual conversation with coworkers and customers at her job. Locals/coworkers who have known Mclean say that her daughter, Aria, was taken because her father was molesting her and Mclean was turning a blind eye to the situation. This has not been confirmed by Mclean and despite the rumours she always greets everyone with a smile and kind heart. Kara has not seen Aria in 2 years but keeps photos of her displayed around the house and speaks about her often.

Kara states that her life was really hard after losing everything and even though things aren’t perfect and she still can’t afford a home she’s happy to have a partner who is kind to her and a new baby. She is currently engaged to Stephen Noykos and now has a 3-month-old daughter, Milah Noykos. They live in a one bedroom apartment in Shepherd, Mich. Kara works at a local diner as a hostess, where she met Aaron Ginowsky, a coworker who is currently living with the family after losing his home in a divorce. Though Aaron can not contribute to the household financially he helps the couple by giving them rides because neither can afford to own a car. Stephen works a few days out of the week but does not have a steady job at the moment, when he isn’t working he spends his days searching for ways to gain income. Kara works afternoons and is always eager to return to Milah, who rarely leaves her arms when she is home. 

Urban Dreams Farm

Emma Urban carries a young lamb from the yard to the barn on her farm in Riverdale, Mich. on April 13, 2017.


Arthur, the most friendly of several rams that reside at Urban Dreams farm of Riverdale, Mich., gets up close and personal while being fed grass (his favorite snack), April 13, 2017.


Many people dream of shifting their lives course; changing careers, relocating or even just learning a new skill or hobby. Fantasies of sudden life transitions fuel the daydreams of adults everywhere but it seems to be something that people rarely act upon. However, there are always some that decide to veer off the beaten path they’ve safely circled for years and embark on a new journey.

Urban Dreams Farm is the result of one woman who decided to withdraw from the corporate world, leave the city and turn her lifelong dream into a reality. Emma Urban started the farm, located in Riverdale, Michigan, in 2008 following the tragic lost of her husband. Urban Dreams is a fiber farm specializing in harvesting from alpaca and a small number of sheep and goats. Emma grew up on a farm and always had a love of fiber. Her first experience buying a sheep, shearing and using a drop spindle occurred during her teen years. Urban began the farm with a starter herd of four female alpacas and after a couple years she learned that males yielded more fiber without as much of an investment. The herd quickly grew to sixty alpacas but after another couple years it proved to be too taxing so she downsized to about 40 alpaca. Which she currently has along with Angora goats, Angora rabbits and two peacocks. The farm is also home to a few chickens, a handful of barn cats and five dogs, three of which are used to protect and herd the alpaca. When asked about her favorite part of living and working on her own farm Urban replied, “The freedom to make choices about how to spend my time. A big part of that is enjoying the critters.”.

Emma rents a small house on her property to a married couple who are also in the business of shearing and farm animal care. There are a few days each spring in which the three of them dedicate to shearing the animals. ” Shearing days are always very stressful because it is what I work for all year.” Urban says. The harvested fibers are woven into fabric and felt that Urban uses to make socks, winter wear, purses and other products to sell.

A large loom rests in the mill at Urban Dreams Farm (a farm that houses mostly alpaca and sheep) in Riverdale, Mich. April 27, 2017. The loom is used to weave the sheared fiber from alpacas and sheep into marketable fabric and felt.


A group of Alpaca rests in their barn at Urban Dreams farm run by Emma Urban in Riverdale, Mich. on April 27, 2017.
Kate O’Brian hugs an alpaca to calm her before she is sheared in the barn of Urban Dreams Farm in RIverdale, Mich. on April 27, 2017.
Emma Urban spreads the wool of a sheep to show how soft, clean and golden the fleece is despite how weathered the outer layers are, Urban Dreams Farm in Riverdale, Mich. April 27, 2017.
Emma Urban, left, and Kate O’Brian, right, shear a sheep in the barn of Urban Dreams Farms in Riverdale, Mich. April 27, 2017.
Patrick and Kate O’Brian, left, sits with Emma Urban, right, as they enjoy a lunch break after a long morning of shearing alpaca and sheep at Urban Dreams Farm in Riverdale, Mich. April 27, 2017.