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The Guardian, a fine British newspaper from a land where newspapers are still somewhat appreciated, ran a story online about a photo show featuring images of the ruins of Detroit. They include a gallery of images  from the show in question. These tell a story that’s both tragic and, I suppose, inevitable. I don’t sense much of an appreciation for history in this country save for the celebration of heroes and victories and other icons of our collective mythology. In Europe, I imagine a landscape littered with relics of past ages, where history isn’t so much a concept but feeling. This is pure speculation in that my life has been spent entirely on this side of the Atlantic, and almost exclusively within the borders of my America.

Light Court, Farwell Building (Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre)

To me, the images are heartbreaking. I find myself drawn to scenes like this and I can’t say why I find them so captivating, especially since they fill me with such a profound sense of sadness and loss, not exactly the kind of emotion I go seeking out. When I talk to other people about the decline of Detroit (where I was born in 1957), I don’t often hear a lot of sympathy. Mostly I hear variations of some grim, neo-Darwinian screed about greed and unions and capitalism. These people brought it on themselves, I’m told. Lead, follow, or get out of the way of the Global Economy lest you get crushed. Detroit is a cautionary tale, the moral of which is, in my mind, open for a lot of debate. The greed part I get, but I’m not sure we could all agree to whom it should be assigned.

The photographers who created this orgy of decay, Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, are French. I’m not sure how important that is, since I’ve seen essays of this type from American photographers as well and haven’t compared them to determine if there are major differences. Nor do I know how my own efforts along these lines stack up. I tend to seek out less spectacular images of tragedy, more intimate frames of whatever it is that I’m trying to show the viewer.

What am I trying to show? I can’t say and I’m not sure it would be constructive if I could.. If I could write it down I could leave the camera in the bag and just go to Starbuck’s with a laptop. Images make you decide for yourself what you’re looking at. That’s where the power is.

When I first released some of my post-industrial ruin porn on an unsuspecting world last summer, a friend of mine reposted it with this recommendation to her readers: “Take a look, America. This is your story.”

It’s a fact that I have come to accept, that Lisa can say something in 8 words that it would take me 8 paragraphs to get through.

Regardless, that advice still hold true. This IS your story, everyone’s story. I hope we still get to write the ending.

My Hometown #17: Immediate Seating (©2012 Richard X. Moore)

 

 

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