Economic disaster photo porn (?): Detroit

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Ross Chambers, Jan 31, 2011.

  1. Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    I confess I'm attracted to industrial ruins for subjects, but around here they are more the result of the march of time than economic downturn consequences.

    http://www.tnr.com/article/metro-policy/81954/Detroit-economic-disaster-porn

    The "Guardian" has examples and the spaces and surfaces are striking:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddes...otography-detroit#/?picture=370173054&index=0

    I bought a book which is a scholarly translation of, and commentary on Neopolitan folk tales, published by Wayne State University, Detroit in 2007.

    It's difficult to reconcile the photographs with the book; is Detroit unjustly maligned?

    Regards - Ross
     
  2. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Subscriber

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    Detroit is a strange place. Downtown are towering skyscrapers that are the headquarters of companies like GM and Ford and the rest of the city is a blighted ghost town. The middle class basically doesn't exist there, the rich live in suburbs like Grosse Point, and those poor who remain live in horrid slums and will likely never have paying jobs because there are none in Detroit. The decline of American manufacturing did this to Detroit and a lot of other midwestern American cities. Flint, Michigan is said to be even worse off than Detroit. Even relatively prosperous midwest cities like Indianapolis and my hometown, Fort Wayne, have extremely high unemployment and low wages for those who do work except for a small number of people in the few middle class jobs that remain.
     
  3. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    I too have a soft spot for industrial ruins, but as Chris says above, they do have human consequences.

    The photos in the Guardian link come from a book which looks really interesting but the price is high (£66).
     
  4. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    Chris ,

    I visited your website and it is excellent. But I scared. I had been visited the american library and I found there a photo book on hobos. It is not as told at On the road , Beatnic Jack Kerauac book , it is terrible , like a horror movie. At these pictures and book at the library tells a very strong story. Like after WW2 East Europe from Kosinski. I scared .

    Umut
     
  5. frotog

    frotog Member

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    Do you recall the title of the book Umut?
     
  6. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    Ross: you might find Detroit Disassembled by Andrew Moore interesting. It is filled with large format, color photographs that document the industrial ruins of Detroit.

    I have had the opportunity to visit and photograph some of these buildings with my Detroit-area friends. While in the Packard Auto plant, a multi-story building that covers literally acres of ground, I was profoundly affected by thoughts of the thousands of workers that once produced quality cars there, and the families they could no longer support when the plant closed. I went there in search of photographs to satisfy my photographic vision, and left with a much deeper appreciation of the soul of a once magnificant city.
     
  7. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    I knew that Detroit was not doing so good, but didn't realize it was that bad.

    Jeff
     
  8. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Andrew Moore did a book and exhibit on Detroit Disassembled. It was at the Akron Art Museum. Recently several of our Apug Gathering Group went up to Detroit and were escorted through two of the buildings in Andrew Moore’s exhibit. Our guides were Andrew Moore’s assistants for the exhibit. He shot everything on a Linhof Technikardan 45. After our Sept. gathering we went to the exhibit.

    Ask Jeff and Eva Bannow and Daniel and Sike on Apug. They were our guides in Detroit.

    John Powers

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/art/blog/2010/01/andrew-moore-detroit-disassembled.html
    http://www.andrewlmoore.com/
    http://www.andrewlmoore.com/view_image.php?photo_id=356&project_id=13
    http://video.westernreservepublicmedia.org/video/1536891086/
    http://www.akronartmuseum.org/pastexhibitions/
     
  9. lns

    lns Member

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    This is the part I don't understand. I'm not sure what you mean by "maligned"? I don't think anyone in America thinks Detroit is bad or did something wrong. It is what it is. What makes those photographs so interesting, to me, is that they aren't just photos of one of the numberless cities around the world that has lost its economic engine and is depressed. Detroit was one of the great cities in this country, and its near death is horrible but visually striking, like disaster movie, because it was once so grand and is now so nearly empty.

    On the other hand, the wealth has not all gone away, but really shifted out of the city into the greater Detroit area, like the suburbs around Birmingham or even the Ann Arbor area. There are fine universities nearby, especially the University of Michigan. And my brother-in-law went to Wayne State for graduate work and says good things about its engineering program. I've spent a lot of time in Detroit, which is where my husband grew up. I've even stayed in the city, which is very empty and very sad, but at least is trying to revive. It's got a great hockey team which plays in the city, and while that might sound like very little if you're from elsewhere, it's a hockey town, and the Red Wings mean a lot to the city, economically and as a source of pride.

    -Laura
     
  10. sandholm

    sandholm Subscriber

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    Umut,

    Have a look at Richard Avedons work "In the American West"
     
  11. bobwysiwyg

    bobwysiwyg Subscriber

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    Like many large, industrial cities, Detroit has its problems. It also has its +'s. Unfortunately, right now, the media chooses to focus on the problems. The major problems facing the city now are a declining population, a declining budget for city services, yet the city encompasses 140+ square miles!

    I live in Ann Arbor, but commuted to Detroit, for work, for 19 years before being transferred to a smaller building of ours in New Hudson. I enjoyed the downtown area, but the commute was becoming pretty expensive and put lots of miles on a car in a hurry.
     
  12. CGW

    CGW Member

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    I'm tiring of the Detroit "tour of the ruins" books and photoblogs--as if "Recession Porn" could have no other subjects or focus. Not sure if it's "I'm alright, Jack" myopia or simple aversion to its ubiquity and variations that makes the recession(not to mention long-term industrial decline) limited to Detroit. I'm 90 minutes away from Buffalo here in Toronto and see decay there at least as profound, especially in its profound architectural legacy. Don't see much photojournalistic coverage of the other recession ground zeroes like Phoenix or Las Vegas. Perhaps it looks too much like home compared to Detroit's wreckage.
     
  13. chriscrawfordphoto

    chriscrawfordphoto Subscriber

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    I never heard of Phoenix or Vegas being 'ground zero' for the recession. Check out Elkhart, Indiana with its nearly 40% unemployment rate (the real unemployment, not the lie the govt. issues) :sad: The recession has been far worse on manufacturing cities like Detroit and Elkhart.
     
  14. moose10101

    moose10101 Member

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    Vegas unemployment isn't that high, but 70% of Vegas homeowners have mortgages that are underwater, after housing prices dropped 50% or more in just a couple of years. That's the worst in the nation, as is their foreclosure rate. For this recession, I would consider Las Vegas to be ground zero.
     
  15. Moopheus

    Moopheus Member

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    Vegas and Phoenix were, along with Miami, the epicenters of the housing/credit bubble in the US. There was massive speculative overbuilding. Instead of closed auto plants they have unfinished and uninhabited housing developments. The problems of Detroit and Buffalo have been building for a long time.

    I recall seeing a while back an interesting photo tour of some of the abandoned and foreclosed developments in the Vegas area, but I can't now find the link.
     
  16. ntenny

    ntenny Member

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    ...which are less naturally photogenic than the ruins of grand public spaces. The aesthetics of those abandoned buildings in Detroit are kind of low-hanging fruit---past glories still visible through the advance of decay and all that---whereas it's harder to turn a modern subdivision that happens to be empty into a compelling visual "storyline".

    There's an unfinished development just up the hill from me---not an abandoned suburban wasteland (the parts that were built seem to be reasonably fully inhabited), but the developer ran out of money before finishing the project. The graded and platted sections, with surveyors' stakes waiting around for their surveyors and neatly laid-out lots slowly getting overgrown with chaparral flora, have a certain unsettling desolation about them, but I've never been able to capture it on film. It's probably a good thing to keep working on.

    -NT
     
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  17. Ken N

    Ken N Member

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    Industries come and industries go. Detroit was built primarily on one type of industry and failed to diversify to any large degree. Same with places like Elkhart, Indiana.

    But the question is: Who is responsible?

    A follow up question is: How can we prevent it in the future?

    An empty Packard plant really doesn't mean anything because those weren't diversified jobs, just one more factory of the same thing.
     
  18. moose10101

    moose10101 Member

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    Why would you assume someone is responsible? Situations like this have happened for thousands of years, due to geography, natural resources, and market forces. "Diversifying" is a nice concept, but it's a very difficult thing for a city or state to pull off.
     
  19. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    So we know who to blame and who to sue.


    And, um, what does "porn" have to do with this?
     
  20. CGW

    CGW Member

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    I dunno, Chris. The Rust Belt's suffering isn't qualitatively different than the Sun Belt's--both stem from economic collapse and crushed dreams. I grew up in LA and Phoenix and know their aspirational drive and how it fed the mortgage meltdown. Repo houses have just as much finality as decayed factories. If anything, the spotless sunshine of Phoenix makes the suburban wastes even scarier, especially when you consider what drove people away. Mortgage crashes were truly a pandemic affecting both 'burbs and a gated enclaves. This little video from the excellent "California is a Place" series shows the suburban ruins as well as anything.

    http://californiaisaplace.com/cali/cannonball/#cannonball
     
  21. Moopheus

    Moopheus Member

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    This is to some degree true. The old Packard plant has a "story," whereas a house no one lived in has no story. You can try to capture the lack of story, the potential story that was missed, but it's harder, because it hasn't been physically etched into the fabric. Or to put it another way, the story of the empty house is beyond the house itself.

    Moose: at least for a current recession, there are people walking around who had an active role in creating the mess. People like Dick Fuld, Hank Paulson, Angelo Mozilo, Chuck Prince. Larry Summers, Robert Rubin. The list goes on and on, down to the brokers falsifying mortgage papers. You can say it's "market forces" or history or whatever, but these things are not forces unto themselves, but the results of decisions made by actual people. Lots of people, sure, with small parts or large. But still people, and not supernatural forces.
     
  22. Thebes

    Thebes Member

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    I grew up in a couple suburbs of Detroit. That was back in the 70's and 80's. I remember going downtown sometimes as a kid with my mother who went to Wayne State then worked in the city. Even back then there was a lot of urban decay. You could sometimes find houses for sale by the city for a few hundred dollars, but they weren't worth it. A friend of mine was interviewed in High School because there was a freeway sniper and her car matched a description. There were parts of the city where it was dangerous to make eye contact when driving through, some people were shot for that according to the TV newscasters. But parts of the city were ok too, it wasn't all ruin and decay. The suburbs mostly did ok.

    Recently I went back, just to a few suburbs, to visit family. I was shocked, outer suburban areas that flourished even during the 80's recession were in dire straits. Unemployment was extremely high and moral low among those who had good jobs. No one was very secure in their job, not even government workers.

    A lot of American manufacturing used to be based in and around Detroit, but now we don't make that much except "financial products". Detroit and industrial decay in America are symptoms of that.
     
  23. Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    Yes, bad choice of word. I probably meant misrepresented, along with many other places where decaying architecture may be found by photographers who like that genre, and that's almost every city in the world (except maybe Dubai?)

    I also didn't make clear that the contradiction re books was that of the scholarly folk tale publication from what is portrayed as a blasted landscape; it just didn't make sense.

    Regards - Ross
     
  24. Tony Egan

    Tony Egan Subscriber

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    The Albert King song lyrics don't quite have the same magic anymore either!

    Goin' to Detroit Michigan,
    Girl I can't take you.
    Hey I'm goin' to Detroit Michigan,
    Girl, you got to stay here behind.
    Goin' to get me a job,
    On the cadillac Assembly Line.