New York may be the most photographed city in the world, but it’s starting to seem like that backwater burg may be overtaken in that arena by another American super-city: Detroit.
The once (still?) great, now post-apocalyptic city has been a homing beacon lately for photographers looking to portray the downfall of the American Dream or whatever. French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre have been photographing the city since 2005 for their upcoming book The Ruins Of Detroit, pictures from which have been making the rounds in online slideshows for the past year or so, such as this new one in The Guardian.
Photographer Kevin Bauman started a similar project in 2008 with his 100 Abandoned Houses. Of course, abandoned homes in Detroit is too great a bounty to limit to 100, and he’s continued posting more… the 139th desolate domicile went up just a few days ago.
But perhaps the most prolific documenter of Detroit’s decline is Jim Griffioen, who’s been photographing what he calls “the disappearing city” for a few years now, both professionally and on his blog, Sweet Juniper. Griffioen’s take on the city balances the despair that other photographers seem to revel in, showing there’s still unexpected signs of life in Detroit, be they in the form of nature reclaiming all those abandoned houses, or Griffioen’s son traipsing the streets dressed as Robocop.
Throw in the dozens of movies that have been filmed in the city since it passed the 2008 film incentives package, and Detroit has left its mark on acres of celluloid (or its digital counterpart, anyway) in the past few years. But to what effect? As a former Detroiter, I’m conflicted every time I see one of these photo sets crop up on the Internet, sparking yet another photo-blast on Buzzfeed. While I like seeing my native city appreciated for whatever rusted, hollowed-out beauty it still possesses, I’m getting a little tired of the whole narrative; is anyone really shocked or moved by Detroit’s sad decline anymore, or are we just indulging our rubbernecking-at-trainwrecks tendencies? What do you think?