The Michigan Theatre. Photo by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre.
Yesterday, having recently seen links about them in a couple different places, I tweeted: “Haunting, tragically beautiful photos of derelict Detroit by Yves Marchand & Romain Meffre: http://bit.ly/fwDwPg [from the UK Guardian]”
They really are breathtaking images. A lone copy of Marchand and Meffre’s (rare?) book The Ruins of Detroit is currently on sale at Amazon, if anybody with a whopping $237.94 to spare is interested.
The ruined Spanish-Gothic interior of the United Artists Theater in Detroit, and Light Court, Farwell Building. Photos by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre.
Here’s the thing, though: in American cities like New Orleans, the Salton Sea, and (most vocally) Detroit, frustrated residents who see scores of photojournalists touring their neighborhoods just to take pictures of the sexy devastation and leave again have started calling these sorts of de-contextualized photo series of their backyards “ruin porn”.
“Here in Detroit, we’re sick of how the ruin porn runs rampant around the world, and everybody loves to use it to show how things have degraded here. Know what? There is a big resurgence happening here, and things are getting better.” That’s a quote from Ryan Cooper, a Detroit resident reacting to Dangerous Minds’ coverage of the Ruins of Detroit photobook.
Only I hadn’t read that, yet. I’ll admit it: when I linked out to the Guardian feature, I’d never even heard the term “ruin porn” before. About an hour after I aired that tweet, someone in Australia called datacorrupt responded bluntly with: “Detroit Thrives.” And a link.
Clicking through to Palladium Boots dot com, I promptly had my ruin porn-disseminating ass handed to me by the following half-hour documentary featuring not just several of those same sprawling abandoned spaces that captivated Marchand and Meffre, but also a rich variety of local entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, urban farmers and prodigal shopkeepers of Motor City who have been steadily reclaiming and reviving substantial portions of the urban grid, creating robust communities in a crumbling realm that was:
“Once the fourth-largest metropolis in America–some have called it the Death of the American Dream. Today, the young people of the Motor City are making it their own DIY paradise where rules are second to passion and creativity. They are creating the new Detroit on their own terms, against real adversity. We put our boots on and went exploring.”
Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Williamsburg anymore…
Product-shilling and Johnny Knoxville-yukkstering aside, Detroit Lives is an inspiring point of entry into the tenacious world of modern DIY Detroit. After watching the doc, I spent several more hours online exploring other links and sites (several of which are listed below). These kids are making and growing and building and yes, thriving. They seem committed, fierce, and in fucking earnest. Check ‘em out.
Any Detroit badasses reading? Please forgive me; I… I still love my ruin porn. Can’t help it. But in all sincerity, I love what you are doing far, far more. I’m surely not alone in that. Long may you thrive. Please come say hello if you like. We would love to hear more from you, and about you.
Detroit revival links:
- Detroit Lives dot org
- I Am Young Detroit
- Handmade Detroit
- NPR: Are photojournalists obsessed with “ruin porn”?
- Detroit Gets Growing
- Maker Faire Detroit 2010
- DIY Video: How the Detroit Music Scene is Seen on YouTube
- 2008 NYT Article about revival/economy
- photographer Trixie Bedlam’s I Got a Good Feeling in a Bad City series
Other Coilhouse posts of possible interest: