In Detroit, people take pictures of abandoned buildings. Because they’re fascinating or because they’re beautiful or because other people have taken photos of them or because they’re an easy subject that doesn’t move or ask them for money. They’re representative of the city or of the ills of capitalism or of the decline of the American empire.
Andrew Moore, photographer behind this book says:
“Cities represent our collective memory. Every time a building is torn down, it’s like losing that part of your memory. You build new parts, of course, but when a city loses a big portion of its buildings and history, it’s like their identity has been cleaned, brainwashed” (see here).
Detroit is monument upon monument to its own decline, unlike most of the rest of the U.S., which not only has a short history, but is obsessed with being precocious, necessitating facelifts that look like subdivisions and stripmalls.
The problem with documenting those monuments, then, is that monuments, in and of themselves, rarely tell you much. The argument against pictures like Moore’s (neatly put here, if you can get past the angry insidery-ness) is that they aestheticize and abstract complex political and social problems by robbing the city, or the object in focus, of any context.
But that’s art, right? Right. But that doesn’t mean it’s very good art.
These are just some musings of a month in Detroit, a place that makes you think more than most of the pictures taken of it do. And below, a couple pictures I’ve tried to take with more awareness.
More reading from Rebecca Solnit.
And now, back in Chi-city.