In light of my upcoming trip to Detroit, I thought I’d share a (photography) book that was recently recommended to me called The Ruins of Detroit. It’s by photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. You can check out some of the photos here.
The imagery is absolutely incredible and I really like their description of the project. Here’s a part of it:
“Detroit, industrial capital of the XXth Century, played a fundamental role shaping the modern world. The logic that created the city also destroyed it. Nowadays, unlike anywhere else, the city’s ruins are not isolated details in the urban environment. They have become a natural component of the landscape. Detroit presents all archetypal buildings of an American city in a state of mummification. Its splendid decaying monuments are, no less than the Pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum of Rome, or the Acropolis in Athens, remnants of the passing of a great Empire.”
I particularly like the last line: “…remnants of the passing of a great Empire.” When I look at their pictures, I like to try and imagine what those spaces would have been like teeming with people. Do you think anyone, at the time, could have possibly imagined that those good times were going to end?
Clearly most did not, because look at the money that was spent on what are beautiful buildings. As derelict as those buildings are today, each one of them was presumably built with economics in mind. Developers were making money, tenants were paying rent and people were occupying the spaces. Now look at them.
There’s something really powerful about witnessing this kind of abandonment, particularly because it feels so recent. It’s one thing to look at relicts like the Coliseum and dismiss it as being eons ago. But this wasn’t that long ago. For me, it’s a stark reminder of how ephemeral things in life can be. Just because you’ve got it today doesn’t mean you’ll have it tomorrow.