I recently read this article in the ChronicleHerald, about the plight of the homeless in New Orleans. From the sounds of it, the problem of homelessness and abandonment in New Orleans is at least as bad as it is in Detroit.

And once more, I’ve come across an article exploring the propensity of Detroit supporters to lament “ruin porn”. I think it’s actually one of the better, more reasoned articles on why photographers love to photograph ruins, and in particular why they have spent so much time making images of Detroit’s ruins. It’s not that us photographers all hate Detroit, with a singular desire to help bring the city down by pointing out it’s many visible problems, but that we really like to tell stories, and like writers, a tragic story is often compelling. And what story of urban crises is more tragic than Detroit’s? Furthermore, many of the photographers, film makers, and writers that visit the city, really want to help start the discussion of how to rebuild, or at least change Detroit into something better.

The best quote from the article (in my opinion) is the last paragraph, that puts the onus, not only on the photographers (which is so easy to do), but on everyone, where it more rightly belongs.

“Photographs like Moore, Marchand, and Meffre’s succeed, at least, in compelling us to ask the questions necessary to put this story together—Detroit’s story, but also the increasingly-familiar story of urban America in an era of prolonged economic crisis. That they themselves fail to do so testifies not only to the limitations of any still image, but our collective failure to imagine what Detroit’s future—our collective urban future—holds for us all.”


For an “outside” perspective, as a HI/AK resident, I stumbled upon your blog BY looking at your pictures, and thought, “Oh COOL look at those awesome old houses,” not “Gosh all of Detroit must be like this, I will think of these when I think of Detroit.” The naysayers may feel tired of seeing photos of their city in this light, but for those of us further abroad it is beautiful, stigma free and – as you said – compelling. Plus, congrats! Your pictures come up on Google Images, and are beautiful!

Thanks Kana. I appreciate hearing your perspective.

I think that often the assumption by some Detroit boosters is that anyone who sees photos of abandonment and decay can only possibly have one thought come to mind (that Detroit’s the worst place on the planet). Therefore without the photos outsiders would have more positive thoughts, and possibly move to Detroit. So in essence photographers are at least partially to blame for Detroit’s current decline, which it turns out is approximately 250,000 over the last decade.

I wonder how many of those I’m responsible for…

I don’t think “ruin porn” shines a spotlight on a city’s flaws — I think it shines a spotlight on what once made a city great, and what could make that city great once again. I love Detroit, and am looking forward to a visit once the weather isn’t so cold — same with Cleveland. Seeing a city’s “ruins” makes me feel there’s potential for these cities to be great once again — it’s cities like mine, that destroy what once was — those are the cities that are demolishing not just the old beauty, they’re demolishing the reminders of what made the city great.

Detroit folks, you’ve got an amazing city — don’t forget that.

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