15 February 2011

The Conventional View of Detroit

A mural in East Detroit. Photograph © Danny Wilcox-Frazier.

I pinched this photograph from a photo essay, entitled "Elegy for Detroit," at Mother Jones. (You can find yet another, equally bleak, collection of photos by the same photographer here, also at Mother Jones.) I missed it last fall when it appeared. But I have a sense of deja vu thinking about it. I posted here about a similar vision of the city a while back and what I said then applies in this instance as well. I won't repeat myself other than to say that Detroit, like, for instance, all of the cities across Western New York, is a third world country. And photographers seem to be treating such locations as such - sites of despair and hopelessness, nothing more. This conventional view seems to me not so much false as (for reasons I advance in my earlier post) very partial.



Blogger John Edwin Mason said...

John Patrick Leary has a fine article about Detroit and photographic "ruin porn," in Guernica magazine (if the link doesn't show up, google his name and Detroitism):

His points are similar to yours.

It's interesting how differently photo of Detroit read when they're made by a photographer who, like Jose Camilo Vergara, understands (or maybe just cares about) history.

15 February, 2011 14:03  
Blogger robert said...

Photographers like to shoot ruins, always have I believe, because it's different from our usual view. Here's a photographer who shows Detroit as a living breathing city . http://313.aminus3.com/portfolio/

15 February, 2011 16:48  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

John - Thanks, I'll track down the essay. Just FYI, you might have a look at Susie Linfield's newish book The Cruel Radiance where she dissects characterizations of "disaster porn" and so forth. ...

Robert, The problem is that Detroit is not just ruins. And the photo essays I note in my posts make it seem that that is the case. That said, I will track down the work you suggest too. I appreciate the lead.


15 February, 2011 20:28  

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