The Photographs of Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre
In downtown Detroit, the streets are lined with abandoned hotels and swimming pools, ruined movie houses and schools, all evidence of the motor city’s painful decline. The photographs of Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre capture what remains of a once-great city – and hint at the wider story of post-industrial America.
[This is an eerie story by Sean O’Hagan of the Observer, Jan. 2, 2011 that is a commentary on a new photo-journalism book by Marchand and Meffre. What struck me was how it chronicled the lifecycle of a city in its death-throes. This describes a chronic despair that goes beyond what is still arising from the acute disaster that struck New Orleans – because Detroit’s situation is like society has abandonned the city as if it were a chronically ill parent in a Dickensian old age institution. It is a stark reminder that the most fantastic investments in brick and mortar, do not a city make — it is the breath of consciousness and culture that brings the marble and glass artefacts and art to life. Despite the dark shadow of this story, the last paragraph (copied below) offers a glimmer for future re-birth. For the full story click on “Detroit in Ruins” above.]
The Ruins of Detroit tells the city’s story so far in one starkly beautiful photograph after another, all of which add up to nothing less than an end-of-empire narrative. Or as Sugrue puts it: “The abandoned factories, the eerily vacant schools, the rotting houses, and gutted skyscrapers that Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre chronicle are the artefacts of Detroit’s astonishing rise as a global capital of capitalism and its even more extraordinary descent into ruin, a place where the boundaries between the American dream and the American nightmare, between prosperity and poverty, between the permanent and the ephemeral are powerfully and painfully visible. No place epitomizes the creative and destructive forces of modernity more than Detroit, past and present.”