Of Ruined Cities and Feral Houses
I grew up in the Rustbelt; I spent my early childhood in Chicago and my adolescence (until about two years ago) in the metro-Detroit area. As some of you may know, Detroit’s in a bad way right now. Detroit’s real troubles started with the 1967 race riots and have only been compounded by political corruption and the death of the automobile industry.
For a more by-the-numbers understanding of exactly how bad things are, you can check out the 2000 US Census information (with updated estimates for 2006) here. Detroit’s population is has fallen from a peak of about 1.8 million to under 875,000 people (this number itself an 8.4% drop from the 2000 census!). In 1999, 26.1% of the population of Detroiters were living under the poverty line. I understand this has risen above 33% at this point but I can’t find official verification).
In light of our conversation today about Manufactured Landscapes, I am reminded of my home city…the decline in population hasn’t resulted in a decline of buildings. Many, many abandoned buildings remain.
Photographers Yves Marchand and Romaine Meffre catalogued some of this abandonment in their photo series “Ruins of Detroit.” (the image below links to their website)
While these images remind me of our discussions on Burtynsky’s work, I am actually more interested in the photography documenting a phenomenon that takes the idea of “urban ecosystem” very seriously.
James D. Griffeon’s photos chart not only the abandoned buildings which Marchand and Meffre portray, but tries to watch as the ruins literally become a part of the ecosystem (particularly in the “Feral Houses” section).
I will leave you with one last image, straight out of Wall-E, but actually in an abandoned book depository in Detroit.
I suppose I can’t help but feel a little hopeful.