Abandoned Beauty

Broken, neglected and empty are just a few words that best described the feelings I get from the viewing the photo essay: “Detroit’s Beautiful Ruins” by Witold Rybczynski. Detroit has been having a falling out for quite sometime now and what was not iconic before seems to make it more iconic as the years go by. This city has suffered greatly and tremendous wear and tear have taken its tole on this remarkable town. I think the author decided on purpose to show images either in black and white or taken in what looks to be the ‘dead’ of winter. Most people do not see their city this way, there are plenty of fortunate people out there that will never have to suffer like this, the city of Detroit, but the reality is that this place does exist and the feelings I get from the images makes me uneasy. The association we make from winter along with run down buildings is a both physical and mental cold feeling. Architecturally I would like to examine these buildings and take my own pictures but I think most would agree that spending the late hours of the evening in these places would be creepy and unsafe. The contrasting grays, tans and browns in the images I think photographer chose to shoot on purpose, they are bleak and simply look broken down and dirty (due to the context of the images). I think what seems to be interesting is the fact that the author choose a beautiful night skyline of Detroit, but quickly changes you opinion about the city as soon as the next slide appears. There is only one person in all the collection of slides giving the viewers a real feeling of abandonment, even in the picture of downtown in the winter you cannot see a single person even walking around and I know that was probably the authors intention when putting together the essay. On McCloud’s triangle, it is hard to decide whether this essay falls on the iconic slide or the reality side. I would have to say both. I think that when people think of buildings in ruins around the country, I’m sure most would choose Detroit due to its failing construction and poor economic growth which puts its architecture in the iconic realm. When you take a step back you realize just how real this all is, in fact you cannot find a better description of reality. When it comes to the hardships of living and the economic downturn of this economy places like Detroit is as real as it gets. Whats really sad about this photo essay by Witold Rybczynski is that after reading this I would like to have a mass of people to review the slides and take a poll on whether or not they would visit the beautiful ruins of Detroit, I would think the outcome would be clear that most would have no interest in touring Detroit. Would you visit?

– Casey Cotcamp


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