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The Motor(less) City
August 7, 2009 10:59 AM   Subscribe

Detroit is one of the most visually interesting cities in the world, however it is also one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Detroit Book of Love is a group of photographs illustrating what contemporary Detroit artists have been doing in regards to developing an understanding and appreciation for this complex and diverse city; from street portraits of the survivors, to the landscapes of wild new growth, to the industrial leftovers. As a group they show Detroit as it is, not what it should be or what it once was.

Detroit’s got problems. That’s not new. The question is how to tap into the potential, if any, that remains. How can Detroit, and Michigan, bring out the best in our creative, highly trained and skilled workers, stem the population loss, convince our students to get an education, and make a change from a largely industrial economy, into something else? Detroit’s had a “renaissance” at least twice in the past. One in the late 70’s, hence the Renaissance Center, and again in the late 90’s, when condos and lofts began to pop up all over the city. When will Detroit’s real renaissance occur? How can we make it happen faster? The Motor(less) City: Post-Industrial Detroit
posted by netbros (27 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wonderful photos. Thank you--looking forward to exploring them all!
posted by Go Banana at 11:04 AM on August 7, 2009


cimbrog's earlier comment still rings true.
posted by spiderskull at 11:05 AM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Jim at Sweet Juniper writes about the current state of Detroit quite frequently, with breathtaking photography, including two recent posts about his exhaustion with reporters coming in and covering only the desolation and sadness in the city, but not the rejuvenation and hope.
posted by amelioration at 11:08 AM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yes there are some well done photos there... but I just can't gear up to look at more shots of a destroyed city, and sad, sad people.

It feels like Detroit has gone from being Motor City to UrbanBlightPhotoOp City... and, somehow, we need to showcase it like some sort of asset?!
posted by HuronBob at 11:09 AM on August 7, 2009


I actually know a few of those locations...
posted by indiebass at 11:20 AM on August 7, 2009


Failed banks should have been told: sure, we'll rescue you, but you have to move at least 50 percent of your non-branch jobs to downtown Detroit.
posted by pracowity at 11:26 AM on August 7, 2009 [4 favorites]


Looks like TV's Frank settled down.
posted by echo target at 11:31 AM on August 7, 2009


I actually know a few of those locations...

Same here. Some not too far from my place, actually.
posted by joe lisboa at 11:38 AM on August 7, 2009


"make a change from a largely industrial economy, into something else? "--might be more nearly useful if something else were spelled out...
What is to be done? Detroit had car industry. If that is gone or going, what will replace it and what will workers need to know how to do to allow them to live in Detroit?
posted by Postroad at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2009


As an outsider, I think the Ren Cen destroys the skyline. I've never been there, so this is only based on photos. The Ren Cen is an embarrassing symbol of American-style hubris and corporate domination. Bulldoze it!
posted by everythings_interrelated at 11:42 AM on August 7, 2009


...street portraits of the survivors...
survivors?

misrepresented? i think not.
posted by sexyrobot at 12:08 PM on August 7, 2009


I actually like the Renaissance Center. The round buildings are distinctive, and it backs up the claim made by Superchunk.
posted by indiebass at 12:28 PM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mousy homes, catacombs ... well-played, indiebass.
posted by joe lisboa at 12:53 PM on August 7, 2009


Those are some fantastic photographs. I've been to one or two of the locations, and I know others from photographs as famous architectural or design examples. Personally, I find Detroit, and cities like it, simultaneously terrifying and compelling. Beautiful to look at, scary to live in. I guess it's proof that we are a rich country if we can afford to let so much physical and social structure decay beyond repair.
posted by Forktine at 1:28 PM on August 7, 2009


I'm not quite sure how you managed to get from:

it is also one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented.

to:

street portraits of the survivors,

Sounds to me like the representations are, in fact, pretty goddamn accurate.

:-)

and :-( too.
posted by Malor at 1:50 PM on August 7, 2009


What makes Detroit "one of the most visually interesting cities on earth"? What city is not "visually interesting" with decontextualised images taken by good photographers? How is Detroit any better or worse in terms of "visual interest"?

I hate this sort of hyperbole. It reminds me of the Olympics pitch that Chicago produced where it was was described, unbelievably, as "the greatest city in the world." This sort of inward-looking and ignorant exaggeration is, or should be, the bane of boosters for US cities but one reads this sort of crap all the time.

Detroit is a neat photographic subject, yes. So is Gary. So is Cairo, Illinois. That's about all I get from these photos and that's all they should claim.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 2:21 PM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


ethnomethodologist, you need to look at the photos in a browser while 'Escape From New York' is playing in a different window and you're listening to Fedde Le Grand's tune "Put Your Hands Up For Detroit".

Well you don't *need* to... but urban blight/decay is actually very interesting. Why? Because, unless you have rose-tinted glasses, therein lies the future for all industrialized centers (probably/maybe).
posted by vectr at 2:50 PM on August 7, 2009


News from the other side of the river: The Humbling of Detroit North
..across from Detroit's Renaissance Center and over which a yeasty smell lingers thanks to a nearby Hiram Walker plant.
posted by acro at 3:10 PM on August 7, 2009


I love the fact that the Economist thinks that Windsor is north of Detroit...they must not have a map handy...
posted by HuronBob at 3:34 PM on August 7, 2009


"…born and raised in South Detroit…"

Oh, you mean Windsor?
posted by klangklangston at 3:48 PM on August 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


And yeah, Detroit's our American Gothic, for realz.
posted by klangklangston at 3:49 PM on August 7, 2009


I speak as someone who has also been "enjoying" the MI economy for several years. Yes, we got trouble, right here in the Motor City. But I'm also sick of the rest of the country staring at us the way you stare at someone ill or homeless and secretly think, "Thank God that's not me."

'Cos we got some good stuff too, both downtown and around it.

And in reality, Royal Oak & nearby 'burbs probably became the true center of metro Detroit some years ago. (I'm not an urban historian, but I'm sure there are comparable examples where the "downtown" isn't really the heart of the city. L.A. perhaps?)

However, shots of funky Ferndale neighborhoods or active R.O., Birmingham and Rochester downtowns, as well as the still-thriving Greektown, Fox/Comerica, Cultural Center or Campus Martius attractions (or the hundreds of beautiful lakes in Oakland County alone) doesn't make for an attention-getting blog.
posted by NorthernLite at 5:22 PM on August 7, 2009 [2 favorites]


I actually know a few of those locations...

Same here. Some not too far from my place, actually.


Me too, because I've seen about 80 dozen posts about pictures of Detroit on metafilter.
posted by oddman at 5:32 PM on August 7, 2009


Me too, because I've seen about 80 dozen posts about pictures of Detroit on metafilter.

Yes, it's part of a common fetish here for abandoned buildings as places to go trespassing ("Look! Empty buildings! Let's go, uh... urban exploring!") combined with a tendency to call any photography art if it doesn't involve smiling people looking at the camera.
posted by pracowity at 11:30 PM on August 7, 2009


These were beautiful. I think I even saw a HDR photo in there.
posted by Ritchie at 6:05 AM on August 8, 2009


NorthernLite, I think that a blog devoted to photographing and documenting the many interesting and alive communities in the 'burbs would be a very attention getting blog. For every 10 people or so who will ooh and ahh over Detroit's decay there's got to be 1 person, a life-time Detroiter, who will ooh and ahh over the mostly undocumented Detroit.

Even within Detroit there are some very interesting areas that deserve more than a starkly contrasting black and white photograph.

I still love the photography of the decay of Detroit, though as a former Windsorite I wish that there wasn't any, or at least much less, decay to photograph.
posted by substrate at 5:53 AM on August 10, 2009


The suburbs are *not* Detroit, NorthernLite. They are where the white people with jobs live. The white people who steal Detroit police, cultural institutions and refuse to go into the city for anything.
posted by QIbHom at 9:54 AM on August 10, 2009


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