Detroit schools urban exploration & reclamation.
July 25, 2009 3:49 AM   Subscribe

Urban exploration has been featured here once or twice before, but Jim Griffioen's site photo-documenting his discoveries in and around Detroit deserves a look. Griffioen was recently interviewed [direct mp3 link] on the American Public Media radio program The Story.

Jim is most interested in schools. He's taken photos of trees growing through books and other things left behind. Recently Jim has gone beyond documenting what he sees and is reclaiming what he finds. He collects abandoned library books and other school supplies and gives them to community centers.

Previously - blog post by Griffioen on Detroit's abandoned Belle Isle Zoo
posted by item (13 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

I haven't taken my hat off to anything for so long that it has become covered with vine and moss. It is coming off for mr. Griffioen.
posted by krilli at 6:01 AM on July 25, 2009

More set than given re:

There is an artistic planned flair.
posted by Mblue at 6:47 AM on July 25, 2009

The book depository pics and story are something else. Great post--thank you!
posted by Go Banana at 7:04 AM on July 25, 2009

I just want to point out that the unPhotoshopped, authentic, assymmetry in these photos is BREATHTAKING!
posted by jeanmari at 7:18 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

We've seen these before. The link is his Flickr, but they are by the same photographer.
posted by hecho de la basura at 7:33 AM on July 25, 2009

Have we had enough Detroit posts that we need to christen a "detroitfilter" tag?
The pictures are great, even beautiful. The story is sad and touching, but aren't we reaching a point of over saturation here?
posted by oddman at 7:37 AM on July 25, 2009

Either I've seen these exact photos before or there have been so many Detroit decay posts that it doesn't matter. Anyway, most of these would be called snapshots (single building, in center of frame) if it wasn't Detroit and he didn't have a web site.
posted by tommasz at 7:47 AM on July 25, 2009

thank you for posting these Item. I saw one or two of the photographs of Detroit, but it's good to see his works in one place, and I look forward to listening to the interview.
posted by seawallrunner at 8:32 AM on July 25, 2009

Here's a link to a blog update by the photographer with background on what led to the depository's abandonment. (a fire, an insurance company's shortsightedness, etc.)
posted by longsleeves at 9:22 AM on July 25, 2009

When his prose isn't as purple as the mountain's majesty, it's deceptive:

The scrappers must have headed off for their miles-long shopping-cart journeys to the nearest after-hours scrapyard (where they will get a fraction of the market value for the metal they've stolen).

The scrappers do not get a fraction of the market value (as if there was one true price), they get a fraction of the spot price. There's a reason for that. It takes work to recycle the metal. The metal will almost certainly be sold again to a smelter. Everyone involved has to get paid for their work and all that pay (not to mention the expenses) is included in the spot price.

the segregated classes of solidly-middle-class white kids who over time gave way to segregated classes of poor black kids

One "segregated group" slowly gives way to another "segregated group". That's a neat trick. Reminds me of the time when a girl claimed that boys have premarital (heterosexual) sex, but girls don't.

When I showed these photos to my wife she asked, "Don't you wonder if any of the scrappers live by some sort of code---that some of them wouldn't scrap a school, or take playground equipment out of the ground?"

She has never been inside any of these buildings. Anyone who has seen the inside of such a building knows that these are men without honor.

They may be breaking the law, but no one is getting hurt by it, and they are performing a valuable service - providing resources to consumers. These men work for a living; calling them "men without honor" is pretty fucking condescending.

He likely owns all these properties simply to maintain his monopoly.

Mr. Mouron does not have a monopoly. He owns a border crossing, if it was a monopoly there would be no other. I suspect that Mr. Griffioen does actually get this subtle distinction, and chose to call it a monopoly in an attempt to increase the affect. That same melodramatic eye is evident in some of his photography, especially 'The Treeeeee'.
posted by BigSky at 10:46 AM on July 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

One "segregated group" slowly gives way to another "segregated group". That's a neat trick. Reminds me of the time when a girl claimed that boys have premarital (heterosexual) sex, but girls don't.

It works if they guys are all sleeping with MILFs.
posted by delmoi at 11:45 AM on July 25, 2009

Reminds me of the time when a girl claimed that boys have premarital (heterosexual) sex, but girls don't.

It's not impossible. If lots of men try it with just a few busy women (including, of course, whores), you might say that men generally do it and women generally don't.

Anyway, the photos would be a lot better if they were better documented, linked to better information. Maybe he could wiki things up and let others add what's missing.
posted by pracowity at 2:04 PM on July 25, 2009

i'm no professional photographer like this guy, but it really is amazing what you can find in detroit. i took a little motorcycle trip there a few years ago. Fischer Body Plant.
posted by 256 at 2:34 PM on July 26, 2009

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