Saturday, May 23, 2020

Behind the facades

Many a photographer has headed to Detroit with the intention of capturing its fading glory and sharp decline. The approach taken by Arianna Arcara and Luca Santese was different: publishing a selection of images found lying around inside the city's abandoned and crumbling buildings.

The pictures themselves are profoundly unsettling, both in terms of their content and their condition. The commentary provided by this American Suburb X editorial is perfect in flagging up the human tragedy that is all too often ignored or forgotten by those (myself included, at times) guilty of romanticising the ruins: "The majestic decay of lavish theaters, incomprehensibly large car plants, and skyscrapers of former luxury are not to be found here. Instead there is loss on a human scale and a price paid in wreckage, decay and human blood. The beauty of this collection is in the physical degradation of images, which act as companions to and reflections of the city's precipitous decline, and the assaults on the quality of life possible in such an environment."

The editorial continues: "It seems that Arcara and Santese realized that their own photographs, no matter how strong, could never equal the beauty and power in these remnants of lives lived and impacted by a city that is imploding." Like Derek Bishton, Brian Homer and John Reardon in Handsworth in the 1970s, they appear to have understood that sometimes the best thing a photographer can do is to keep his or her camera in its case and instead let subjects speak for themselves (albeit unwittingly, in this case). Rather than framing images, their role was to frame the collection and bring it to wider attention.

(Thanks to Jon for the link.)

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