Detroit’s beautiful horrible decline

Time magazine article about two french photographers who have documented the urban ruin that is the Motor city. Aside from the high risk of documenting a city in decline, Detroit has become an urban explorers wet dream. I have a friend who moved from NJ to Detroit and has frequently gone out and explored the many abandoned factories. I have been quite jealous of some of the places he has visited as they represent what UE is all about.

The places we explore are homes, factories, psychiatric facilities and military bases that once served a purpose. Economic downturns, changes in goverment policy or military needs rendered them no longer useful and so they exist as a reminder of what once was but will never be again. We are fascinated by these places because they are dinosaurs in a modern age. They represent history but also the change that is constant in the modern world.

I fully admit that part of the thrill is the fact that most people wouldn’t go into these places if you paid them. They are dark, dirty, sometimes dangerous, and often illegal to visit. A friend of mine has often joked that this is a “crazy white people thing” “Oh look, an abandoned house in the middle of a forest, let’s go inside and poke around! You’ll never see a black person saying that!”

I run this blog to document these places because there is an odd beauty in the process of decay. The way wood rots and metal rusts, or the way birds and animals will nest in an old farm house kitchen. The buildings, roads, and vehicles decay almost like a living organism. I always note with a bit of sadness when I read that an old psychiatric facility will be knocked down to become townhouses, or that an old factory will be torn down and made into ball fields. I understand the need for towns to have ratables, and I understand that these kinds of places are not just eyesores, but attract people and activities that may not always be desireable. I don’t blame towns for wanting to make use of land that is otherwise “going to waste”. I mourn the fact that these places represent something, and that they will be forgotten once they are converted into something “useful”.


2 responses to this post.

  1. That is an interesting way to look at Detroit. I have recently been there and was so depressed that I left and didn’t even take a lot of photographs, let alone pondering to move there.


    • Posted by lostinjersey on March 11, 2009 at 1:31 PM

      When was this? and if I may ask, what was your reason for being there? business? pleasure? or to see the urban decay?


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