August 17, 2011

Blogging the PHI: Beauties of Ruins


Take a chair at any boutique-y restaurant and you’re as likely to see its patrons snapping photos of their plates as eating it. Uploading these photos to social networking sites and blogs, indulging in “food porn,” is a socially accepted pastime. In Detroit, you might be more likely to find “ruin porn,” or the photography of abandoned and decaying buildings. This “ruin porn” is criticized by some as being an exoticization through aesthetics that glosses over the present impact of the “ruins”. How do we read these images differently, though, if we encounter them on a website such as Detroit Yes or in a photography collection such as Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s recent book? How does the artist statement that touches on the issues of transition, of history in suspension, the mere fact of being told that this is art, prepare us for a particular reading of the (visually pleasing and beautifully composed) images? How is this different from the captions on the Detroit Yes photo tour that speak of personal memories, of nostalgia, and of preserving local history? Where are the intersections of these two distinct framings and what is our responsibility to each?

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