Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Ozymandias in Detroit


I don’t know why this series of photographs hit me so profoundly this morning. (I’m linking to them rather than showing any here; copyright, don’tcha know.) They show a variety of interiors and exteriors from Detroit, in all its decrepit glory. Viewing them is like getting a glimpse of Babylon before it was reclaimed by sand.

The pictures are from a book called The Ruins of Detroit, by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. Don’t bother looking for it on Amazon. Used and new copies are available for $397!

The photographers set out to document the transitional state of a major American city, and the results are more than haunting. If you think that anything as grand as a city is relatively permanent, consider that it has taken only about fifty years for Detroit to fall from one of the most important urban centers in the country to a hollowed-out shell.

I look at these images and I see my own hometown of St. Louis, where some of the same phenomena have been taking place over the decades. White flight, suburban sprawl, failed social policies, and willful indifference have all contributed to the decay. I only hope that cities like St. Louis can look at Detroit as a warning and make the necessary changes sooner than later.

But beyond the sociological themes here, these photographs are also stunningly beautiful. Have a look.

(Image via.)

12 comments on “Ozymandias in Detroit

  1. Brett
    April 11, 2014

    Cool images!

  2. Phillip McCollum
    April 11, 2014

    Amazing photos that evoke so many feelings. I’ve seen the small town America where I grew up turn into something like this. Sad.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 11, 2014

      It’s a real shock. I mean, you hear that Detroit’s a wreck, but to see it in such vivid detail is just demoralizing…

  3. ericjbaker
    April 11, 2014

    Indeed. Detroit in the 1960s was an entertainment and arts powerhouse.. a bit of New Orleans and New York mixed together.

    If you are not making money on your blog, and the book is out of print, I doubt anyone is going to complain about copyright. It only becomes an issue when you are generating revenue on unlicensed images. I know, because I saw a commercial for a law firm once.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 11, 2014

      Unreal that we’re prepared to let entire cities frickin’ die.

      You may be right on the copyright front, but I’ve heard some horror stories, and there’s always the WordPress Terms of Service to fear. I’ve been banned once and don’t want to go through that again!

      • ericjbaker
        April 11, 2014

        true. It’s a bit like getting laid off. One tends to be a bit more docile when finding new employment.

      • Kevin Brennan
        April 11, 2014

        Docile is my middle name.

  4. John W. Howell
    April 11, 2014

    City of my birth. More than pathetic.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 11, 2014

      Heartbreaking. Thomas Wolfe was right: you can’t go home again…

  5. Amyclae
    April 13, 2014

    I was reading a mildly interesting Reddit thread about Detroit. http://www.reddit.com/r/explainlikeimfive/comments/2279hf/eli5_what_happened_to_detroit/

    Most of the tone is a bit off in the sense that the best comments speak from authority but ultimately the majority seem to be written by twenty-somethings. But if you can get over that it’s an interesting resource.

    • Kevin Brennan
      April 13, 2014

      Fascinating stuff there. A little troubling, and it’s hard to know who’s accurate and who’s just regurgitating what they’ve heard from Uncle Jack in Grosse Pointe.

      Thanks for the reference!

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