The Art of Decay

Jacob Mikanowski in The Point:

ScreenHunter_1720 Feb. 25 22.11One summer, my Polish aunt flew out to visit me in Chicago from Warsaw. Restless by nature and inspired by the breadth of the American plains, she decided to go on a road trip to the great industrial cities of the Middle West. She came back amazed. Detroit made the biggest impression on her. “You wouldn’t believe what a state it’s in.” She proceeded to show me a roll of photographs she had shot there: empty factories, stained smokestacks, gutted mansions, whole streets on which every house was either boarded up or collapsing. I think the vacant lots impressed her the most, the sense they gave of a city draining itself of life, undergoing a kind of devolution, reverting step by step into squares of rubble and green fields.

“How could they just leave it like that—abandon a whole city?”

I didn’t know what to tell her. I didn’t want to tell my aunt that I had seen it all, and more, before, in magazine spreads, on Instagram, in Flickr portfolios, as a backdrop to movies and in glossy photo books like Andrew Moore’s Detroit Disassembled and The Ruins of Detroit by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. And I certainly didn’t want to tell her that the photos she was taking were now seen as something morally and politically dubious, examples of what has come to be known as “ruin porn.”

More here.