Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Producers vs Predators in pictures

If there ever was an example of a Producer Class city, it must certainly be Detroit.  It was for many years, the global center of that most difficult of all items of human manufacture--the mass-produced automobile.  And so, it became VERY prosperous. And so it became the target of the whole range of Predators.

The big damage to Detroit was done by the usual suspects--speculators and other banksters who conspired to suck the wealth out of the city and the industry that built it.  But petty Predators played a role too.  Natives of the area claim that nothing was the same after the riots in the 1960s.  Sounds about right--Producers have a very low tolerance for people who just wreck things because they have no other ways for expressing their rage.  The Producers of Detroit looked at the fires and just walked away from the creativity and ingenuity it required to build the city in the first place.

So the Predators won.  Their job is SO much easier.  As the saying goes "Any jackass can kick down a barn but it take a carpenter to build one."  In this series of pictures, we see the ruins of a once-proud city.  We also get some idea of just how amazing Detroit's Producer Classes once were.

Detroit in ruins: the photographs of Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre
In downtown Detroit, the streets are lined with abandoned hotels and swimming pools, ruined movie houses and schools, all evidence of the motor city's painful decline. The photographs of Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre capture what remains of a once-great city – and hint at the wider story of post-industrial America
Sean O'Hagan
The Observer, Sunday 2 January 2011
The ruined Spanish-Gothic interior of the United Artists Theater in Detroit.
The cinema was built in 1928 by C. Howard Crane, and finally closed in 1974.
Photograph: Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre
In December 2001, the old Highland Park police department in Detroit was temporarily disbanded. The building it vacated was abandoned with everything in it: furniture, uniforms, typewriters, crime files and even the countless mug-shots of criminals who had passed through there. Among the debris that photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre found there in 2005 was a scattering of stiff, rotting cardboard files each bearing a woman's name.
In total 11 women had been catalogued by the police, including Debbie Ann Friday, Vicki Truelove, Juanita Hardy, Bertha Jean Mason and Valerie Chalk. Down in the dank basement of the police station, where "human samples" were stored – and had been abandoned along with everything else – the two French photographers also uncovered the name of the man who was linked to all of the women's deaths. Benjamin Atkins was a notorious serial killer. Between 1991 and 1992 he left the bodies of his victims in various empty buildings across the city.
A photograph simply entitled Criminal Investigation Report, Highland Park Police Station is one of the many startling images in an extraordinary book, The Ruins of Detroit, that Marchand and Meffre have made from their seven week-long visits to Detroit between 2005 and 2009. The book's photographs suggest the countless strange and sad narratives from urban life in America in the mid-to-late 20th century. It is also a book of testimony, which not only illustrates the dramatic decline of a major American city, but of the American Dream itself. Many of the images seem post-apocalyptic, as if some sudden catastrophe has struck downtown Detroit, forcing everyone to abandon homes and workplaces and flee the city.
Cumulatively, the photographs are a powerful and disturbing testament to the glory and the destructive cost of American capitalism: the centre of a once-thriving metropolis in the most powerful nation on earth has become a ghost town of decaying buildings and streets. There is a formal beauty here too, though, reminiscent of Robert Polidori's images of post-hurricane Katrina New Orleans. "It seems like Detroit has just been left to die," says Marchand, "Many times we would enter huge art deco buildings with once-beautiful chandeliers, ornate columns and extraordinary frescoes, and everything was crumbling and covered in dust, and the sense that you had entered a lost world was almost overwhelming. In a very real way, Detroit is a lost world – or at least a lost city where the magnificence of its past is everywhere evident."
This sense of loss is what Marchand and Meffre have captured in image after image, whether of vast downtown vistas where every tower block is boarded-up or ravaged interior landscapes where the baroque stonework, often made from marble imported from Europe, is slowly crumbling and collapsing. The pair have photographed once-grand hotels that were built in a carefree mix of gothic, art deco, Moorish and medieval styles, as well as countless baroque theatres, movie houses and ballrooms – the Vanity, where big band giants such as Duke Ellington and Tommy Dorsey played in the 1930s; the Eastown theatre, where pioneering hard rock groups like Iggy and the Stooges and the MC5 held court in the 1960s.
They have also captured for posterity the desolate interiors that once made up the city's civic infrastructure: courthouses, churches, schools, dentists, police stations, jails, public libraries and swimming pools, all of which have most of their original fixtures and fittings intact. "As Europeans, we were looking with an outsider's eye, which made downtown Detroit seem even more strange and dramatic," says Meffre. "We are not used to seeing empty buildings left intact. In Europe, salvage companies move in immediately and take what they can sell as antiques. Here, they only take the metal piping to sell for scrap. In the Vanity ballroom alone, we saw four giant art deco chandeliers, beautiful objects, each one unique. It was almost unbelievable that they could still be there. It is as if America has no sense of its own architectural history and culture." more

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