Tomorrow Detroit

The day is almost here.  We are going on a short trip–pip pip!  We’ll meet Sunday morning at 9:45am in our classroom.  From there, we’ll hop on a bus and head to the city. Back between 4-4:30pm.

Bring whatever you’ll need for the day.  Jackets, maybe even rain gear.  We’ll be outside at The Heidelberg Project.  We will have our box lunches but bring anything you might like for extra sustenance.  The DIA has a covered courtyard cafe with tea and coffee–and it may be open –but as it’s a Sunday come prepared with what you might need yourself.

As mentioned, bring your cameras and notebooks.  You will be gathering information, images, and artifacts for your first essay project.  Think of yourself as the narrator of the the story of this particular day.  Because you are!  I’d like you to draft this story as part of the first draft for next week.  It may or may not end up being in your final essay, but I think it will be important to write it.  Concrete details.  Description.  Remember to be specific, use the five senses and push further with your ideas–how is it working?  why does it matter?

Also, here is an essay by John Patrick Leary called Detroitism

Photograph by Yves Marchan and Romain Meffre courtesy Steidl

Read this for our next class–no need to print this one out–however, do read it closely and consider how the images are used and placed within the piece.  For your first essay project, you also will be combining text with image –and this essay serves as one model.  Before class Wednesday, comment here to start the conversation  responding to an aspect to the essay–feel free to connect it to our day trip too.

Email or comment here with questions.

Until tomorrow–


Filed under essay project 1, field trip, reading

11 responses to “Tomorrow Detroit

  1. I didn’t like the negative perspective on ruin photography in the beginning of the article, but by the time I got to the end, I found myself starting to agree with certain aspects of that outlook. When Leary wrote that ruin photography “cannot help but exploit a city’s misery”, I didn’t like the way he worded what he was saying, but I understood the general idea he meant to get across.
    My favorite image was Moore’s photograph of the empty, abandoned space, with “God has left Detroit” graffitied on the wall, because at first it really depressed me, but then I looked at the way the trees were framed where a wall used to be and the beauty of that to me symbolized a potentially promising future for the city. It was almost like an answer to what was written on the wall, like a reminder that God/hope was still there–a fact that too easily can be overlooked with so much focus placed on the abundance of destruction and decay in the city.

  2. When I first started reading the article, I was surprised at how negative the perspective was on photographs of ruins. The reason I was so surprised was because I could relate to wanting to take pictures of ruined things. Something that you can tell was once inhabited and beautiful and now is destroyed is intriguing, at least to me. For example, I thought of all the ancient ruins people love to visit, take pictures, and learn about. To me, that concept can be applied to this focus on Detroit; it’s not that people are exploiting the city and misrepresenting it, but rather they are documenting. As the article continued, I realized that that IS what artists are trying to do. They are taking pictures of the abandonment and destruction of the city because it is amazing and has a history. Also, the photographs can be used to spread awareness of the situation in Detroit. However, I think that the majority of people view Detroit as an ugly and abandoned city. What these photographs can do is conjure feelings to the observer. When I see the pictures of the imminent destruction, it makes me want to help. Consequently, when reading this article it made me hopeful to the fact that people might want to finally help the city after seeing the photos. I understand that the city has been on the downfall for a while, and no one has stepped in to help. But I believe there can still be hope, because something that was once so beautiful and busy has the opportunity to became that again.

  3. The way that John Patrick Leary started the article really hit me because I had never thought of the destruction of Detroit as being anywhere near comparable to what a city would look like should the Soviet Union occupy America. If America’s biggest fear for almost forty years was the Soviet Union, does this analogy mean that we are just as afraid of the loss of the “American Dream” now? The only topic on the minds of Americans is the economy and all the problems that stem from it. It seems like, to me, that we can solve more of those problems if we stand united together and stop being afraid of ourselves and what we can or can’t do.

  4. I like the structure of the article, how it just seems to float from one idea to the next. I also liked how it began with the beginning- the history of Detroit. Everyone talks about the past, what the city was like in the past, and how it could never be the same way again, but this author clearly indicates the early stories of Detroit that others refer to only in a general sense. Compared to our other readings, this seems like a unique perspective and serves as an inspiration as I now consider how to write the upcoming essay. I also like how the author manages to analyze the photographs without pointing them out, persay. The photos are integrated into the essay rather than placed there as some sort of justification for argument. Somehow, that is more powerful than any other method I could have envisioned.

  5. I was pleasantly surprised with Detroit. The author of the essay has a very negative feel toward Detroit, and I thought that the area that we were in had its own charm and appeal to it. The area by the DIA felt like it could have been a part of the Michigan campus, and even by the Heidelberg Project, it has a very fantasy and fairytale feel to it. I was expecting to be more struck by the poverty and emptiness of it, but the DIA was the complete opposite. Grand, beautiful and filled with exquisite artwork from different centuries and continents show how Detroit once had the appeal of a fantastic art city. From a photographer perspective, I thought the Heidelberg allowed for the angles and different perspectives of the different houses, sidewalks and tables.

  6. When I began reading the piece, I was surprised with the negative perspective on the photographs of Detroit’s ruins. Photographing ruins make for interesting photographs and great composition. It is often the case that photographs that receive a lot of attention are ones that capture rundown, dilapidated structures. Personally, when I think of Detroit, I think of these pictures. After visiting the Heidelberg project, I got the same feeling. Detroit was a city that once was flourishing and is now so disentangled that people feel the need to photograph it. The Heidelberg Project gave me the same feeling. It was a street that once was and a project that once was, but it almost seemed historic. Detroit will always be remembered for what it once was and hopefully its legacy doesn’t end there and that the city finds its way out of this deep, deep hole.

  7. Like many have said above, I was also surprised to see the negativity associated with photographing ruin and destruction. I have always been fascinated with broken down buildings, and abandoned looking streets. Something about it makes me wonder how it ended up that way. When I pass a house with a caved-in roof, broken windows and rusted-out siding, I wonder about the series of events that occurred. What is the story of the family who once inhabited the home? I think these homes and buildings tell a story, and that is why I have always enjoyed photographing them. In reading this article, however, I did see the other side of it. One perspective mentioned that the photographs of destruction accomplish more than confirming people’s original thoughts about Detroit. The photos are often published with little to no explanation as well, which leaves the viewer with an unexplained negative image of the city from which it came. It was interesting for me to read a new perspective of photographing destruction.

  8. Unlike Sarah, I was not surprised by the negativity associated with photographing the ruin and destruction in Detroit. Toward the beginning of the article Leary talked about how some who come from Detroit and feel they belong to Detroit will “defend Detroit’s reputation, or at least their privileged right to defame it, something like defending a bad parent…” There’s a sort of ownership that comes along with living in any environment, and that sort of ownership naturally makes people sensitive to outsiders’ intrusions, no matter what their intentions might be. As they live in the city and too “defame it” (though I wish the connotation of the word “defame” weren’t so strong,) they are obviously extremely aware of the situation. As the article says, however, they only (they being the ones who live and breathe and sleep in the city on a daily basis) truly understand the content of the pictures being taken. If an outsider came into my town and started interpreting solely based on pictures and a generic history, I would have an issue too. And yet, it’s important for outsiders to come in and see the city in their own ways as Detroit is like the “Mecca of urban ruins,” the figure head of possible capitalist outcomes, as the article says. So, it’s almost a balancing act. Our photos need to be taken, but maybe they come with an informed caption so that they remain respectful and are not perceived with too narrow of a lens.

  9. I was really struck by this quote: “In a country perennially plagued with a historical amnesia, ruins are rare permanent reminders of a history unsuited to the war memorials and equestrian statues that dot the national landscape.” It’s basically saying that we ignore important parts of our history as Americans. We see the grand statues, documents, architecture, and photographs in museums and we learn about the prosperous Industrial Revolution and our victory in World War II in history textbooks. These reminders are legitimate, but it’s too easy to forget about the hardships that have not been solved, the obstacles that we haven’t overcome yet, such as our neglect of Detroit’s current crises. We have all of the photographs now to prove that this city is failing. The article encouraged a change in perspective-from “look at how fascinatingly sad all these ruins are” to “this is America, these images are not right and we need to take action.”

  10. Cortney

    The article definitely raised an eyebrow or two but I would prefer to look as Detroit as a city which has been underestimated. I Love my city, although it does has a terrible economy. Nevertheless, it will go back to what it once was.

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