‘The Ruins of Detroit’ by Marchand & Meffre

"Les Ruines de Detroit" par Marchand et Meffre

"Les Ruines de Detroit" par Marchand et Meffre

‘The Ruins of Detroit’ is the title of a body of work by two amazingly talented self-taught French photographers: Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. Both photographers have a fascination with ruins and in 2005, after seeing photos of Detroit, they decided that they needed to travel there and try and capture some of the devastation that had swept through the city. For five years they collaborated on the project; originally running it as a series for TIme magazine, it has now become a series of exhibitions and an incredible looking book.

Of all the cities in the US, Detroit seems to have been hit hardest by the economic downturn. Marchand & Meffre’s show libraries empty, schools destroyed, and concert halls, theatres and hotels literally falling apart. For a city that once stood as the cradle of modern mass-production it’s a haunting reminder of the ephemerality of all things. For Marchand & Meffre, this reminder is core to the work “Detroit presents all archetypal buildings of an American city in a state of mummification” they say on their site. “Its splendid decaying monuments are, no less than the Pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum of Rome, or the Acropolis in Athens, remnants of the passing of a great Empire”.

To see more of the series head to their website, or if you’re lucky enough to be in Paris this summer their work will open this Thursday at the Galerie Wanted and run until the 15th of September.


9 Comments ‘The Ruins of Detroit’ by Marchand & Meffre

  1. Joel April 22, 2011 at 9:31 AM

    Being originally from the Detroit area, I think the whole ruin porn thing has really been done to death. It’s important to remember that actual people still live there, and this site does a fantastic job of creatively documenting them.

    (And sure, it too started originally as a photoblog of the many, many abandoned places in the city, so there are plenty more of those ruins to ogle, but with added historical reference.)

  2. Nik Daum April 22, 2011 at 9:36 AM

    As sad as the building decay in Detroit is, you have to admit that it makes for some pretty amazing photos. It’s also a positive that we at least get to see this style of ornate building in any form, as many of them were torn down in American cities to make way for ugly modern concrete and glass crap.

  3. X_J April 22, 2011 at 9:51 AM

    Invincible & Finale (2 both Detroits rappers) has done a really good song+documentary about Detroit like 2 years ago….still available

  4. pmd April 22, 2011 at 10:59 AM

    As a guy that currently lives and works in Detroit, I think it’s paramount to point out that these ruins existed far before the fall of the automotive industry in 2008. I want to believe that people are rational enough to think that this kind of decay doesn’t happen in three years. I mean, we worked hard over the last five decades to achieve this hardened patina. And I agree with Joel, the exploitation of Detroit ruin porn has become as popular as Zima.

  5. Bobby Solomon April 22, 2011 at 11:28 AM

    @pmd – I totally agree with you, I think rational people understand this didn’t happen overnight. I think it’s also fair to say that you could do this very same thing with any major city in the world.

  6. Philip Kennedy April 22, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    @joel and @pmd Great to get a response from people who know Detroit, I hesitated before posting this as I was conscious that Detroit is still a very real place and not just the weird dystopia that you see in the press or in photos like this.

    I’d originally seen Marchand and Meffre’s series of old cinemas in ruin which I thought was fascinating. Although I think their work carries more artistic merit then pure ‘ruin porn’ it does verge excessively close to that. As viewers, I think all of us are slightly morbidly curious, and work like this stems from the same place as being interested in visiting places like Pompeii (or as they suggest) Rome or Athens.

    Personally, I’m fascinated by ruins and the feeling of history being cut short is something which I think speaks to the human spirit, but I totally agree that Detroit is being exploited as the go-to city to demonstrate the decline of our current economic situation. Hopefully we’ll soon be hearing positive things coming out of, what I’ve heard as “the first post-American city” in the near future.

  7. Melissa April 22, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    Coilhouse did a pretty good follow-up counterpoint in the Detroit Thrives vein: http://coilhouse.net/2011/01/detroit-thrives/

    So there is a lot of good art coming out of it even now; Decay can lead to growth.

  8. Willyam-D April 27, 2011 at 4:28 PM

    VBS.TV (Vice Magazine) did a pretty good story on the positive movement going on in Detroit. Even though hosted by Johnny Knoxville it is pretty solid. Also for a man who made his millions getting hit in the junk, keep an eye out for ironically over cautious comments.

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