Roving thoughts and provocations

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Slide Show: Detroit, City of Ruins

Known for his large-scale photographs of dilapidated buildings in places like Cuba, Russia, and Times Square, Andrew Moore has now turned his attention to Detroit. These images are from his new collection, Detroit Disassembled, published by Damiani and the Akron Art Museum, where an exhibition of his work will be on view from June 5 to October 10.

Moore’s photographs present a devastating scene of urban deterioration, offering us glimpses into abandoned motor plants, train stations, theaters, schools, hotels, police stations, and office buildings, along with vistas of vacant houses and lots. All of the buildings are in deep states of decay: moss grows on the floor of an office at the former Ford Motor Company headquarters; thousands of books molder in the Public Schools Book Depository; an unseen person keeps a small fire going under a plastic shelter inside the trash-filled engine works room of the Dry Dock Company Complex. One of Moore’s photographs, showing an abandoned nursing home, appears in the April 29 issue of The New York Review, in Tony Judt’s essay “Ill Fares the Land.”

Another book on the same subject, The Ruins of Detroit, by the French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, will be published by Steidl this summer. Marchand and Meffre had already begun their project when they met Moore, whose earlier work they knew, and they urged him to photograph Detroit as well. As a result, there are now two distinctive takes on the decline of a once-powerful center of the US economy: while Moore’s book is slender, with an essay by the poet Philip Levine, Marchand and Meffre’s collection puts across a broader sociological analysis. Both books allow an astonishing amount of beauty to surface, whether in the fading traces of ornate architectural elements or in the rich colors of freshly sprouted vegetation.

—Eve Bowen
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