How is it that only just now did I find Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre’s “The Ruins of Detroit?” I know I am not even close to the first person to link to their Web site in awe. Nevertheless, I feel it’s important to direct people reading this to their gallery. It’s a collection of images of “people without people,” and reminds me of Stephen Wilkes’ Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom, which has been a great inspiration to my own landscape and architectural photography (landscapes of buildings, really).
Of course, the subject matter between my own work and that of Marchand and Meffre or Wilkes is entirely different. It is their style that is particularly wonderful because there is a great deal of self-expression in the image, but the style invites the viewer into the image. The photographs are not difficult to read. Quite to the contrary: the haunting–and hauntingly beautiful–photographs of Marchand and Meffre communicate clearly the dire conditions of Detroit.
And that the images are well-composed documents of light and shadow doesn’t hurt matters. While some may argue that ugly subjects must be made to look ugly for them to affect social change, I believe that people are too-often beat over the head with message-laden ugly images, and become desensitized to them. What Marchand and Meffre offer is a fresh perspective that invites viewers to see the beauty of the decay before realizing the ugly social ramifications of spaces like these in urban America–scenes like these belong on movie sets, not on our streets–and what it means for the thousands of people who aren’t pictured.