Against 'Ruin Porn'

The city of Detroit is increasingly characterized through imagery of its abandoned and decaying buildings. This piece from <em>The New Republic</em> says it's time to stop.
January 24, 2011, 9am PST | Nate Berg
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"We have begun to think of Detroit as a still-life. This became clear to me recently, when the latest set of "stunning" pictures of Detroit in ruins made the rounds, taken by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre for a book, The Ruins of Detroit. They were much tweeted and blogged about, as other such "ruin porn" photosets of blighted places have been, and were described variously as wonderful, as beautiful, as stunning, as shocking, as sad. They are all of those things, and so I suppose they are good art. But they are rotten photojournalism.

Pictures are naturally more memorable than a well written, evenhanded magazine story about the scope and tragedy of Detroit's economic woes could ever be. But that's precisely the problem. These indelible pictures present an un-nuanced and static vision of Detroit."

But author Noreen Malone doesn't argue that no pictures should be taken. She suggests that the pictures would be more powerful and representative if they showed the people of the city affected by its decline.

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Published on Saturday, January 22, 2011 in The New Republic
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