Exhibition of Detroit Photographs Debunks ‘Ruin Porn’

Michelle Andonian's "Dearborn Frame Plant, Hoskins and Snowden, Frame Welders" (2004)

In the Detroit Free Press, Mark Stryker has a great review of “Detroit Revealed: Photographs 2000-2010,” an exhibition of images of the city at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Even before Mr. Stryker mentions the exhibition, he succinctly takes down the entire concept of “ruin porn,” that problematic presentation of urban decay as both fetish and all-encompassing (something we’ve also discussed here):

“When people look at the city, especially those toting cameras, an alarming number see an apparition rather than reality. They see looking-glass distortions, surfaces, stereotypes, reflections of preconceptions and ideology…Most follow the same road map of crumbling architecture. You know the stops:

Packard Plant. Check.

Michigan Central Station. Check.

The de rigueur abandoned home on a deserted street. Check.”

Ruin porn is not only exploitative and misguided; it is also unoriginal.

What “Detroit Revealed” attempts to document is what should be obvious—as Mr. Stryker puts it: “There is beauty and ugliness, progress and stagnation.” In other words, Detroit is an American city, with all kinds of life inside of it. Read the full review here. The show is up at the Detroit Institute of Arts until April 8 if you happen to be passing through Detroit.

Exhibition of Detroit Photographs Debunks ‘Ruin Porn’