Sunday, August 28, 2011

Idling Crane

PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: It has been dubbed, "ruin porn," identified as a currently fashionable genre of photography, and criticized for the irresponsible damage it does. The controversy was triggered by two photo books on the architectural ruins of Detroit, and much of the criticism came initially from champions for Detroit renewal. Detroit arguably shares with Chernobyl title to being the most spectacular collapse of industrial civilization on the planet. Detroit is more accessible than Chernobyl and has, therefore, become a small tourist mecca for the, "thrill seekers." To many Detroiters they are unwelcome.

I can't deny enjoying the thrill of exploring an old, abandoned site, and so it's appropriate to consider the complaint against photographs like mine and the reasons behind it. The crux of the argument as I understand it is that such photography is bad press, that it only makes matters worse for the real people who live amid the blight, and that it only serves to satisfy the frivolous yearnings of gawkers; it is, therefore, exploitive.

What is it that draws me to photograph ruins of all sorts, urban rural, industrial, or ancient? Is it a "thrill," only, nothing more than the pleasure of scratching an itch, or is it something worth focusing on? Does it have any power to unlock feelings or deepen understanding?


Arthur said...

I hadn't heard that term before, Ted. Thanks for enlightening me.

One could argue that all photography is exploitative.

Tim said...

I hadn't heard that term before; but I enjoy these kind of photos. They tell of an era gone by. There's stories behind these artifacts.

Ted Roth said...

Arthur! It's been awhile. The issue of ruin porn doesn't relly bother me, and the more I read it seems to be a reaction of Detroiters to outsiders looking at their city - the feeling that it's OK for Detroiters to criticize but outsiders should be respectful. Well, in another sense we are all children of Detroit and certainly of the industrial age that is represented there. The changes occurring there so dramatically are happening everywhere. Thanks for stopping by.

Tim - Thanks for visiting. Yes, there's stories and history, and even beyond that there are feelings that are evoked by these places that speak to me and, I hope, to others. In any case, it is the feelings that are my personal justification.