The Ruins of Detroit by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre

I read The Ruins of Detroit last year and meant to write a review about it at the time but never got around to doing it. I saw it on the shelves recently and found that I was just as impressed on my second viewing as I was on my first. The book is what is usually referred to as coffee table book. ( over-sized and intended to be displayed on a table)  It’s a pictorial work of Detroit’s abandoned buildings by two young French photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre. Essays by Robert Polidori and Thomas J. Sugrue provide an historical perspective around the changing demographics and economics that helped facilitate the decline of it’s inner city neighborhoods.

It is fair to say that the photos do most of the talking. The layout of one photo per page ensures that you look, linger and think rather then flick quickly through. I found the quality of the photos amazing, the photographers ability to capture the feeling of decline and abandonment was enhanced by their composition that concentrated on framing the interiors and exteriors of a range of abandoned buildings from huge commercial buildings, schools, hotels, factories to classrooms, dentists.  While all the photos are interesting some resonated with me more than others. I found one of the most poignant photos was of an abandoned police station that had crime scene cards, photos of  suspects and victims and a blood sample collection tube scattered  over the floor.  I can only assume that the police must have just closed the door one day and never bothered to return.

There were also several libraries with the entire stock still on the shelves!  Including one called The Mark Twain Public Library.  It is also a sobering thought that a number of the more well known of abandoned buildings had once been monuments to Detroit’s success as an industrial powerhouse.