Jul 28, 2009

Meels' Year of the Photo part three: Inspiration from Motor Town

Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre photograph ruins, but not as you know them. You won't see a Colosseum or Sphinx among their photographs, instead you'll find the ruins of modern society, "the visible symbols and landmarks of our societies and their changes, small pieces of history in suspension."

The pair's images range from disused industrial facilites in the old GDR to once opulent theatres across the states, and, in my favourite set, the remains of Detroit's 1950s heyday.

From Marchand and Meffre's site:
"Detroit was...the dazzling symbol of the American Dream City with its monumental skyscrapers and fancy neighborhoods... Since the 50's, "Motor City" lost more than half of its population. Nowadays, its splendid decaying monuments are, no less than the Pyramids of Egypt, the Coliseum of Rome, or the Acropolis in Athens, remnants of the passing of a great civilization."

The Detroit photos are dripping with poignancy - the grand old buildings appear as a ghost town: looming large, they are devoid of human presence, yet nonetheless convey a strong sense of past occupants. Furthermore, there is an overwhelming impression of the impermanence and fragility of man's endeavours against the ever ticking clock of the universe. Indeed when visiting the ruins of Hadrian's villa outside of Rome, the thing I was struck most by was the contrast between the crumbling bricks and the vigor of the umbrella pines growing all around them. Looking at ruins can remind you of the insight and ingenuity of our early ancestors, but it also puts things in perspective and makes you realise how small and insignificant your life is in the grand scheme of things.

As much as I am moved by all this emotional and philosophical content, I think it is the textural quality of Marchand and Meffre's images than I enjoy the most. Paint no longer just covers surfaces, it flakes, cracks, chips, dust flutters in beams of light; hell there is even a melted clock. Take that, Salvador Dali. I, too, snap away whenever I encounter interestingly decaying paint and surfaces, but never in all my travels have I encountered anything as beautiful as the remains documented by Marchand and Meffre. Now enough of my philosophising/jealous rambling, time to let the images speak for themselves. Suggested soundtrack for viewing: Sufjan Stevens, 'Detroit, Lift Up Your Weary Head!' (well, what else?).



Corinne said...

Decay and deconstruction can be awe inspiring, and these images are just beautiful. They have the ability to move you.

Amazing. Stunning.

Lets find somewhere old to snap.

Amelia said...

Well, I have already found a place, now it's just a matter of getting to it:


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