Thursday, August 18, 2011

Evocatively Moldering

After reading about writer Ransom Riggs's blog Strange Geographies, with its fascinating photos of forgotten places, I googled "detroit photo abandoned" to find again a photo essay I'd seen awhile back of shots of abandoned buildings in Detroit.

Turns out a couple of French photographers, Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, shot the photos, which were picked up by Time Magazine, which called the subsequent photo essay Detroit's Beautiful, Horrible Decline.

The photos really are remarkable:

They evoke strange, twisted feelings and longings and half-stirred stories inside me.  You can almost feel the ghosts brushing past you.

I tried to write a short story in college called "Evocatively Moldering" after I took Art History and was taken with that phrase, uttered by my professor, to describe how the Romantic painters of the 19th century liked their buildings.  They liked ruins clutched in vines, rotting, empty, suggesting a semi-forgotten past now merging with encroaching nature.

Looks like our own cities are now becoming something the Romantics would like to look at. Not to live in, of course. They had cozy homes stuffed with trinkets for that.

What is it about the sight of decay that inspires stories?   Do you want to tell us how that empire declined?  Is it nostalgia?  Or perhaps it's knowing that one day we too will be gone, and probably forgotten, just as the people who once dwelled in these ruins are.  By making up their stories, we can pretend we are also preserving ourselves for just a little bit longer.


Anonymous said...

I really liked the article, and the very cool blog

Jen Klein said...

Can't believe you referenced that photo essay! I have copies of it in my folder RIGHT NOW. It, indeed, inspired stories for me (working on series pitch right now, in fact). So hauntingly beautiful!

But in answer to your question about WHY -- I don't honestly know. Perhaps it's the same reason, but in reverse, that I love going to open houses. I have no immediate plans to move, but walking into a house and imagining the empty walls hung with my artwork, and where the couch would go, and more importantly -- what might HAPPEN here. What conversations, what moments of tenderness or passion. Seeing places in decay is the process in reverse. It makes you what to explore what already DID happen here, whose stories began and ended, what fits of rage or professions of love were acted out here.

Nina Berry said...

Holy moly, Jen, what a coincidence! We were strangely in sync on this. I'm not prepping a pitch on it, but am thrilled to hear that you are.

Let us know once you sell it (I have no doubt you will!) so we can read it. Very exciting!

Jen Klein said...

BTW, fave in that photo essay was the one with the grand piano tipped over in an empty ballroom, plaster covering the keys and floor. WHY WOULD YOU NOT TAKE THE PIANO WITH YOU? So beautiful, so tragic, so haunting...

Nina Berry said...

Totally agree, Jen! That piano makes it feel like they didn't move out - like they were TAKEN or raptured, or something unexpected happened. Because yeah - why not take your piano???