It’s no wonder Detroit brings out the voyeur in so many people. The city’s ramshackle, run-down blocks—strewn with obliterated factories, houses, and shopping centers—are not only bait for spooky and romantic photographs, they viscerally symbolize the decline of American power. It’s also no wonder that the simple act of snapping such a photo gets complicated. In June, Wired’s Pete Brook wrote, “Ruin porn worships the 33,000 empty houses and 91,000 vacant lots of Detroit and overlooks the 700,000-plus residents. It doesn’t come close to describing the city.” Andrew Moore’s “Detroit Disassembled” and Camilo José Vergara’s “Detroit is No Dry Bones,” which open at the Building Museum today, jump unapologetically into the ruin-porn game—especially Moore, with his precise, calculated, and rigid images of empty classrooms and broken-down Victorian beauties captured over the past few years. Vergara, though, shows off a large body of work (including the image above) that’s resulted from his 25-year-strong love affair, as a sociologist and an artist, with the city. “Detroit is No Dry Bones” mixes shots taken as early as 1987 with some taken this year, creating a magical then-and-now overlay that includes the people that live in Detroit, too.
The exhibits are on view 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays–Saturdays to Feb. 18, 2013 at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. $8 for adults. nbm.org. (202) 272-2448.
Photo: “3497 Mack Avenue, Detroit,” 2007. Copyright Camilo José Vergara